COVID-19 may have changed every aspect of life as we know it—but it is also restoring our collective faith in humanity as stories emerge of people quietly lending a helping hand in their communities.
Among them are many UBC students, faculty, alumni and staff.
‘This is what we signed up for—being able to help our community’
When clinical rotations for medical students were suspended due to the outbreak, a group of UBC medical students quickly mobilized to do whatever they could to help.
Together, they launched the B.C. COVID-19 Medical Student Response Team, a student-driven volunteer initiative that serves to help health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak with daily tasks such as childcare, grocery shopping, and other errands as well as offering help for public health efforts such as responding to 8-1-1 calls and contact tracing.
Today, a month since they first launched, about 700 medical students have signed up as volunteers and they have received more than 200 requests for help from physicians across B.C. Volunteers include students from the Vancouver Fraser Medical Program (VFMP), the Southern Medical Program (SMP), the Northern Medical Program and the Island Medical Program. To minimize physical contact and ensure families and volunteers are kept safe, only one student is matched with each family.
Third-year VFMP medical student Vivian Tsang was in the middle of her rural family medicine rotation on Quadra Island when her clinical experience was put on hold. As a member of the team’s steering committee, she helps track health care provider requests and match them with available student volunteers.
“I am incredibly proud of our class and how many people have stepped up to help”
Vivian Tsang, third-year medical student
“I am incredibly proud of our class and how many people have stepped up to help,” says Tsang. “This is what we signed up for—being able to help our community and step in during times of crisis and uncertainty and to use our skills in a positive way.”
Second-year VFMP medical student Sarah Fletcher is volunteering to help care for two young children whose parents both work in health care.
“Since we’re not trained enough currently to be able to offer medical support, we recognized that there were other things we could do to support the health care system as a whole and our future colleagues,” she says. “It would be very challenging for a lot of physicians to continue working without child care support.”
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, students remain committed to volunteering with projects that can support physicians, patients, and the healthcare system as a whole.
“We chose medicine because we have a deeply ingrained desire to make a difference in the lives of those around us,” says SMP medical student Alex Monaghan. “Those values don’t disappear just because there’s a pause in our clinical training. We’re here to help in whatever form that takes.”
The team emphasized the initiative would not have been possible without the efforts of many, including support from faculty, and Doctors of BC and pro-bono lawyers who helped them develop a liability waiver.
They also collaborated with medical students across Canada and in the United States who wanted to launch similar volunteer initiatives, creating a “toolkit” that others could adopt for their own regions. Using this toolkit, dentistry, midwifery and nursing students at UBC have also since launched their own similar initiatives to help frontline workers.
A version of this story originally appeared on the UBC News website.
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