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Medical School Day of Service

As medical students built a shed on Buffalo’s West Side, A. John Ryan Jr., MD, reminded them: “Today, we’re helping people; we’re just using different tools.”

Med Students Serve Community, Deepen Cultural Competency

Published August 25, 2014

“This is a huge and important way for our students to learn about disparities in the community and cultural competency in addition to what they learn in the classroom and with their preceptors.”
David A. Milling, MD
senior associate dean for student and academic affairs

More than half of medical students at the University at Buffalo engage in service learning — applying what they learn through community volunteer work.

Beginning this year, all incoming UB medical students must log at least 10 hours of service learning during each year of medical school.

70 Students Participate at Community Sites

To kick off this new requirement and give classmates a chance to work together before classes start, the medical school held its inaugural Medical Student Day of Service on Sat., Aug. 9.

Nearly half of the incoming class took part. Sixty first-year students joined 10 upperclassmen at sites including:

  • Buffalo City Mission Thrift Shop, where students sorted and organized donations
  • Habitat for Humanity, where students constructed a shed
  • Linear Park on Tyler Street, where students helped the University Heights Collaborative and Heath Street Block Club clean up green spaces near UB’s South Campus
  • St. Lawrence Parish, where students helped stock and organize a pediatric clinic, food pantry and clothing donations
  • Griffon Park in Niagara Falls, where students joined with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to weed, water and do maintenance work 

Several medical school faculty members also took part.

Students Learn About Disparities in the Community

The event gives students hands-on opportunities to give back to the community, notes David A. Milling, MD, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs.

“Our message to our students is: You’re going to be in Buffalo for at least four years. Part of your mission as a medical student is to contribute to leaving Buffalo a better place than when you came here.”

The day also gives students a better understanding of the diverse people in the community and their needs.

“This is a huge and important way for our students to learn about disparities in the community and cultural competency, in addition to what they learn in the classroom and with their preceptors,” says Milling.

“This is cultural competency in action.”

A. John Ryan Jr., MD, clinical associate professor of medicine, who served as a facilitator for the Habitat for Humanity volunteers, emphasized to students: “Medicine is a helping profession. Today, we’re helping people; we’re just using different tools.”

Incoming Students Gain Insight from Upperclassmen

The interactions between first-year students and upperclassmen were an important part of the day, notes Debra Stamm, assistant dean for student services.

“The incoming students said it was so nice to be able to ask questions about medical school and what it’s really like — and to have a group goal working on a project,” says Stamm.

Some of the upperclassmen that participated are members of the UB chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, which promotes humanism in medicine at U.S. medical schools.

Building on Service Learning Orientation

While the increased emphasis on service learning is part of a national trend, it also builds on the medical school’s strong service learning orientation, says Milling.

In 2001, students established the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic and continue to play an integral role in operating it. Medical students also work at clinics throughout the city and with such community organizations as:

  • the Buffalo City Mission
  • Cornerstone Manor
  • Good Neighbors Health Care
  • Jericho Road Community Health Center
  • Friends of the Night People

UB medical students also volunteer through a variety of programs with the Buffalo Public Schools, including Tar Wars, the tobacco-free education program for elementary school children.

Multiple UB Sponsors Support Day of Service

The Medical Student Day of Service is sponsored by:

  • Polity, the UB medical student governing body
  • Office of Medical Education
  • UB chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • Medical Alumni Association
  • Wendel Endowment