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 benefit them throughout their career.
First-Year Experience (FYE) committee members Aish Thamba, Makayala Morning, Doriann Alcaide and Madeline Hathoot sat down to share how they got involved and why they recommend it.
What was the first extracurricular you tried out?
I ran for the MAP-Med (Mentoring Alliance for Prospective Medical Students) Chair position at my regional campus. The reason I picked this position is because if it wasn't for the mentorship I experienced as an undergraduate through SNMA (Student National Medical Association) and my campus' MAPS (Minority Association for Premedical Students) organizations, I wouldn't have been able to learn, grow, and improve myself into a visionary future healthcare leader. I wish to help guide and support future medical students to where they want to be since I understand many of the unique challenges that confront these individuals on their journeys. By applying for this position, I wanted to continue giving back to my community.
Outside of signing up for various SIGs listservs I was interested in, the main role I pursued was student government. Pretty early on, there are elections for Class Representatives and Class Officers. I took time talking to people already in these roles and ultimately decided to pursue running for the President of the Class of 2024. Being President is multifaceted and you serve in a lot of different areas, working closely with deans and other admin, and build relationships across all nine campuses. So, this is really my main area of involvement!!
The first extracurricular that I pursued was the Wellness Coalition. Wellness has always been something that I value, yet that is so hard for me to maintain. I got involved as the class of 2024 Indy representative in the hopes of providing opportunities to students to keep their wellness in check, and at the same time it was an opportunity for me to do the same.
What tips do you have for building community at IU School of Medicine?
Try out new clubs and go to all the events that your campus puts on. You never know what you'll discover about yourself - like your hobbies or potential future specialties - when you attend these events. It takes time to find your friends - but don't be discouraged. You are part of an amazing cohort full of individuals that are passionate about making the world a better place. You'll find the people that will become lifelong friends and support you through your time here at IU School of Medicine. Community means different things to different people. Make IU your home; find that bakery at your campus that makes the best scones or that record shop that sells the vinyls that you've been looking for. Explore nature by taking a hike or a stroll or a bike. There's so much to do and so much to see, apart from interesting clinical vignettes and all the other amazing things you will experience at IU.
Definitely sign up for SIGs that interest you! They send out emails with various opportunities to get involved in different ways, and this connects with peers not only in your class but in the classes above you. Also, be sure to talk to your peer mentor. This will be an MS2, and they can really be a great source and help you navigate different things. They can also provide perspective and encouragement when you're feeling really down and struggling with something; they've been through it so they understand!! They also likely know more about navigating IU School of Medicine and can point you in the right direction if you want to learn more about something or become more involved in something particular.
I would also say to just take some chances. I love meeting new people, but I know that others tend to be more reserved. I still encourage everyone to find the balance between meeting your peers, hanging out with them, going to campus-led events, etc. This will really help develop relationships and foster a support system early on. Finally, if you're new to the area, take a couple of peers and explore the town a little bit. Find nice coffee shops or hiking spots or the perfect study spot, whatever it is that helps you acclimate and find some joy in the space you are now!!
Reach out and talk to people!!! If you are interested in something, send an email, and contact that person! I am sure that they will be so happy to share information on how to get involved. As a Latina, ensuring that I found my Hispanic community in IU School of Medicine was very important to me. It was by reaching out to the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and talking to some people that I was able to meet the Hispanic people at IU School of Medicine and find a little reminder of home.
Building community undoubtedly takes time, so don't be frustrated if it doesn't happen right away! My best piece advice is to be a "Yes person!" Say yes to new opportunities with your classmates, like going for a hike or trying a new cuisine, even if they are out of your comfort zone. These experiences will allow you to spend time and get to know your classmates. You will soon get to know how unique every individual in your class is and what they have to offer to your class diversity to make one cohesive medical class! It can be easy to start with getting to know your Anatomy lab group as you will be working closely with them or spending some time at the school to study!
What is the benefit to getting involved?
Here's a shocking truth: studying gets tedious after a while. Getting involved gives you that distraction but it also provides you a different perspective on your imbued sense of purpose. My purpose is to be involved in the community I have grown up in since I was a child. I recognize that there is so much I can be a part of and work in a team to improve the quality of care and lives that my fellow community members can lead. My involvements also provided me the opportunity of meeting amazing leaders, potential mentors, and really good friends. Getting out of your comfort zone and learning about things you haven't necessarily considered before as being part of medical school, and to be honest life. Education is one of the major benefits of getting involved.
For me, being involved is a no-brainer. It's just part of who I was raised to be and who I am today. Being involved challenges you to manage your time well and learn how to study more efficiently. It connects you with peers in your class and those above you, as well as with different professors, physicians, deans or other admin. As you become involved, you have more people in your support system and more people rooting for you to succeed! This is so important when the hard days hit and you doubt why you chose to pursue this. Being involved keeps you connected with your local community and helps you develop a different perspective about people. It constantly reminds you to be thinking about why you chose medicine in the first place--your patients!
The way I see it, getting involved is my way of sorting out my interests and figuring out what direction I want to take my career in medicine. In addition, getting involved is just an extra opportunity of continuing to build your community within IU School of Medicine. Finally, getting involved is just a way to have fun and really enjoy medicine. It can be hard to appreciate medicine during the first year since most of the time is spent just learning basics. Being involved serves as a reminder of why we started and keeps that motivation alive.
Getting involved allows you to take a step away from the rigorous didactic work and gain some perspective on our greater mission as training physicians. I find great fulfillment from completing a community service project or socializing with my classmates while working on a project. These times allow us to decompress and gain insight as to the missions and goals we want to achieve and maintain as future physicians.
Learn more about student interest organizations at IU School of Medicine.