Not only can joining a group give students a break from rigorous studies, it can also help clarify purpose and help learners build skills that will them throughout their career.
First-Year Experience (FYE) committee members Maddie Gaines, Sarah Spivak, Brice Wuthrich, and others sat down to share how they got involved and why they recommend it.
What was the first extracurricular you tried out?
The first extracurricular I tried out was volunteering at a pop-up kidney clinic. Helping people who could not find help elsewhere was such an amazing experience. It was also interesting seeing the 3rd and 4th year students run bloodwork tests and diagnosing the patients. I could not believe that I would someday be in their shoes. It was also right before the first day of orientation, so it was a nice way to meet some of my classmates before school started. I am still very good friends with some of the people I met there. - Sarah Spivak
At the beginning of the school year, our campus held elections for a few positions. I had never created a platform or run for an elected position, but something about being part of the Wellness Coalition really appealed to me. I wanted the opportunity to plan fun events for my peers and be an advocate for student wellness, so I reached out to a second year who was already on the Coalition. I bounced some ideas off her, made a fun PowerPoint, and presented for the first time in front of my classmates on why I wanted to get involved on the Wellness Coalition. Since getting elected, I have organized Exam Jams for Human Structure, ordered yoga mats and knitting supplies, planned a multitude of fun events with the other members of the WC like Game Nights, a baby celebration for two of our peers about to have kids (!), and cookie decorating for the holidays. Being on the WC also opened the door for more opportunities, where I now serve as the VP of Intellectual Wellness statewide! I love serving my classmates and planning fun events on my campus, as well as collaborating across campuses and getting to know more of the IU School of Medicine family. - Maddie Gaines
The first extracurricular that I tried out at IU School of Medicine was the Student Curriculum Committee. This organization helps to review course evaluations that are completed by students at the end of each course taken, summarizes common comments, and then compiles those common comments into a document that is presented to faculty at the school. I have found the organization to be extremely rewarding as we are advocating for changes that the students themselves wish to see! Through this, I have learned that the school takes constructive criticism very well and to change and adapt for their students. - Brice Wuthrich
My extracurricular involvement with IU School of Medicine started in the summer prior to my first year. After seeing the amount of medical waste that is produced daily while working as a certified pharmacy technician at a small Indiana hospital, I knew I wanted to get involved with sustainability efforts as my career in medicine began and ultimately incorporate this work into my long-term career niche. By reaching out to other student leadership I got a feel for what efforts already existed to address sustainability at IU School of Medicine and was directed to three MS-2s who had started some sustainability work within the school during their MS-1 year. This year, we founded the IUSM Chapter of Medical Students for a Sustainable Future (MS4SF) as a new SIG (Student Interest Group) at IU School of Medicine. Together, we are working on education, research, advocacy, and community projects related to the intersection of sustainability and medicine and hoping to empower other students to take initiative on their own sustainability projects across the state. - Margaret Tharp
What tips do you have for building community at IU School of Medicine?
Find the common spaces on your campus and use them! I got to talk with so many second years on campus in our library, and it was a great way to get to know people outside of my everyday cohort. Not only did they have some great advice, but it was so beneficial for me to see what my future would look like in a year based on what they were studying and working towards. On the many nights I have found myself studying for exams on campus, my peers have stopped by to chat and hang out with me. There are always people studying on campus or lurking in the halls to find someone to talk to, so that has been a great way for me to build my community here. - Maddie Gaines
Just remember that everyone wants to get through this stage of life together. If you are struggling, reach out and ask questions to your peers, odds are they may have an answer or can point you in the direction of someone who might. Through this, you will build a support system full of those that understand what medical school is like. - Brice Wuthrich
Do not be afraid to reach out! If you have an idea or something you’d like to get involved with, do some research to see who your first point-of-contact can be. People are so willing to hear you out and help if they are able. Once you get involved with something you really care about, building community will come naturally as you share efforts and experiences with like-minded people. I am so inspired daily by the amazing people I get to work with and have gotten to meet by letting my interests guide me at IUSM. - Margaret Tharp
What is the benefit to getting involved?
Getting involved at IUSM has helped me make connections with students and faculty on my campus, as well as on a statewide level. Having extracurriculars allows me to focus on aspects of myself outside of science and textbooks and really encourages me to a work-life balance. - Maddie Gaines
The benefit of getting involved, at least for me, is that it allows me to take some time away from classes and PowerPoints and exams to make some sort of impact on the lives of those around me. One reason many people become doctors is their love for helping people. The thing you don’t have to be a doctor to do that. Many organizations associated with IUSM either help its students or help those in the community around it. Also, as some others have said, getting involved is a great way to meet other students and faculty that have similar interests. - Brice Wuthrich
For me personally, having some kind of involvement in the behind-the-scenes effort at each school I have attended has made me feel more connected to my academic work. I feel a greater sense of work satisfaction once I have some stock in my schoolwork beyond exam scores and evaluations. Getting involved almost invariably leads to other projects, organizations, and opportunities you can explore to help you further develop your professional and personal niche. As said above, your involvements will lead you to like-minded individuals and introduce you to amazing people with ideas and perspectives you might not get exposure to otherwise – plus they often turn out to be great friends 😊. - Margaret Tharp