Monday, October 12, 2009

Medical School: Beyond the Books

Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine Students Volunteering in Community and Around the World

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Textbooks and lecture notes overtaking living space, instead of Mom’s chocolate cake, index cards with recipes for fighting diseases, and the smell of the anatomy lab an ever present odor - medical school. Though studying remains paramount, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM) students are getting out from behind the books and making an impact by volunteering in their local Maywood community, across the Chicago area and around the world.

“Loyola is a place of service, it is the heartbeat of who we are and potential Loyola medical students are drawn to that. By the time they start here service is often already a priority in their lives,” said Virginia McCarthy, chaplain, SSOM University Ministry Center for Service and Global Health. “Volunteering helps them gain balance, perspective and is a nice break from studying. Connecting with people during volunteer opportunities gives students additional skills to help them as physicians in interacting and caring for the whole person.”

Locally, students take part in a variety of service opportunities throughout the year. They clean gutters and scrub desks to prepare schools to re-open in the fall. They serve meals to the homeless at local soup kitchens. Spur on kids’ creativity through the Maywood Fine Arts Association and mentoring youth struggling academically. They’ve also provided health screens to residents who attend the Maywood Farmers’ Market and several free health fairs.

Second-year medical students Leah Betcher and Nate Kittle say volunteering has only confirmed their decision to become doctors and is enticing them to seriously consider becoming primary care physicians. This is encouraging since experts are predicting a shortage in primary doctors in less than a decade.

Leah has taken a special interest in the kids who take part in the Maywood Fine Arts Association programs, even chaperoning last year’s Halloween dance.

“It just makes sense to give back. Our school is here in Maywood which makes us a part of this community. We have so many resources and it’s great to be able to share some of those with our community. They share with us, too, and help us to become better physicians,” said Leah, who lives in Forest Park. “This is a part of being a doctor that you can’t learn inside the classroom or from books.”

Wanting to be fully immersed in the community Nate lives in a house in Maywood with other medical students, representing each of the four years of medical school.

“I’ve seen such great role models here at Loyola of physicians who are not just in a clinic eight hours a day, but are involved in their community,” said Nate. “Living here in Maywood allows me to give back, too, and get to know people who could very well be my future patients. I’ve learned that what separates a good doctor from a great doctor is dedication to patients and understanding who they are as a person and not just their symptoms.”

Loyola students are also given the opportunity to raise fund to take part in international medical service trips. Though Leah and Nate believe those are important and hope to one day help people overseas as well, they don’t want students and other Loyola employees to miss out on the opportunities to help people in their own backyard.

“It’s a struggle sometimes to get the word out because helping clean a school isn’t as exciting as offering medical care in Africa, but we can’t close our eyes to the needs of those in our own country,” said Leah. “There are a lot of people hurting in our communities and we need to work with them to find solutions too.”

Others are joining Leah and Nate in their quest to reach outside classroom walls. Nearly 70 students attended the annual Day of Service sponsored by the SSOM Ministry Center for Service and Global Health which included a variety of service projects and a barbecue where students interacted with community leaders, learned how to get involved and about upcoming service opportunities.

“There is a feeling here at Loyola that is different than other institutions and a lot of that comes from our commitment to service outside our walls,” said Virginia. “Helping others and being involved in the community shows we practice what we preach and strengthens our care.”

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.