GUSOM Day of Service Builds Bonds Between Classes

Posted in GUMC Stories

APRIL 15, 2016–Sixty-eight students from Georgetown University School of Medicine (GUSOM) volunteered during the second annual GUSOM Day of Service, working alongside their classmates in their respective Learning Societies as they served at a food bank, a therapeutic horseback riding program and a local park.

For several years, the Student Government Executive Council planned GUSOM Day, an annual free barbecue on the Med-Dent podium that gave medical students from all classes a chance to socialize in an informal setting. Last year, a group of students decided to organize volunteer opportunities for their classmates prior to the barbecue.

While Georgetown prides itself on its work with underserved populations and commitment to service, prior to adding the service component to GUSOM Day, the medical students’ only opportunity for collective community service was during their first-year orientation, according to Anna Howell (M’16). As director of the Learning Society Advisory Committee, Howell led the planning of volunteer activities for GUSOM Day of Service.

“We all saw it as a way for the entire student body to go out into the community to serve those who need it most, with the added bonus of bonding with medical students from other classes,” said Howell, who also serves as vice president of the SOM Class of 2016. “GUSOM Day of Service brought everyone together for one collective cause.”

The service opportunities were coordinated by each of the Learning Societies, founded last year to serve as platforms for creating mentor-rich environments for learning mindfulness, resiliency, professional authenticity and leadership. “Every event that is hosted by the Learning Societies is oriented to improving student life, building rapport between all four classes of medical students and involving faculty members in a more casual and mentoring way outside of the classroom and hospital,” Howell said.

In the morning of the Day of Service, students met for bagels and coffee before carpooling to the service sites. Each Learning Society organized a volunteer opportunity at a different location, though due to inclement weather, some Societies served at the same site. Thirty-three students from the Hufnagel Society and the Knowlan Society picked up trash and removed invasive plant species in Rock Creek Park. Twenty-one students from the Harvey Society and the Stewart Society sorted food at the Capital Area Food Bank while 11 students from the Rose Society cleaned the facilities at Spirit Open Equestrian, which offers therapeutic horseback riding programs for children and adults.

Making Memories Through Service

Building relationships between students from other classes was a highlight for many participants. “Creating deeper connections with classmates while giving back to the community is one of the main goals of GUSOM Day of Service, and both this year and last, I believe the students who attended were able to experience that objective,” said Kerry Ryan (M’17), member of the Learning Society Advisory Committee.

At the Capital Area Food Bank, Ryan connected with a classmate from the Stewart Society. “I was able to casually chat with a second year, Sayyad, discussing topics from third year streams to his family and learning a little about Azerbaijan culture – all while simultaneously hectically pulling diced tomato cans off the conveyor belt!” she said.

Nick Stukel (SOM/MSB’18), president of the Student Government Executive Council, also enjoyed his experience at the Capital Area Food Bank. “It was a great day helping sort food donations to get them ready to be distributed to food banks across the city, followed by spending time together at the medical school barbecue,” he said.

Howell had a rewarding experience talking with two second-year students in the Harvey Society while volunteering. “Honestly, it was a humbling reminder of how difficult those first two years can be,” she said. “On the other hand, it seemed like they appreciated hearing that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that all of the information they’re memorizing has clinical, applicable and meaningful use on the wards.”

“The most memorable part of the day would have to be meeting the first and second years, which, as a fourth year, I don’t get many opportunities to do,” said Mark Connor, president of the SOM Class of 2016. “That is why I like the Learning Societies so much – they allow the first and fourth year medical students to meet, share advice and sympathize with the difficulties of getting through medical school.”

“We ultimately hope that the bonds that are forged on GUSOM Day of Service go well beyond the few hours spent together on a weekend day,” Howell said. “Ideally, it acts as a vehicle for long-lasting friendships.”

Kat Zambon
GUMC Communications