In the real world of healthcare, medical knowledge isn’t enough. Great physicians treat patients, not diseases, and so must have a strong sense of professionalism, interpersonal skills, and empathy. At AUC we take great pride in creating and nurturing an environment that drives student engagement and social accountability, and encourages medical students to learn critically important concepts.
In partnership with the Ministry of Health of the country Sint Maarten, AUC is working on several initiatives that benefit the citizens of Sint Maarten, allow our students to engage in service-learning, and provide our students the opportunity to see how a person’s life and community affects health and well-being. These initiatives give our students the chance to grow personally and professionally in ways that we hope will make them more engaged as future physicians and leaders. Let me share some examples.
The arrival of the Chikungunya virus to Sint Maarten brought opportunities for AUC students to work alongside the community. Many medical students walked the streets and countryside to map areas of standing water, which could then be treated. A group of students participated in a community-based seroconversion study, adding important information to our understanding of this virus and its clinical and sub-clinical courses. Of course, they learned some virology and immunology, but they also learned some public health, epidemiology, and research methods. It was gratifying to see that our students recognized the importance of providing the person power to conduct the water mapping study. These physician-learners did not think this task was below them, and jumped in and did the work with no reward other than the knowledge that what they did was important and appreciated.
AUC students also had the opportunity to provide a panel of health care screenings in the local community, measuring weight/body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so forth. Our clever faculty members designed the activity so that a student would complete all of the screenings on a single person instead of the more efficient, but less instructional, assembly line method, with one student in charge of weight, one in charge of blood pressure, and so on. This was designed to help the students more deeply understand that a person is a whole being, not a sum of risk factors identified through screening. The students learned about these people’s lives and communities in ways that helped them to understand the interrelatedness of the determinants of health and individual risk factors for disease.
In a new initiative, AUC students are gathering narratives from elderly patients to enrich the known history of Sint Maarten. This is a great benefit to the country, but for our students it’s also an exciting opportunity. Students learn to engage with people, actively listen, create narratives, notice impactful events, relate happenings in the broader world with what is experienced by an individual, and develop a deep respect and unconditional positive regard for someone that they never would have met through their own life circles.
When considering our students’ involvement in these service-learning activities—and the eagerness with which they embrace them—one might ask: is it in AUC students’ collective nature to serve, or does AUC nurture our students to be that way? It’s probably a bit of both. But I’m proud to say that the end goal of our medical school—to educate qualified students to become empathetic, team-oriented doctors—is embedded within every decision we make, beginning with admissions and proceeding through every facet of the educational experience we offer. 

Visit the "Community Involvement" section of the AUC website, by clicking here.

Dr. Heidi Chumley

Posted May 12, 2014 01:03 PM

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