Committed to Service

“As medical students, we signed up to better the lives of those in our community and that is exactly what we are doing today,” said Alex Sullivan, a second-year medical student at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).

Sullivan, who along with Allison Ikeda and Alexa DeLuca co-chaired the annual service-learning event, joined hundreds of SMHS students, staff, faculty, and alumni to help those in need at this year’s Commitment to Community Day, Aug. 26.

“Medicine has become a team sport,” explained DeLuca. “Today we have physician assistant, physical therapy, and medical students working together as a team to make a difference in the lives of individuals who need our help the most.”  

“Service is at the heart of who we are as health care professionals and physicians,” said Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, dean of SMHS, and vice president for health affairs at GW. “Today is about bringing our students together — PA students, PT students, and medical students, along with faculty, staff, and alumni — to have fun and give back to the community.”

This year’s event was spent preparing 117,000 bagged-meals made of rice, soy, dried vegetables, and micronutrients through Kids Against Hunger D.C. Metro, a humanitarian food-aid organization that combats hunger in the United States and abroad by packaging and distributing nutritious meals to the malnourished. The specially formulated meals provide a rich source of easily digestible protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and other micronutrients. This year’s packaged meals will travel half way around the world to the Philippines, an area recently devastated by a Category 5 Super Typhoon.  

For the past four years, GW has partnered with Kids Against Hunger D.C. Metro to package the meals. In that time the partnership has prepared more than 400,000 meals, which have been sent to Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, as well as locally throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. “The impact of these meals is enormous and it demonstrates GW’s commitment to service, labor, and education,” said Lakhmir Chawla, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at SMHS and co-founder of the D.C. chapter of Kids Against Hunger. 

Even more exciting is the fact that the organization is closing in on the one million meal mark. Chawla credits GW’s commitment to this cause for helping his organization get a step closer to achieving this major milestone.

GW’s commitment to community service is why Stefanie Bouma, a first-year physician assistant student at SMHS, chose GW. “I want to work with urban, underserved communities and being at GW gives me the opportunity to help those in need with events like this,” she said.

Funding for these meals was provided by the White Coat Initiative, an SMHS alumni-supported fund that also provides first-year medical students with their white coats at the start of each school year.

When they weren’t measuring ingredients to make the packaged meals, the groups were painting 100 fabric murals for clinics affiliated with Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity that provides free cleft lip and cleft palate repair surgeries to children worldwide. The murals will be displayed in recovery rooms around the country. 

For Meghan Breed, a second-year medical student at SMHS, this day of service was a unique opportunity to interact with all the different disciplines at SMHS, while helping those in need. “I think it’s really important that we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture of why we want to pursue careers in medicine,” she said. “It’s a humbling experience to be reminded just how important something as simple as nutrition is and the huge effect it can have on the body and mind.”