Medical students volunteer their time to rebuild New Orleans
An estimated 26 million people will descend on New Orleans in 2013; according to a report by the Tourism Industry Association and the Louisiana Department of Culture Recreation and Tourism, and 52 students from WSU’s Boonshoft School of Medicine will be among the Big Easy’s visitors.
From March 17-23, WSU students will assist members of the New Orleans area with community building and community development, while aiding the on-going relief effort left behind by storm damage, according to Professor Katherine Cauley.
Medical school students have a requirement to complete 60 hours of service learning during their first and second years, but Cauley explains that the trip has a broader purpose.
“Service learning is a teaching pedagogy that stresses an equal balance between what the student needs to learn, and what the community site needs to have done, in terms of service,” Cauley said. “When you build an opportunity to do service into the curriculum and the students don’t just go to volunteer; they identify things that they would like to learn while they are providing service, then you have the teaching pedagogy of service learning and this trip to New Orleans meets a service learning requirement for students so that they get to both learn as they anticipate being physicians and provide service to the community.”
The students that go on the trip go through a series of orientation and training meetings, Cauley explains. Of the first-year students that attend the trip, some of those students will be selected as site coordinators, who will then receive extra training.
“Some of the first-year students take additional leadership training and responsibility when they are actually on site for each of the three places that they go,” Cauley said. “When the students come back, there’s an extensive evaluation; not only written [evaluations], but there is group discussion, or what in medicine they call ‘peer reviews’.”
The training beings in early Jan. and finishes in late April, Cauley said.
Second-year medical student and lead coordinator Ryan Shapiro says the trip to New Orleans offers students a chance to try something new while bonding with their fellow classmates.
“I think the biggest benefit, especially for those students who haven’t done anything like this before, is just kind of getting thrown out of your comfort zone and into a completely different environment than [we have] in here,” Shapiro said. “Wright State hasn’t grown near what other [medical] schools have so we really have a community atmosphere here and this is just one of those experiences that reinforces it.”
Cauley says that any medical school student is eligible to attend the trip and the New Orleans volunteer opportunity fulfills an elective requirement. Several service learning opportunities exist for medical students, but the New Orleans trip garners the most participation, Cauley said. The cost of the trip, about $300, according to Cauley, is paid for by the students and covers expenses such as room and board, transportation to and from New Orleans.
“For some students, I think this is a great experience that really makes them realize kind of what humanity is and what it means to be human in a different way than we see, because it’s a very different experience from volunteering in the hospitals and the health clinics,” Shapiro said. “I think it brings some people down to earth.”