DGSOM volunteers at the LA Food Bank on Volunteer Day.
On August 14, 2015, more than 200 students from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA descended on two locations of the Los Angeles Food Bank for the first annual DGSOM at UCLA Volunteer Day. In one afternoon, they sorted through more than 12,000 pounds of food and packed hundreds of food packages for those in need.
The event was a success for local families and a valuable opportunity for students to work together and create lasting friendships across campus.
The birth of Volunteer Day
The event was the brainchild of Dr. Scott Greenberg, a fourth-year medical student at the time of its founding and someone who was inspired by the undergraduate Volunteer Day for the important opportunity it offers medical students looking to get involved in the community.
"I wanted to expose students to the needs of the community they are going to serve over the next one-to-four years at DGSOM," Dr. Greenberg says. "I hoped to create an experience that gave a different prospective on the individuals that DGSOM serves. Also, this event is an opportunity for first-year students to meet their fellow classmates, along with upperclassmen, to work [toward] a common goal — very similar to different teams working together in a hospital to give optimal patient care."
Dr. Greenberg especially wanted to host an event that demonstrated the greatness of DGSOM's students and faculty. Knowing he was about to graduate, the M4 sought first-years who would be interested in making Volunteer Day a reality. The response was very positive, and several students agreed to carry the torch for the event.
The Volunteer Day Committee
Lyudmyla Demyan was one of several students who volunteered to take Dr. Greenberg's idea to the next level when organizing the event. Other student committee members included Rebecca Linfield, Alex Garrett, Stephanie Tsoi and Yuliya Zektser — all of whom assisted in the day's planning, coordination and execution. The American Medical Association at UCLA and the Big Sibling program also assisted in the launch of Volunteer Day.
Community service and a warm welcome
Having completed their morning classes, each volunteer gathered for a planned lunch and then loaded onto buses to the Los Angeles Food Bank. After a few hours of sorting and packing, they returned to campus for an event with dinner organized by the Big Sibling program, which matches new medical students with upperclassmen.
Demyan explains: "It was the second week of school, so it was like an introduction to the school and to classmates. I hope DGSOM UCLA Volunteer Day becomes an annual event, as it would be such a good way to welcome incoming students to our DGSOM family."
Next year's event
Participants in the DGSOM Volunteer Day look forward to the next year's service opportunity because it gives them another way to contribute to the community while bonding with their peers. In fact, Dr. Greenberg and students like Demyan expect the event to occur in lieu of classes next year, as this would encourage more people to participate.
Demyan also hopes that other graduate schools like Dentistry, Public Health and Law at UCLA will join them in future iterations of Volunteer Day. By taking the opportunity to promote communication among students of different disciplines, the campus can ultimately increase its impact on the community.
DGSOM's presence at UCLA Volunteer Day serves as a way of exposing students to their untapped abilities to do good. As Dr. Greenberg expresses, students have "many opportunities to volunteer at clinics and shelters to practice their medical skills, but that is a one-dimensional way of serving the community. I wanted students to realize that just because they are in medical school doesn't mean they cannot volunteer their time in other impactful ways."
By Kyleigh Roessner