Vol. 12 No. 6 - January, 2010

UMMS students brighten the holidays for area homeless families

Lots of people may think they have a long list of friends and relatives on their holiday shopping lists, but few had as many to manage as the UMass Medical School second-year medical students in the Pediatric Interest Group. They, along with the pediatrics residents of UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, gave 150 gifts to 53 homeless families. Working with Patricia McQuilkin, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics, and an area social worker from the Worcester Family Health Center, students Elizabeth Herrup and Callie Comtois, along with group members Jennifer Crombie, Caitlin Fogarty and Sarah Jackson, solicited funds and gifts from students of all three schools to fulfill the wish lists of area families, some of whom were living in shelters this season.

The Pediatric Interest Group,

along with the pediatrics residents of UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, gave 150 gifts to 53 homeless families.

Comtois issued an e-mail call for help, asking each student to donate funds or to fill a family’s wish list.She created a detailed spread sheet to manage the logistics to ensure that every child received the right gifts, while Herrup and other group members were the “collectors,” dashing around campus to collect the funds and wrapped gifts.

“The wish lists covered a whole range of gifts,” said Comtois. “From games to books and toys, but some kids wished for things we might consider daily necessities, like socks.”

“We did a lot of the shopping at WalMart to make sure the $20 per child we had allotted would go as far as possible and, thanks to our classmates’ generosity, we were even able to provide gifts for adults this year,” said Herrup, who noted that in past years the focus has been on children only.
“The students worked with the hospital’s pediatrics house staff and did a fabulous job, despite the fact that the project fell right in the middle of final exams week,” said Dr. McQuilken. “Needless to say, the families were very appreciative, as were the staff at the homeless families program.”

The Pediatrics Interest Group brings together students who are interested in learning more about the field of pediatrics and organizes events and programs to bring students together with youngsters in the community and in the hospital. Members participate in “mini rounds,” shadowing Timothy E. Gibson, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, as he cares for young inpatients in the Children’s Medical Center. This February, they’ll hold a Valentine’s Day party for children in the community.