Identical twins Maya and Sonali Chu have their fingers on the pulse of the community — literally.
The 17-year-olds have offered free blood pressure checks for the Spring Valley community for more than a year. They were inspired to give back after they learned of the prevalence of high blood pressure among the Hispanic community, and the increased risk of heart attack and stroke it poses.
"High blood pressure is the silent killer," Sonali says. "We want to spread information and provide education to as many people as possible, to hopefully improve people's lives."
The young women are the daughters of two doctors. Their mother, Dr. Neelima Chu, is the chair of Sharp Rees-Stealy's endocrinology division. In addition to performing blood pressure checks, the Chu sisters provide educational information in English and Spanish every month at the Spring Valley Swap Meet.
"When I see them at the swap meet talking to people in Spanish and providing information about exercise, healthy eating habits and blood pressure control, it fills my heart with great pride and joy. I feel honored to be their mother," says Dr. Chu. "They inspire me to be a better person because, in spite of their busy high school classes and extracurricular activities, they have a strong desire to help others and always find the time to volunteer."
The twins have also volunteered at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center for more than three years; Maya is an aide in the hospital's Birch Patrick Convalescent Center, and Sonali is an assistant in the Women's and Infants' Services Department.
"Maya is not afraid to talk to anyone, which is why she does so well with residents who may be hesitant about participating in activities," says Jamie Inarda, volunteer services coordinator at Sharp Chula Vista. "Sonali is very dedicated to her shift and has great attention to detail, especially with the Bonding Hearts program."
The Bonding Hearts program provides heart-shaped cloths to newborns and their parents while they may be separated if the baby has to spend time in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The sisters have logged more than 350 volunteer hours each, and have been in their roles since the second semester of their freshman year.
Both are focused on careers in medicine, and their time as hospital volunteers has only strengthened that desire.
"I fell in love with the patient interaction part of my volunteer responsibilities," Maya says. Sonali agrees and says volunteering has given her the "full picture" as the twins prepare to attend college in the fall.
"You can see the roles everyone plays in helping to care for a patient," Maya says.
To learn more about Maya and Sonali and to see their schedule at the Spring Valley Swap Meet, visit whatsyourbloodpressure.com.
"Over these years, they have gone from timid, shy children to confident, mature young adults who are leaders of the junior volunteer team," Dr. Chu says.
Learn more about volunteering at Sharp HealthCare facilities around San Diego County.