UK College of Medicine Students Support their University, Community, and Commonwealth during COVID-19 Pandemic
By Robert S. DiPaola, MD
Dean, University of Kentucky College of Medicine
As the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and UK HealthCare, the University’s health care segment began to make critical adaptations to the COVID-19 outbreak, the college’s medical students stepped in to help.
UK College of Medicine students have graciously volunteered their time and effort to support those hit by the pandemic’s rippling effects through the community. They’ve organized donations collections for those in need, they’ve offered to assist those who fight on the front lines, and they’ve supported the city of Lexington and cities across the Commonwealth.
Volunteering Child Care Services for Health Care Workers
After child care facilities were asked to close across the state, many medical students volunteered to babysit for clinicians, nurses, and other health care staff members who were – and still are – working tirelessly to provide high-quality, compassionate care for Kentuckians.
“I think that during hard-hitting, grave times like these, the biggest source of anxiety and worry for most people is the safety of their family,” Shruti Nanivadekar, a third-year medical student who coordinates the list of volunteers, said. “I know that if it was me, as a resident on the frontline, I would hate to have the unnecessary worry of the safety and well-being of my children and younger siblings while I was out there working long, hard hours.”
Nanivadekar came up with the idea after browsing online forums, witnessing how other medical students across the country were serving their communities. She anticipated that a need for childcare would arise, and it did.
“The health care workers – doctors, residents, nurses, social workers – are already working so hard, that helping out a little with child care during the day while we are working remotely was the least we could do as fellow members of the community to help with this crisis,” she said.
Easing the Social Burden of COVID-19 on Nursing Homes
Two students from the UK College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus, Claire Ottman and Kathryn Perry, both first-year medical students, organized a collection of items needed at local nursing homes. Ottman, Perry, and their fellow medical students worked with the Kentucky Grand Hotel and Spa’s Stay Strong Care Package Program, gathering items such as tissues, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, snacks, books, puzzle books, and decks of cards.
They hoped that by donating these items, residents of nursing homes could stay inside, safe and healthy, while knowing they aren’t alone in the fight.
“We realized that these items are essential for this population of people,” Ottman said. “I think this population did so much for us. It’s the least we can do in this situation to help them out.”
Collecting Critical Items for Homeless Shelters
Madeline Rukavina, a third-year medical student at UK, led a donation drive for local homeless shelters in Lexington, Ky., to help facilities in desperate need of supplies during the pandemic.
She collected several items for local organizations such as Bluegrass Families First and the Hope Center, which then offer these items for those in need within the community. Donations have included more than 100 pairs of socks, along with sanitation wipes, laundry detergent, infant formula, diapers, toilet paper, and more. And in just one week, she and her fellow UK medical students raised more than $1,100 to purchase items on the Bluegrass Families First wish list.
Feeding the Frontline while Supporting Local Businesses
A group of UK alumni including Jodi Llanora and Kyle Luo, now first-year UK College of Medicine students, combined their expertise to establish a local branch of a national nonprofit. The mission of the organization, Feed the Front Line (FTFL) Kentucky, is to feed health care workers while supporting local restaurant employees.
With donations, FTFL Kentucky purchases bulk meal orders from local restaurants. Volunteers then deliver these meals for free to area hospitals, testing sites, and other health care establishments.
The initiative supports Lexington businesses while boosting morale for those leading the fight against COVID-19.
Inspiring Others to Donate Blood
With the pandemic came a critical need for blood donations. Llanora, along with third-year students Carter Baughman and Lauren Harris, used friendly competition through the month of May to inspire the College of Medicine, University of Kentucky, and Lexington communities to help.
MedMadness is a contest among medical schools across Kentucky – the UK College of Medicine, University of Louisville School of Medicine, and University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine – tracking which community logs the most blood donations. The students created a Facebook event page to maintain the momentum, and they’ve already encouraged dozens of community members to join the initiative.
Showing us What’s Wildly Possible
The UK College of Medicine is proud of its students for utilizing their potential to make an impact amid these unprecedented times. Through compassion for their communities and innovative thinking, our medical students are showing us, and continue to show us, what’s wildly possible.