Much of Natasha Bhuyan's community service as been focused on people who have unique medical needs and concerns.
Bhuyan, a second-year University of Arizona medical student, has worked closely with the elderly, people who are homeless, adults with developmental disabilities and individuals with unplanned pregnancies.
What has driven her involvement is a concern that the needs of such populations are not being met by physicians or that certain groups have limited access to care, said Bhuyan, also president of MedPride, an organization that addresses the needs of patients who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
In recognition of her leadership and community service, Bhuyan has received the 2010 American Medical Association Foundation Leadership Award.
She was one of 20 medical students in the nation earn the award, which is part of a program designed to recognize and strengthen the leadership skills of students in the medical field. It's awarded to those who have demonstrated such skills in community affairs.
Bhuyan, who is interested in pursuing a practice in geriatric medicine, said she started medical school with the strong desire to "help strangers."
"The UA College of Medicine has been a perfect fit for me," said Bhuyan, who added that she feels fortunate to be at the UA and participate in its program and activities.
She gave special praise to the UA medical school for encouraging students to get involved in the community.
"There are a lot of activities at UA that medical students could get involved in," she said. "Medical school can be really draining if you don't get out in the community and remember what you're doing this for."
Bhuyan has worked with several different programs and organizations, including the Commitment to Underserved People Program, the Senior Mentor Program, Americorps, Medical Students for Choice and Planned Parenthood.
While at the UA, she founded the Geriatric/Aging Interest Group and organized the Medical Students’ Aging for Specialists Conference. Also, Bhuyan helped engage medical students in Planned Parenthood programming in Phoenix.
She continues to be recognized for her hard work, both on an off campus.
Earlier this year, Bhuyan earned the College of Medicine's Community Service Award. Also, she is slated to be a regional coordinator for the Medical Students for Choice. In her new position, Bhuyan will oversee each of the organization's chapters in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico.
"It's going to be interesting to work with all these different schools," said Bhuyan, who strongly encourages others to get involved in service work – especially those going into medicine.
Even though her time occasionally seems to be in short supply, Bhuyan said her service is rewarding and that she would continue to volunteer and work to inspire others.
She emphasized that the benefits of volunteering are numerous: Students are able to learn and strengthen practical skills, learn about the communities they will be serving and provide medical help to people in need.
"People who participate in community service activities," she said, "have a richer medical school experience than those who don't."