The annual tradition of engaging in service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day will take on special significance this year for 13 UMass Medical School students as they receive support to launch programs that will allow them to make semester-long community connections through service.
This year’s MLK Semester of Service Student Award recipients will help refugee children heal from traumatic experiences through storytelling and performance; provide health education to residents of youth correctional facilities; provide complementary and integrative medicine services to women with gynecologic cancers; and improve the quality of free health care by formalizing Spanish-language interpreter services.
The MLK Semester of Service Student Award program, now in its third year, is a community service initiative designed to support student-driven, community-responsive service and service-learning projects in the communities that surround the Worcester campus. It was funded by Building on the Promise: Learn and Serve UMass grants at for its initial two years and is now funded internally as a diversity and service initiative.
Each of the four project teams funded this year will receive $500 to support implementation of their proposals, which require the students to partner with existing community organizations. The recipients will be recognized at the UMMS MLK Day celebration on Monday, Jan. 28.
Graduate nursing student Meredith Walsh and medical students Jennifer Perez and Sarah Tracy will work with the Worcester Refugee Assistance Project to create opportunities for local refugee youth to reflect on their life experiences (some of which are traumatic) by engaging in and learning about the healing power of storytelling and performance. In an expansion of the successful 2012 MLK Semester of Service Student Award project that created the Integrative Medicine Oncology Initiative, medical students James Doolin, Nicole Koulisis, Emily Levoy and Ye Li will partner with UMass Memorial Medical Center Levine Cancer Center to offer complementary and integrative medicine to women who are receiving treatment for gynecological cancers at UMass Memorial. Medical student Rahela Aziz-Bose and Julia Randall will be working with the Department of Youth Services to implement a health education curriculum for juveniles in short- and long-term correctional facilities in Worcester and Westborough. MD/PhD students Miriam Madsen and Aurian Garcia-Gonzalez and medical students Israel Molina and Wei Sum Li will partner with St. Anne’s Clinic in Worcester and UMass Memorial Interpreter Services to offer professional Spanish-language medical interpreter services, which is a proven method for improving care and removing barriers to care.
The projects are designed to strengthen existing relationships with the community; address community needs and student learning objectives; and provide opportunities for members of the UMMS community to work together and engage with the larger community. An important component of each project is the opportunity for the students to analyze and reflect on their work. In addition, they will prepare a brief final report that documents how the funds were used and highlights the project outcomes and the lessons learned. Finally, these students must obtain systematic feedback from fellow volunteers and those they served.
The MLK Semester of Service Student Award program has helped launch a number of highly successful student initiatives, including WooFood, the Worcester Refugee Assistance Project and Kelley Backpacks.