Medical Students’ Volunteer Work Benefits Community

Published September 10, 2019

Part of the curriculum requirement for Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciencesmedical students is to make contributions that lead to improvements in the surrounding community.

“In addition to learning about health disparities and cultural competency, our students should leave the community stronger than when they arrived in Buffalo.”
Senior associate dean for student and academic affairs

One hands-on way to accomplish that is through UB’s Medical Student Day of Service, an opportunity for first-year medical students to get involved in the Buffalo community and interact with their classmates.

Garden Work, Cleanup Jobs Highlight Day

Sixty-seven first-year medical students, along with 10 upperclassmen student leaders and six faculty and staff members participated in the sixth annual Medical Student Day of Service Aug. 3.

They performed garden work and other cleanup endeavors at six service projects sites:

  • Friends of Night People shelter, where students cleaned and touched up painting
  • Fruit Belt Coalition, where students helped prepare the garden and gazebo for the “National Night Out” event
  • Macedonia Baptist Church, where students cleaned and conducted inventory
  • Minnesota Avenue Block Club, where students assisted in the upkeep of gardens on the median — a community garden consisting of perennial shrubs and annual plants
  • Pelion Community Garden, where students harvested and weighed vegetables, collected seed pods, removed pests and weeds and performed other garden maintenance
  • The Tool Library, where students conducted maintenance on some of the trees planted the past few years at the University Heights neighborhood facility which offers tool sharing to the community

Better Understanding of Cultural Competency

Participation in the Medical Student Day of Service is not mandatory, but Jacobs School medical students are required to perform 10 hours of community service in each of their preclinical years — a combination of volunteer work and service learning.

The annual Medical Student Day of Service provides students with hands-on opportunities to give back to the community, notes David A. Milling, MD, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs.

“In addition to learning about health disparities and cultural competency, our students should leave the community stronger than when they arrived in Buffalo,” he adds.

Developing a Connection to the Community

Second-year medical student Becca Luterman was a student leader this year after participating in the event last year as an incoming student.

“I think in general that we spend so much time studying the first two years of medical school that it is really easy to forget there exists an entire community outside of the medical school’s walls,” she says.

Luterman says spending time with people in the community last year was a great introduction to downtown Buffalo and provided her with the opportunity to meet some of the faculty and upperclassmen.

“I am grateful I got to do it again this year. My goal was to try and help the first-year students as best I could and to meet as many people as I possibly could outside of our medical bubble,” she says.

“It was a really great reminder to me that I am so lucky to receive my medical training in such a diverse and warm community like Buffalo,” Luterman adds.

The Medical Student Day of Service is sponsored by the Offices of Medical Education and the John A. Wendel Endowment Fund, established by Virginia Wendel.