When College of Medicine – Tucson student Darien Stratton heard about students volunteering to help medical professionals in areas of the country hit hard by COVID-19, the University of Arizona was still on spring break. Local schools, preschools and businesses remained open, and social distancing was just entering the lexicon.
Stratton decided to follow the lead of her peers around the country before Tucson began feeling a strain. She posted an online signup sheet and asked her fellow medical students if they were willing to help health care workers with child care, pet care, grocery shopping and meal preparation.
Now, 70 University of Arizona Health Sciences students are volunteering, and six have joined Stratton in coordinating the effort. Child care is by far the greatest need. The students who are caring for children haven't interacted with patients within 14 days, said Stratton.
"The student volunteers have really stepped up. This has truly been a team effort, and I am so proud to be a MedCat right now," said Stratton, who plans to graduate in May and begin a residency in emergency medicine.
Ashwini Kaveti, a third-year student, is both coordinating and volunteering. This would be a frustrating time for Kaveti if she felt she couldn't be of service.
"A big part of why we even wanted to be in medical school is because of our passion to serve our community. This way, students can help support our providers by taking away the stress of figuring out how to complete these tasks they previously were able to attend to," she said.
The medical community has been appreciative, Kaveti said. The professionals helped by the student group have expressed gratitude for the ability to focus on their jobs without also finding alternative arrangements for child and pet care. Meals are also more difficult to purchase because the hospital cafeteria is closed.
Faculty members in the College of Medicine –Tucson have supported the students' efforts and helped spread the word about the initiative, Stratton said.
"At a time of great uncertainty and stress, it has been a source of great comfort to me hearing about the amazing students we are lucky enough to have here at the College of Medicine – Tucson. I'm inspired and buoyed by their efforts and am so proud to be their colleague," said assistant professor of medicine Dr. Indu S. Partha.
"This is only the beginning of what this group of students will accomplish," said Dr. Richard Amini, professor and assistant dean of student affairs for the college. "During the most difficult of times, kindness and support carries great value. I'm honored to be a part of the same community, a community that worries equally about others as themselves."
A version of this story originally appeared on the University of Arizona Health Sciences Connect website: https://healthsciences.arizona.edu/connect/features/med-students-step-help-health-care-professionals.