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Building physician leaders through service

Building physician leaders through service

Learning communities are more than study groups. They have evolved into a springboard for deeper interpersonal and community-based relationships for medical students at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

BLOG / By Ally Kiekover

The idea for the Community Service Project Initiative began this past summer at one of our learning communities leadership meetings.

We discussed goals for the 2019-2020 year and brainstormed activities that would allow medical students and faculty to nurture their learning community in a less formal setting and give, especially first- and second-year, medical students the opportunity to interact and build relationships with community members outside the clinical setting.

Our vision (and hope) is that year after year, students from our learning communities will be able to volunteer with their group of multi-level learners and build long-term relationships with partner organizations, so that when the organization is in need, we are able to mobilize and help them fulfill their mission. Many students and individuals from the organizations expressed that they enjoyed having the opportunity to bond and talk with each other, as well as being able to work together to complete projects. 

The projects kicked off with House Miller lending a hand to help exercise our furry friends at the Cabell County Humane Society.

“It was a beautiful day outside, a great chance to interact with the first years, and served as a good source of stress relief after taking our exam,” said medical student Leah Ching. “The best part is walking into the shelter and hearing the dogs because they are so excited to have company. It is easy to bond over shared love for animals.”

Next, House Yingling partnered with Dress for Success, an organization whose mission is to empower women to achieve economic independence. House members helped reorganize and clean the building in order to complete upcoming renovations.

“Getting to know more about Dress for Success and help them out was a great experience,” said medical student Michelle Rueff. “The women leading the organization are passionate and kind. This group is pivotal in breaking the cycle of poverty by helping people prepare/dress appropriately to make a great first impression during an interview, which seems simple but can literally change the trajectory of peoples’ lives. The cycle of homelessness/joblessness is a challenging system to overcome, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to help them out with my classmates and other students in House Yingling.”

House Richardson had a spooky time helping the A.D. Lewis Center, a local community center dedicated to providing a safe place for recreation and education, set up for their annual Halloween Haunted House.

“Helping set up the decorations for the A.D. Lewis Center’s haunted house was a great experience,” said medical student Sydney Yoho. “Seeing the kids in their costumes was super fun, and it was great way to celebrate Halloween.”

The week before Thanksgiving was a busy week for the School of Medicine Learning Communities, as three houses hosted their projects.

House Warren partnered with United Way to make blankets that were distributed through The Center: A Youth Opportunity Hub to teenagers and young adults without stable living conditions.

“This was an eye-opening experience that revealed a hidden issue in our community— youth homelessness,” said medical student Rawan Elhamdani. “We were able to make 10 blankets for 10 individuals for the upcoming winter months. I would love to volunteer more with this group because there are an estimated an estimated 2,000 homeless youths between the ages of 16 and 24 within our area!”

House Campbell partnered with the Huntington City Mission to decorate for the holidays and clean the areas that would be used for food service.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve the community,” said medical student Abigail Tolbert. “My group organized the closet and got an inside look at what happens when someone comes in for a jacket or clothing and how the city mission helps people grow. It has an incredible impact on the community, and I’m grateful to have a part in that.”

Lastly, House Zill partnered with Facing Hunger Foodbank to help organize and pack food for their inaugural Drive-Thru Food Drive.

"My classmates and I chose careers in medicine because we want to make an impact in the lives of our future patients, but it is nice to remember that we can help outside of the hospital,” said medical student Mark Castle. “Collecting food donations gave me some insight into the scope of what Facing Hunger Foodbank does for the people in our city. They are doing admirable work, and I hope that my time has helped them in some small way.”

We are excited to continue working with these organizations and give back to the community that supports our education in so many ways! If you are interested in working with the learning communities at the Marshall School of Medicine, please email

Ally Kiekover is a medical student in the Class of 2022 at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.  

Date Posted: Monday, December 30, 2019