Giving back with words and works: Student Ambassadors' contributions are varied
March 18, 2014
By Joe Stumpe
As a pre-med student at Wichita State University, DaKota Urban had plenty of unanswered questions about what medical school might be like. Now that he's a student at KU School of Medicine–Wichita, Urban is doing his best to fill that information gap for others.
"I always like to go back and visit with pre-med students," Urban said. "It's nice for them to get first-hand experience from someone."
Urban talks to the undergraduates as president of the school's Student Ambassadors group, which is just one of many ways the organization's impact can be felt in the community.
The group is best known for performing free physicals for low-income middle school students, but does much more.
"Our goal is to get medical students out into the community," said Megan Renehan, the group's vice president. "For instance, we go to high schools and talk to sophomores about the path to becoming a doctor. We've gone to the Ronald McDonald House and made dinner and cleaned up the house for families."
In March, the group hosted an event designed to expose Girl Scouts to different medical careers. Stations were set up that allowed the girls to practice surgical knots, examine X-rays ... even "deliver" a baby.
Renehan, a fourth-year student who plans to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, said she became an Ambassador because she wants to help others, but also because of her enthusiasm for KU School of Medicine–Wichita. "I thought that was a great way to communicate why I chose KU and the things I particularly like about the program," she said.
"What drew me to this program was how early on in your education you get to have clinical experience. Even as a first-year student, you're paired up with a professional in the community. It is very valuable to be able to get out and do hands-on stuff."
Renehan said prospective students on campus tours often have questions about medical school that center around "how hard it is -- if you can still manage a life outside med school."
You can, she tells them.
"The first month, you're probably going to be pretty stressed and worried about the first test. After that, you learn how to balance your life."
Renehan said about the only qualifications for becoming a Student Ambassador are communication skills and a schedule flexible enough to volunteer. About 20 medical students and 10 pharmacy students are currently involved in the group.
Most years, the Student Ambassadors, overseen by a physician, conduct free physicals at five to 10 middle schools, enabling students to take part in extracurricular sports and other activities.
"That's been one of the cornerstones of the things we've done," said Urban, a fourth-year student going into general surgery.
KU School of Medicine-Wichita Student Services Coordinator Maggie McNamara, who serves as the group's staff advisor, said being a Student Ambassador lets group members contribute to the community's well-being even before they've gotten their medical degree.
"So many of them want to give back, and this is a way for them to do it."
KU School of Medicine–Wichita