Student Corner: Service day focuses on healing after Harvey

Medical students at Baylor have gotten back into their routine of attending classes, taking exams and training to become the healthcare professionals of tomorrow, but the effects of Hurricane Harvey on the community remain very much on their minds. That’s why they jumped at the opportunity to refocus the annual Matthew Carter Service day to meet the needs of people impacted by the storm.

Matthew Carter Service Day is an annual event that honors the memory of a Baylor medical student who was killed in September 2000 and carries on his message of compassion and caring to successive classes of medical students. The event includes an on-campus lecture and an off-campus day of community outreach by students. The 2017 event originally was set for Aug. 26, but coming in the midst of historic flooding, it had to be canceled.

In the days and weeks after Harvey, Baylor medical students were active in helping Baylor faculty and staff and other members of the community whose homes and lives were devastated by the hurricane. It made sense to combine those ongoing efforts with a rescheduled Matthew Carter Service Day focused on post-storm recovery.

Students reorganized and held Matthew Carter Service Day on Saturday, Oct. 7. More than 100 students volunteered at Project C.U.R.E., Fort Bend Women’s Center, Free Indeed Church International/Free Indeed Community Works and Buffalo Bayou Partnership, as well at the homes of five BCM families who were affected by the storm.

“All of the community service activities that we performed that day were in some way associated with Harvey but the message of Matthew Carter Service Day stayed true – BCM students serving their community in a time of need,” said blank year medical student Victoria Mitre, who had mobilized her peers quickly after the hurricane to provide assistant and also was an organizational leader of the new service day.

Aravindh Ganapathy was another student organizer of the service day. He said it was a humbling experience, because Hurricane Harvey’s destruction was vast and affected so many, regardless of economic status or any other factors.

“Not only were we committed to honoring what Matthew Carter Service Day means and entails, but we also helped expand its reach to assist our healing community after such a devastating natural disaster,” he said. “It brought a new and powerful purpose to the day, and this was embodied by the hard work of members of the BCM community helping each other and Houston.”

Community outreach is an important part of well-rounded medical education, the students said. It provides an opportunity to interact with people in a nonmedical setting, offering a glimpse in the lives of patients – or potential patients – and helping to understand them better, Mitre said.

Students started the day with a breakfast in the Baylor courtyard provided by the Kolache Factory and Panera Bread and a brief talk by Dr. Lee Poythress, associate professor of medicine and assistant dean of student affairs.