Published August 25, 2014
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.
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:
Several medical school faculty members also took part.
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.”
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.
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:
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.