Two years ago, Megan Chiu became the first member of the IU School of Medicine Medical Student Council executive board to be elected from a campus other than Indianapolis. As the MSC president now prepares to graduate and begin her medical career, she is proud to have blazed the trail for another medical student, Makayla Morning, to become the first class president from a regional campus, representing members of the Class of 2024 from throughout the state of Indiana.
The growing acceptance of leadership rising from regional campuses is compelling evidence that IU School of Medicine is “one school, nine campuses strong.” The nation’s largest public medical school has nine regional campuses throughout the state. While Indianapolis is the largest and serves as the school’s headquarters, each campus offers a unique learning experience, drawing on the strengths of the local community.
Chiu and Morning are among a growing number of medical students who have chosen to complete their medical education on a regional campus, both at IU-Bloomington, where medical students experience extensive clinical integration at IU-Health Bloomington Hospital and third-year, longitudinal clerkships span the entire academic year. Like Bloomington, many of the other regional campuses are in college towns: West Lafayette (Purdue), Muncie (Ball State) and South Bend (Notre Dame). Others—Evansville, Fort Wayne and Gary—offer urban settings, while the Terre Haute campus is home to IU School of Medicine’s rural medical education track.
As president for the Class of 2024, Morning is responsible for leading meetings with class representatives from all campuses and ensuring her peers’ voices are represented to IU School of Medicine leadership.
“The class president is the primary liaison for the class initiatives and the deans’ first point of contact for connecting with the class,” explained Antwione Haywood, PhD, assistant dean of student affairs. “Each campus is sort of like its own state, and they have representatives. Ultimately, these representatives report up to their president, who is like speaker of the house. It is really the president’s job to make sure all their voices are heard.”
Class presidents lead initiatives, plan events and advocate for change across the curriculum, as directed by their peers. Morning’s campaign platform pledged her support for classmates who feel marginalized and promised to hold IU School of Medicine leadership accountable to the school’s stated mission and core values, particularly the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion.
If anyone had reservations about electing a class president from a regional campus, Morning didn’t hear them. She received supportive messages from first-year medical students throughout the state.
Perhaps that’s because Chiu had already proven that a regional campus student could capably fulfill a role on the MSC executive board. Technology now allows people to stay connected and run meetings remotely—even more so in the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it’s important we’re moving in a direction of collaboration and inclusion,” Chiu said.
Chiu was a Bloomington campus representative before deciding to run for a position on the MSC executive board. She then served as MSC secretary—a role now called vice president of communication—wherein Chiu proved her leadership capabilities. One of her more notable initiatives was creating the “Where Do I Go?” Guide outlining academic, wellness and social resources on all campuses.
“One of my preceptors told me, ‘If you feel uncomfortable about something, you should do it. That’s how you grow.’ And that’s really stuck with me,” Chiu said.
That philosophy led Chiu to run for MSC president in 2019 with a platform promoting three main goals: improving statewide communications and relations, increasing statewide collaboration, and improving Medical Student Council’s transparency. Under her leadership, two new vice-president positions have been created as the primary points of contact for concerns and ideas related to improving curriculum and enhancing diversity and inclusion.
Chiu proved a capable leader as MSC has helped students navigate the many changes to medical student curriculum during the pandemic. She also helped coordinate student-led initiatives related to COVID-19.
“This year has been challenging; a lot was unexpected. I am thankful to be a part of a group of students who have taken initiative and been adaptable to change,” Chiu said. “Not only have we come together as a school community, but we have tried to help the community around us.”
When asked about her legacy as the first MSC president from a regional campus, Chiu is quick to say, “We are a flat executive board; we all work together in efforts throughout the state.”
“Because this year has been difficult and unprecedented, there has been a shift in culture within Indiana University School of Medicine, and students have been able to feel heard a little more,” Chiu added.
Students have been instrumental in driving change around the issues of social justice, wellness and curriculum, Haywood said. Working with Student Interest Groups, MSC voices students’ concerns to the deans and collaborates with school leadership on solutions.
“We rely on the student voice to tell us what we’re doing well and what we’re not doing well. They’re equal partners at the table,” Haywood said.
As Chiu steps down from leadership at the end of the year, Morning is just beginning her role representing the Class of 2024 on the MSC executive board. With the COVID-19 pandemic still forcing restrictions on in-person gatherings, Morning said, “There is a push to find creative ways to interact and stay connected to our peers.”
As the nation and the medical school community continue to navigate unprecedented times, Morning will persist in presenting the voice of her peers to IU School of Medicine leaders—including the voice of medical students on regional campuses throughout the state.
“When we talk about truly representing the student voice, it means having students at the table who aren’t always in Indianapolis,” Haywood said. “Makayla meets every month with her classmates throughout the state to discuss their concerns and maintains constant communication through GroupMe. She truly is the voice for her peers.”