Penn Med students create unexpected community outreach

Each year, the Medical School Government (MSG) of the Perelman School of Medicine provides funding for its student groups to hold special events during the year, for example, a guest speaker at a luncheon or a networking event. These funds must be used in a single calendar year; anything unused reverts back to the MSG.

Person standing outside holding a brown lunch bag to distribute wearing a face shield and mask outside a building in West Philadelphia
Image: Courtesy of Michael Burch

Normally that’s not an issue. This year, though, with much of the spring semester taught remotely and most on-campus events still on hold, much of this money remained unused, with little chance that anything would change by the end of the year.

But rather than forfeiting the money, Michelle Rose, a second-year med student, and members of the MSG, thought of a perfect solution: use it to help those in the West Philadelphia community who need it most.

Rose, who led the initiative, realized the potential but it needed two components to succeed—projects to support and donations. The group first emailed the entire medical school student body: If you have a project you’d like funded, tell us about it and the necessary budget.

Eight “doable projects” came to light. Next, a second email went out, which included all the eligible projects as well as request for donations to fund them. “We basically said, if you have leftover funding that you won’t be able to spend, why not use it to help others?”

The response “floored us,” Rose says. More than one-third of the school’s 100 student groups donated to at least one project. In total, around $12,000 was donated to help provide much needed supplies to many of the community’s underserved populations that they might have otherwise done without. For example, the Benjamin B Comegys School will receive school supplies, such as headphones, keyboards, and subscriptions to educational sites. And those coming to community health clinics where students help out will receive kits with personal protection equipment (two masks and one bottle of hand sanitizer) and receive flu shots.

This story is by Sally Sapega. Read more at Penn Medicine News.