Students in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA aren't just future doctors; they're also future community leaders. According to Abraar Karan, president of the Medical Student Council (MSC), philanthropy is an important part of the medical school experience. "Our goals are far more than just clinical care. We are also very serious about the well-being of all people in the greater LA community," Karan says.
That's why the MSC both encourages and funds student efforts to give back. For instance, medical students always participate in the annual UCLA Food Drive and Thanksgiving feast. This year, participants donated hundreds of canned goods to support the UCLA Community Programs Office Food Closet, which provides meals for students who are struggling financially.
Here's how students in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA give back throughout the year:
Competing to give
To motivate participation in the UCLA Food Drive, the MSC held a competition among the different classes. "We have done this in the past, and I remembered how it helped build class cohesion and drove participation," says Karan. "So we did it again this year."
The MSC then created class bins and collected food for two weeks leading up to a large Thanksgiving feast.
"The Student Affairs Office puts this on every year before we leave for holiday break," Karan adds. "They serve us a Thanksgiving-themed lunch, and we finalize the drive, collect any remaining cans and announce which class collected the most."
This year, the second-years won the competition, with first-years placing right behind them.
Philanthropy: always in season
The food drive is just one way UCLA medical students give back to the community. "Earlier this year, we did a school-wide service project with the LA Food Bank to help feed the homeless and those in need," recalls Karan. "And we have an annual winter formal to raise money for charity. Last year, we donated to LA County Harbor's pediatric department. This year, we will be donating to the Bruin Shelter, a graduate student shelter for homeless youth in LA."
The former Ivy League undergrad encourages students to attend the monthly MSC meetings and share ideas for philanthropic activities. "We leave the first 10 or 15 minutes open for the student body to present on any topic, including ideas to improve or add to our charitable endeavors. As of this year, the budget committee can also fund individuals' fundraiser ideas."
In recent years, many of the most popular class fundraisers have been initiated by students. When several Filipino students wanted to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the medical school rallied to raise thousands for the Global Giving Foundation. Earlier in 2015, the MSC held a "White Coats for Black Lives" event in collaboration with other groups and student leaders on campus to discuss issues of racial disparity in the healthcare system.
For the last few years, hundreds of students have participated in the annual class service day at Esteban Torres High School in southeast LA. "We do a big health fair, where we have public health workshops for the kids," Karan explains. "We teach them how to eat healthy and exercise, and how to perform CPR. We also speak with students about careers in healthcare."
Abraar is proud of his school's ongoing efforts to help others. "As future physicians, we don't just care about all the high-tech stuff going on at UCLA, all the expensive world-class surgeries and technologies. We're also very invested in those who need us most — the poor and hungry, the vulnerable people in our communities. Philanthropy is very central to our medical school experience."
By Taylor Mallory Holland