Each year, the Medical School Government (MSG) of the Perelman School of Medicine provides funding for its student groups to hold special events during the year, for example, a guest speaker at a luncheon or a networking event. These funds must be used in a single calendar year; anything unused reverts back to the MSG.
Normally that's not an issue. This year, though, with much of the spring semester taught remotely and most on-campus events still on hold, much of this money remained unused, with little chance that anything would change by the end of the year.
But rather than forfeiting the money, Michelle Rose, a second-year med student, and members of the MSG, thought of a perfect solution: use it to help those in the West Philadelphia community who need it most.
Rose, who led the initiative, realized the potential but it needed two components to succeed: projects to support and donations. The group first emailed the entire medical school student body: If you have a project you'd like funded, tell us about it and the necessary budget.
Eight "doable projects" came to light. Next, a second email went out, which included all the eligible projects as well as request for donations to fund them. "We basically said, if you have leftover funding that you won't be able to spend, why not use it to help others?"
The response "floored us," Rose said. More than one-third of the school's 100 student groups donated to at least one project. And, when hearing of the request, councils for the medical school's houses donated as well. Similar to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books, the SOM divides its student body into four houses, "to help build comradery among the students," Rose said.
In total, around $12,000 was donated to help provide much needed supplies to many of the community's underserved populations that they might have otherwise done without. For example, the Benjamin B Comegys School will receive school supplies, such as headphones, keyboards and subscriptions to educational sites. And those coming to community health clinics where students help out will receive kits with personal protection equipment (two masks and one bottle of hand sanitizer) and receive flu shots. (see full list below)
Medical school leadership took note as well. "This is spectacular! It is a demonstration of the generosity and commitment of our students to our community," said Suzi Rose, MD, senior vice dean for Medical Education. "It makes us all so proud."
"The real success of this initiative is thanks to our awesome peers who had the vision to work with the community on coming up with these projects and the drive to make them happen,," said fourth year medical student Jeremy Jones, who is president of the MSG executive board, "as well as the dozens of student groups that contributed to help these projects realize their goals and make a meaningful impact.
"We view ourselves as minor characters here and want to champion the other students who did all of the ground work! We're so excited to hear updates as these projects move forward."
The projects that received funding are:
School Supplies for Comegys: School supplies like headphones, keyboards, subscriptions to educational sites, etc. will be purchased for the students of Benjamin B. Comegys in West Philadelphia.
Clothing Drive: Socks, underwear, and the like will be purchased for patients in the Psychiatry Unit at Pennsylvania Hospital who are housing insecure.
Supplies for Cut Hypertension: To help Cut Hypertension get back on its feet from COVID setbacks, new sphygmomanometers will be purchased.
Feminine Products for the Impoverished: Donations will help No More Secrets (NMS) purchase feminine products for low-income menstruators living in the greater Philadelphia area.
PPE and Feminine Products Goody Bags: Goody bags full of PPE and feminine hygiene products will be distributed to those who come to UCHC for meals each week.
PPE Goody Bags and Flu Shots: PPE kits (2 masks and one bottle of hand sanitizer) will be distributed and flu shots will be administered at the community clinics.
Legislative Class Zoom: A Zoom account was purchased to accommodate the 35 students who enrolled in a student-led class to engage in the legislative process of bills involving racial inequity.
ClearMasks at Penn: A bulk supply of ClearMasks will be ordered for students to use during clinics, as part of a broader study (IRB approval pending).