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Medical students organize volunteers to help community

Graduate students are shopping, virtual tutoring, collecting masks for health care workers

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine students have organized a volunteer effort among medical students and graduate students to help support health care workers, older community members at higher risk for COVID-19 and working parents during the pandemic.

Students are grocery shopping, picking up prescription medications and virtually tutoring children while their parents work at home. A team of medical students from across Chicago are collecting donations of the N95 protective masks from industries and distributing them to health care workers. They also are organizing blood drives.

The project, Students Supporting the Community During COVID-19, has more than 140 volunteers accepting requests to help. The volunteers include medical students, graduate students on the Chicago campus, genetic counseling students, students in the interdepartmental neuroscience program and physician assistant students.

The students will be distributing more than 30,000 masks to health care workers around the Chicago area which were donated by companies.

“We’re also collecting 500 more masks from three different individuals,” said co-organizer Tricia Rae Pendergrast, a first-year medical student. Pendergrast and other volunteers spent Wednesday driving to sites to pick up the masks. 

The students were inspired by the work being done at other medical schools and by their personal values. 

“This is a great way to have the entire medical student population give back when we can’t do in-person clinical work,” said co-organizer Tazim Merchant, a first-year medical student. She also was inspired by her religion. “I’m Ismaili Muslim and one of the things important in our community is service,” she said.

The group has strict guidelines for volunteers. “We ask our volunteers to confirm they have not experienced COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days, have not been exposed to anyone else experiencing symptoms in the past 14 days, and that they follow a recommended protocol for making safe deliveries, which includes no face-to-face contact with the person requesting the delivery,” said co-organizer Emma Office, also a first-year medical student.

To request volunteer help, visit: www.tinyurl.com/chicagoCOVIDsupport. The national website can be found here.

Follow along with the volunteers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

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