We invite you to watch the video above, or read the transcript below, to learn more about Dr. Greg Guffanti and his Mercy Mindset! The interview is conducted by current eighth grade students Kayla S. and Mason W.
Theresa Gannon, Vice Principal: As we continue the Mercy Mindset Series, I have the pleasure and honor of introducing Dr. Gregory Guffanti who will be interviewed by our students Mason and Kayla about his time here at Waldron and how he continued Mercy forward. Gregory was an example of the perfect WMA role model of Mercy in middle school when I actually taught him. His personality was infectious, he was kind to everyone. The other students were drawn to him as he was truly an example of Mercy to all.
Kayla S., current eighth grader: Good morning Dr. Guffanti, my name is Kayla and I’m an eighth grader attending Waldron right now. Mason, would you like to go?
Mason W., current eighth grader: Yeah, I’m also in eighth grade.
Kayla: We have a few questions for you and I’m going to start with: what dates did you attend Waldron and what grade did you start?
Dr. Greg Guffanti, Class of 1997: I started in Montessori when I was 3-years-old and I graduated in ’97. I was there 11 years so I guess I went from ’86 to 1997. It’s nice to meet you both, by the way! You can call me Greg, you don’t have to call me Dr. Guffanti.
Mason: I also went to Montessori. That’s great seeing someone else went to Montessori. So, what’s your current profession?
Greg: I’m a physician, a family doctor. I work in a clinic. So if you see your family care doctor, that’s the type of physician I am. I see kids and adults, women and children, everyone.
Kayla: What high school and college did you attend?
Greg: I went to St. Joe’s Prep which is in Philadelphia. A lot of people from Waldron go… I don’t know, maybe you can tell me if kids still go there.
Greg: And then I went to Brown University up in Rhode Island. How about you guys, do you have any plans for next year, any high school plans?
Kayla: I’m going to CAPA [The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts].
Mason: I’m going to Haverford, the boys school.
Greg: Yeah, that’s wonderful!
Mason: What sports did you play here?
Greg: I played soccer there and I ran track. Soccer was pretty new when I started, but it was fun. I don’t recall our team being super competitive, we may have scored a handful of goals the whole season, but it was fun.
Mason: Is there a particular coach who inspired you or influenced you? If so, in what way?
Greg: Yeah, gosh, I actually remember Ms. Augustine, my Montessori teacher. I don’t know, who was your Montessori teacher?
Mason: I had Ms. Augustine.
Greg: Yeah, yeah, okay! It was a long time ago, but I certainly remember her warmth and the nice classroom. Another teacher that I remember fondly is Ms. Flanagan, she was an eighth grade teacher.
Mason: She’s still here.
Kayla: Oh yeah, she’s still here.
Greg: That’s wonderful, such longevity of it. And then I also, I think I saw Mrs. Gannon name on the... is Mrs. Gannon still there?
Mason: Yes, she’s the Vice Principal now.
Greg: She taught language arts when I was there. I think actually she was even Ms. Kelly at some point and then transitioned to Mrs. Gannon, she must’ve gotten married, I don’t know if I pieced that together, I might not have at the time. But yeah, I remember her as well. And Mr. Dougherty, I remember playing football outside at recess.
Kayla: When you think about outreach and service at Waldron, what is one of your favorite memories?
Greg: Hmmm… I busted out my old yearbook to try and jog my memory about some of these things and….I don’t know if I have a specific service memory. Maybe you guys can help me jog my memory, are there any specific activities you guys do around any holidays or projects?
Kayla: We do H.O.P.E [Helping Other People Eat] Lunches ,it used to be very Wednesday, but I think it’s Thursdays now, every other Thursday. We do special dinners during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mason, do you have any? I’m trying to think off the top of my head.
Mason: Yeah, we also do the Thanksgiving food drive where we bring turkeys and cranberries and stuffing and gravy.
Greg: That’s wonderful. I remember doing some of those drives, and the H.O.P.E Lunch sounds familiar, tell me more about that. Where do the lunches go after you make them?
Mason: They take the lunches to the homeless.
Greg: That’s wonderful. I’m sorry I don’t have a specific memory of that. I do certainly remember the concepts of being charitable and being members of the community and supportive of other people, but I don’t actually have a very specific strong memory of any of those events.
Mason: That’s fine.
Kayla: Yeah, that’s fine.
Mason: How did the Mercy values instilled in you at Waldron affect the person you are today?
Greg: Well, I saw that as a question and I was trying to figure out the best way to answer that. I think a lot of this is stuff that’s kind of nurtured over time, fostered over years and many multiple interactions. It’s never, it’s hardly one specific thing. Just the ideas of bringing grace to the activities that you do, being generous to your fellow human beings. Those actually serve me super well in my day to day activities. It’s often not a big, magnanimous gesture… I maybe once saved someone’s life, but it’s very rare, I don’t do too many heroic things. It’s more about being present. As a physician I help people when they’re not feeling so good, so that’s a nice opportunity to be present and be generous with your words and be able to listen closely and provide comfort with one’s presence. Those sorts of small gestures are things I certainly learned at an early age at Waldron and I think help me be a good doctor and patients appreciate that. I forget who said this quote, but there’s a quote that says, “people won’t remember what you said or what you did but they will remember how you made them feel,” and that certainly holds true. I remember people at Waldron making me feel just… cared for, and respected, and appreciated. Bringing that to one’s work, whatever one does, is super nice. I feel like I bring that and that helps with the healing relationships that I try to generate.
Kayla: From reading about you, it seems as though you have been very active in the area of volunteering in the community. How does this align with the Mercy values installed in you at WMA?
Greg: It’s super important to be a member of your community whether it’s just saying hi to your neighbors, or helping out, or lending a hand. Being kind to one’s fellow human beings. One, it’s fairly innate, I think. Most people want to be pleasant with each other and supportive of each other and being able to allow people to demonstrate their opportunities, that’s also nice, being willing to accept help is important. We do try to do some things as a family. I’ve got two young boys and we’re trying to foster in them an idea of Mercy, of community, of service. We don’t have as much time as a family but we do various acts and we contribute in other ways, financially. The times at Waldron, they’ve helped. Helped me think about ways, the different ways people can contribute to a community. It’s nice, I was looking back again at my yearbook about the different activities and they had these predictions about what people were going to be in the future and it just shows the breadth of the different types of people that are around and different ways that they can help.
Mason: Do you see yourself continuing to become engaged in opportunities that work to spread Mercy? If so, in what way?
Greg: Yeah, well… yes! Sometimes it’s often like a practical issue. You know, there’s obviously this pandemic and one of the big things, the big endeavor that our clinic is trying to do now is more vaccinations for COVID-19. So, for instance, I’m not only working there at work but I volunteer my time after hours and our clinic is trying to help people who are -- we call them underserved. People who have lower incomes, or are homeless, or they have significant mental health or drug and alcohol problems. So sometimes an individual in that situation might have more difficulty accessing healthcare or they have different things going on in their life, so being able to provide them healthcare - and in this specific case trying to make sure they get the vaccine - is a big challenge for us. So it’s nice to reflect on the duty that we have to help these people. So bringing the mentally of ‘this is good work’ to the after hours to help keep you going and that’s nice. I certainly appreciate being with my coworkers and being able to witness people get immunizations. Some people are super happy, so there’s a lot of reward that comes from that. But yes, there’s ways that I do it in kind of bringing Mercy into my life that way. But the most recent example is this COVID vaccine stuff.
Kayla: Can you tell us the reading program you volunteer at?
Greg: The Reach Out and Read program? Yes. So that is a national organization. The idea is to help promote early literacy in younger families, especially families who may not have reading as much of a focus or priority. Sometimes that’s the same with the patients our clinic serves, they have other -- mental health, drug and alcohol -- other issues, and so being able to help foster a warm environment for a family centered around books is the kind of mission and goal of Reach Out and Read, to promote early literacy. So that’s what the program is. It’s delivered through clinics. So during a check up for a kid that is in the age range (which for us is under six, that’s the national recommendation) during the visit we give the kid a book, even if they’re like six months old and barely holding on to it. And then talk to them and their families about how they incorporate reading into their routine and give them a little bit of advice or even modeling, showing them. Kind of like, “hey, at this age it’s really great to kind of point out pictures and have them maybe even tell you the colors,” or something along those lines. So that’s what the program is, and I spend my time making sure that this intervention, the Reach Out and Read books as well as the advice, is being delivered throughout our clinics.
Kayla: What advice would you give to current students at WMA?
Greg: I think that you guys have a good opportunity -- you have a great education, a great educational background -- so you have a great opportunity to do some interesting things. I would recommend just trying different things out in your life, so to speak. Whether that’s, you know, trying different classes or a different major in college. Some people say… you know, I do have some colleagues who were like “I knew I wanted to be a doctor from an early age,” but I think, I certainly meandered about and tried on different hats, different career hats. Trying different things in one’s life, that’s probably the best way. It’s hard to find one’s passion without opening a few doors.
Mason: Alright. Well, that’s all the questions we have. It’s pretty amazing to listen to you talk about Ms. Augustine, who taught me and is still here, and Ms. Flanagan. I did want to ask you, was Mrs. Guarini there?
Greg: Mrs. Guarini? I’m not sure, I don’t recall the name, but maybe.
Mason: What about Mrs. Pawlish?
Greg: Mrs. Pawlish, uh huh, she was my math teacher.
Mason: She’s still here, yeah. She’s teaching in math right now.
Kayla: She’s still here.
Mason: Alright, well it’s kind of amazing to listen to you talk about these teachers that we know so well and any time you want to come back, you can. You’re always welcome here. Thank you for answering our questions.
Greg: Well, thank you guys for talking to me and answering my questions, too.