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How can medical students help with the community's response to COVID-19? Here are some initial ideas, which may change and update over time.

Take Action: How Learners Can Help in the Wake of COVID-19

A graphic reads "Taking action during COVID-19" with two abstract viruses in the background

Never has this Mr. Rogers quote been truer, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

As we continue to respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we recognize that some of you may be asking, “How can I, a medical student, help right now?” We want to provide initial ideas, which may change and update over time. Please always follow guidance from the CDC and keep updated on and our mednet site for needs specific to IU School of Medicine learners.

How you can take action:

  1. Thank your campus facilities staff
    These individuals are providing critical support at Indiana University campuses in addition to environmental health and safety team members working in the hospitals. Sanitary spaces are necessary, and we are so thankful for this difficult work our colleagues doing – take a moment now to express your appreciation!
  2. Donate blood
    Canceled blood drives, individuals worried about donating, impending heightened medical needs and knowledge that as more individuals become ill, fewer will be able to donate – all mean that the Red Cross and other blood banks are in need of blood. Set up an individual appointment with the Red Cross or your local blood bank.
  3. Donate money to food banks and pantries
    Children who receive free meals from school have lost access in many areas. The economic impact is especially difficult on hourly employees, especially in the hospitality industry. Give money if you can, or volunteer if you are not immunocompromised and/or do not interact with elderly individuals or immunocompromised individuals (do not do a food drive). Find your local food bank, like Gleaners in Indianapolis, Food Bank of NW Indiana in Gary, or Tri-State Food Bank in Evansville.
  4. Help community members in need
    Offer to help professionals who work in the hospitals with babysitting, pet sitting, running errands, housework, etc. Check in with neighbors by calling. Individuals who are elderly, disabled and/or immunocompromised may need help with grocery shopping or need to have someone check-in with them. Please remember that COVID-19 can be carried and transferred to others for 4-5 days before symptoms appear. Please take extra precautions, as recommended by the CDC.
  5. Engage in public health research
    COVID-19 impacts are rapidly changing each day, and it is difficult to track changes and effects to social issues. Join a team of students in public health research examining the impact of a pandemic on social determinants of health. Students can focus on specific issues through reading news sources and contacting primary sources. Research topics might include COVID-19 effects on food insecurity, K-12 education, homelessness and more throughout Indiana and across the globe. Students can decide on a method to distribute information to peers and beyond. Sign up to participate.
  6. Attend Public Health Advocacy 101
    As future physicians, not just your patients, but your community will depend on you for answers when it comes to public health matters, regardless of your specialty. But with this trust in you, how can you educate your community about public health issues? Engaging in advocacy (letters to the editor, calling representatives, attending community meetings, media interviews) may seem daunting, but it is doable. It just takes some training and practice. Join the conversation on Tuesday, April 7, at 6:00 p.m.
  7. Sign up for future volunteer opportunities
    The situation is rapidly evolving. As community organizations reach out to IU School of Medicine, we will email interested students with state-wide volunteer opportunities. Please sign up:

Want to serve but in a different way? Contact the Program Director for Community & Civic Engagement, Niki Messmore, to talk through options at Let’s make it happen!

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Niki Messmore

Niki Messmore, M.S.Ed, is the Director of Medical Service Learning with over 16 years of professional experience in nonprofits and higher education. Her work is centered around connecting medical students to each other and to their communities. She has oversight of service learning programs, directs the IUSM AmeriCorps program, supports student activities, manages the Common Read Experience, and much more. Niki has been recognized at a national and local level for her work in student affairs, awarded over $600,000 in grant funding during her IU tenure, and has extensively presented her work through conferences and publications.