SMHS Students Work Together to Give Back During Community Service Day
In a classroom on the 3rd floor of Ross Hall, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) students were gathered together, talking and laughing as they painted boxes that would soon be filled with toys for students in under-resourced schools in the Washington, D.C., area.
It was just one of the activities students were participating in as part of the SMHS Community Service Day. First-year physician assistant studies student Madison Rudnick and first-year MD student Mai Hasan chatted while they painted a colorful under the sea scene on one of the boxes.
They talked about the other activities they had participated in — such as creating dog toys from recycled materials for a local humane shelter and painting piggy banks for The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health — as well as the ability to learn more about needs in Washington, D.C., and ways they can give back as new members of this vibrant city.
“I come from the suburbs of northern Atlanta, and I chose to apply to schools in an urban setting because of the opportunities to help work with and serve underrepresented populations,” Rudnick said. “This is a small way to give back, and really has been a way to learn more about my new home and the different organizations that are here.”
Hasan echoed Rudnick, adding that the service day opened her eyes to where she could possibly volunteer during her time in D.C.
Both students added that they were enjoying working with students from across SMHS, allowing them to meet those studying in different programs. “It has been fabulous to meet new people,” Rudnick said.
Two floors below where Rudnick and Hasan were sitting, another group of students were gathered in a classroom putting together bags of essentials for homeless shelters and writing notes of support. Items in the bags included socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, Band-Aids, and other necessities.
“It’s really wonderful that we have the opportunity to do this and provide these tangible things for people,” said Jennifer Buckhout, a first-year physical therapy (PT) student. “It’s really meaningful to give back, I just started at GW last week, and it’s great to immediately be supporting my new community.”
Dean Bonneau, also a first-year PT student, said he enjoyed learning about the city and the opportunity to become “more in tune with what’s needed here, and areas that are doing well or things that can be improved on.”
David Kauffman, second-year MD student and a member of the orientation committee, helped put on the service day activities. He said that it gives students the opportunity to step away from studying and the day-to-today and “realize that as health care providers we are going to be serving the community and this is one way we can do that right now.”
He added that Community Service Day isn’t just about giving back, but also about coming together as a school.
“This is a great activity for team building, we’re all on the same team here at SMHS,” he said. “And, in the workforce, we’ll all be working together to find solutions to problems and help our patients, and this is a good way to practice that multi-disciplinary teamwork.”
In August, 13 members of the incoming class of PhD candidates at GW’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences traveled to DC Central Kitchen to help prepare meals during the program’s first-ever service program during orientation week.
“It’s about learning to give back to the community,” said Neerja Vashist, a PhD candidate who plans to go into genomic research. “They want humans not robots.”
The experience, she adds, is not without its parallels between the lab and the kitchen. In both instances, she says, “you are following a methodology; in the kitchen it’s a recipe. Both at the bench and in the kitchen,” said Vashist, “clean work stations, safety, communication, and teamwork are concerns for achieving the best outcomes.”
Each day, DC Central Kitchen turns a few thousand pounds of donated food that otherwise might go to waste into 3,000 meals. To help accomplish that, roughly 15,000 people from throughout the metropolitan area, across the country, and far off points such as South Korea, Denmark, and Ireland volunteer at the organization every year.