Students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) discovered the rewards of giving back to their community during a volunteer event. Known as the Day of Service, the outing was organized by the school’s Office of Student Affairs. Each year at the close of orientation week, first- and second-year students participate in community service projects at various locations in and near Lewisburg.
This year, 204 students gathered at 18 sites in Lewisburg, Fairlea, Ronceverte, Frankford, Maxwelton and White Sulphur Springs to help with tasks involving physical labor. Students painted, cleaned, swept, hung banners and performed landscaping and gardening work, among other assignments. Eleven WVSOM faculty and staff members participated as well.
Anosh Akbar, a first-year WVSOM student, was one of about 10 volunteers who picked up garbage at Dorie Miller Park in Lewisburg. She said she values the school’s dedication to producing future physicians who care about their communities.
“Community service is at the heart of being a medical student, and a commitment to helping others will make us better doctors one day,” Akbar said. “It was nice to talk with peers as we worked together, and it gave us the opportunity to meet people from the area we hope to serve.”
First-year student Wyatt Grimm, who helped sweep out barns and wipe down bleachers on the grounds of the State Fair of West Virginia in Fairlea, said he was pleased to contribute to the cleanup effort.
“Community service gives us opportunities to have an impact on the place we live,” he said. “While volunteering at the fairground, I met new people and worked with them to make our environment better. Community service can help build a rapport that makes patient care better for both parties.”
Organizations benefiting from the volunteer work included the City of Lewisburg, the State Fair of West Virginia, four area elementary and middle schools, and a number of churches, nonprofit agencies and businesses.
Students who take part in the Day of Service earn hours through the WVSOM Student Government Association’s Translating Osteopathic Understanding into Community Health (T.O.U.C.H.) program, which recognizes those who reach a predetermined number of volunteer hours in a given academic year. During the 2020-21 academic year, students completed a combined total of more than 6,000 T.O.U.C.H. hours.
Belinda Evans, WVSOM’s director of student life, said the event serves as a bridge between local residents and the osteopathic medical school.
“It’s an opportunity for the community to connect with our students,” Evans said. “The people in Lewisburg and the surrounding areas play an important role in supporting our aspiring physicians, and the Day of Service is one of the ways we’re able to return the favor. It’s a chance for WVSOM to show it truly cares about those who give our students a wonderful place to live.”
Students plant flowers at the entrance of Eastern Greenbrier Middle School. (Photo courtesy WVSOM)