As finals wind down, most American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine students are preparing to go home for the holidays. You could spend that time catching up on your favorite TV shows or finishing a good book. Or you can do something more meaningful. While you wait for the next semester to begin, consider one of the numerous ways to make an impact in your community and communities around the world.
Launch or Participate in a Free Clinic
Most U.S. medical schools have a university sponsored student-run free clinic that provides healthcare services to uninsured and disadvantaged patients. Under the auspices of a physician, medical students can treat these patients by providing basic tests such as blood work, urinalysis, mammography, eye exams, blood pressure screenings, and so on. Typically, these clinics are located near medical school campuses.
Recently, University of Michigan students set up a clinic in a remote, low-income area in southwest Michigan that needed easier access to medical care. This great story underscores part of AUA’s mission to bring more primary care physicians to underserved areas. If you want to take part in this mission before you graduate, the Society of Student Run Free Clinics has a great step-by-step guide for setting up a clinic.
Starting a clinic can be a Herculean task: it’s time intensive and you’ll need funding to run it. If you want to do something right now, there are hundreds of organizations that need volunteers. Hospitals, labs, research facilities, and foundations are just some of the places that need your help. AMSA has a comprehensive directory of international organizations with volunteering opportunities.
Even if it’s not medically related, organizations really need extra hands during the holiday season. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and many more places can use your support. Wherever you decide to go, volunteering looks great on residency applications. It demonstrates your compassion as a physician.
If you can’t donate your time, you can always donate some money to a cause that furthers medical research or assists doctors working in developing countries. Donations are the lifeblood for most medical foundations. Your contribution, no matter how small, could put fundraising goals over the top, allowing researchers to develop vaccines and other medical breakthroughs that were once thought impossible. It can even support physicians serving patients in warzones and refugee camps. There are endless possibilities for your donation.
With thousands of charities to choose from, it might be tough to decide where to donate. If you’re having a difficult time choosing a charity or are unsure if a charity is legit, use Charity Navigator. It evaluates charities and how much of their donations actually go towards their stated cause.
As opposed to most Caribbean medical schools that work on a tri-semester schedule, AUA students can use their extended break time to apply their skills towards philanthropic endeavors. Even if you aren’t enrolled at AUA, you can still make a difference today.
What has been your experience with volunteering? What charities do you recommend?