As premeds (and medical students) we are expected to have performed community service. Most premeds will express the only relevant experience is something like physician shadowing or something medical. It’s a logical position, you want to do medicine so you want to see medicine; and every premed should get a taste of medicine before applying. But, serving your community in other ways would probably benefit your community than the benefit you perform for the medical team with random gopher tasks. Of course, if believe you’re doing substantial work with medical community service, then power to you — as long as you can jabber on about how you made a change you’re good. Like everything else, everything you mention is fair game for the interviews; i.e. padding your entries will back fire during an extensive interview.
I was one of those despicable premeds that enjoyed doing community service. You see as a former welfare child, long term (elementary – HS) poorly insured inpatient, and my education was funded by grants and scholarships for research I actually I already felt I owed my community more than I could ever repay. Thus I never had the “checking boxes” feeling, I was just happy to be able to check anything at all. So, for myself I suppose there wasn’t much altruism in my actions, but instead I wanted to validate my own existence and rationalize why doctors and the community kept “saving me” by adding value to myself. For my own service I decided to highlight three things and how I inclusion in the activity made a change. If you stroll to your applicant programs’ website you’ll likely see their community service, other than medical, you want to let schools know that you can contribute to anything, and you don’t find non medicine things to be “beneath you”.
My format is straight forward, I was going for a holistic application so I didn’t focus on just my medical community service:
1) Prisoner Education Program – non medical. Several medical schools I applied to have specific programs targeting inmate health. I found this out by searching their websites. It wasn’t very hard to conjure up why reducing recidivism is good for the community. It was also a great lesson in the human condition. In case you’re curious, I still did participate in the program even after I was accepted for medical school, some of my former students were released by this time, attending college and working.
2) Patient experience, medical volunteering. I had a few options, so I didn’t bother addressing my positions where I was designated pillow fluff-er (though fluffy pillows are important) or warrior filer. I instead only decided to talk about programs where I was essential (small staff) and/or that my inclusion helped their organization substantially.
So, without further adieu, my entry is below.
How’d you help the community?
I try to have an impact to all my commitments, including: civic duties, medical volunteering. My work with the Prisoner Education Program allowed me to help mentor nearly 80 adult convicts for a multistage education and job skills training program. These 80 males graduated the phase of the program with new skills vital to their later independence: job interview skills, educational advice, GED training, and math tutoring. This program was designed to reduce the statically likely prisoner recidivism by empowering them through education and mentoring. My most important medical impact was during my time helping children perform physical rehabilitation at my university’s Motor Development Clinic. I worked with two adolescents: one with attention deficit disorder and motor movement problems, and another child with extreme mental deficits who had almost no motor coordination. I worked with them over the summer, charting their progress and reporting their outcomes to the supervising physical therapist. I worked with low income parents and adolescents to improve grades and attitudes about academics, now their parents report and teachers praise the students for their improvements and their positive demeanor towards learning. Currently, I serve my community at Donuts Hospital in the Oncology department. I help children cope by providing tutoring and providing a compassionate ear to their concerns in the interim between their treatments. At Donuts Hospital I have also helped staff or organize a number of fundraisers related directly to the oncology department and children’s hospital wing.
Interestingly, my hospital work wasn’t discussed much during interviews, a lot of it instead came from my non medical volunteering. I suppose it’s not that surprising, we can assume that it’s hard to impress seasoned physicians with medical. So, although people in premed sometimes seem to hate to hear it, it’s often a strength to be different if you can justify it.
As a future physician you’re proving in this entry that you have not only done community service, but you understand why — admittedly the last part is harder to verify.