Smart, very smart. That’s what most folks think about University of Texas Medical Branch students. And indeed, by the time they have been accepted to UTMB or any other U.S. medical school, these are highly academically successful students.

Most of our medical school applicants have a nearly perfect and often straight-A average through college.

What you may not know is this. Besides grades, another factor considered in the admissions process is the student’s record of community service and volunteerism. We value evidence of altruism in prospective students and look at their records for service activities in college and even in high school.

Such activities characterize those who are not only gifted and successful in the classroom, but are willing to take valuable time away from the books to provide care to the underserved, vulnerable or in other charitable causes. These are going to be the committed, empathic and socially dedicated physicians of the future.

An example of this kind of student service coming out of UTMB is coming up Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the McGuire Dent Recreation Center, 28th Street and Seawall Boulevard.

This is the “Spring into Healthy Living Event.” It is sponsored by the UTMB Students Together for Service (STS) and Galveston Island’s Biggest Loser program, a group working with individuals to lose pounds and become healthier.

STS was the brainstorm of two former St. Vincent’s student directors, David Darrow and Philip Hoverstadt. Medical students Rimma Osipov and Christine Horstmeyer applied on behalf of STS and garnered a $50,000 President’s Cabinet Award for developing a student-run organization to help coordinate the energy and variety of student volunteer and community service activities going in our medical, nursing, health professions, and graduate schools.

This weekend’s upcoming event is organized by Osipov and Quynh Do. It will include free health screening, including blood tests, blood pressure and visual testing, yoga classes, demonstrations of healthy cooking and food safety, nutrition jeopardy and a raffle with prizes including cookbooks, pedometers, water bottles and more. It is open to anyone in the community and will be child friendly, so bring your whole family.

This is the tip of iceberg when it comes to our UTMB students’ commitment to service. In their fourth year, medical students selective requirements actually include service learning.

However, well before such required activities, students in all schools demonstrate their commitment through volunteering in such groups as the School of Nursing Butterfly Project for bereaved families, weekly service at St. Vincent’s clinic for the uninsured, the Luke Society providing care for the homeless, Frontera de Salud which works on the Texas border with at risk patients, the Osler student societies dedicated to service, socialization and mentorship, the Osler Student Scholars projects, Students in Global Health, the Family Medicine Interest Group, the Stress-Less-Fest supported by the Osler Societies and the Students in Integrative Medicine., Caring Clowns and community gardens. The list goes on.

We all ought be proud of our future doctors, nurses and other health professions providers of the future for all the good they do through volunteer activities.

Mentored and guided by equally committed faculty members, these students learn valuable clinical skills, how to organize social, charitable and health promotion activities, and best of all, how good it feels to give for the sheer joy of giving to others less fortunate than ourselves.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the Nicholson Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.


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