VCU med students hang with the kids at Jacob’s Chance.
<br> Photo by Blair Saunders

Give-back blitz: VCU medical students lend a hand to local organizations during annual Day of Community Service.

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It’s easy for a medical student to get bogged down in the demanding daily requirements of their education. At the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, however, students took a break from the books on a recent Saturday for their annual Day of Community Service (DOCS) event.

Despite a just-completed renal physiology exam for second-year med students and an upcoming micro immunology test for first years, 150 future physicians ventured out on Oct. 23 to serve the Richmond community they now call home.

“We’re always cramming for a different test and trying to figure out how to perform a different physical exam,” said Blair Saunders, vice president of community service for the Medical Student Government Association. “It’s really nice to have an outlet and to do something in the community outside of the classroom.”

It’s really nice to have an outlet and to do something in the community outside of the classroom.

Students from all of the classes lent their hands to five area nonprofits and organizations. First-year med student Brandon Brockbank joined 20 classmates at the Patrick Henry YMCA in Ashland early in the morning. They took hammer to nail to create a giant Jenga tower (the collapsing wooden block tower game) and a human see-saw, both of which will be part of the Y’s summer camp ropes course.

“We didn’t know what we were doing beforehand, but we put our heads together and put all the wood and tools together and went at it,” Brandon said. Their efforts turned two weeks of work into four hours, a huge help for the YMCA staff. There was a personal rejuvenation component to it, too. “It helps you remember why you’re doing medicine – to help other people,” he said.

Across the river at Second Baptist Church, students worked with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to build vegetable garden boxes for the church’s program to grow food for the homeless community. Elsewhere, students cleared trails and raked leaves at the Shady Grove YMCA, prepped the Salvation Army’s Christmas distribution center for the anticipated flood of toys, and took to the field to play flag football with Jacob’s Chance kids.

The event is just one day, but it provides critical support for organizations low in resources. There’s the human connection, too, that’s particularly important for the special needs kids, according to Jacob’s Chance President Kate Tilley.

“When they’re out there for any sport, they don’t have to worry about people wondering or staring at them,” she said. “They can just relax and be themselves.”

The same goes for the medical students. “What’s cool is when the students come out, you see the stress in their face of study, study, study,” Tilley said. “But by the time they’re getting into it, you can see weight lifted off their shoulders.”


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