PA Students Participate in Community Service During Pandemic

5Ks, Food Drives, and Volunteer Activities

January 15, 2021

By Caitlin Harrison

Each PA Week, AAPA’s Student Academy Service Committee encourages PA students to plan community service projects or to volunteer in their community. With the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was already tricky for PA students – programs moved to hybrid learning, rotations were cancelled, graduations were delayed. But PA students still found time to give back to their communities. The Service Committee selected some of the community service projects to spotlight in this article.

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Duke University PA students
Duke University PA students

Duke University PA Program, North Carolina
PA students from Duke University packed and loaded fresh produce at a local farmer food share distribution center. The produce was then sent to Root Causes, a Duke organization that provides patients in greatest need with fresh produce.

Gardner-Webb University PA Program, North Carolina

The Gardner-Webb PA program ran a virtual 5K known as “Strides for Lives” to raise money for the PA program and to gather toys to donate to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

“We should participate in community service because that is the heart of our profession: to serve others no matter the circumstance,” said PA student Andrew Gustavson. “We get to see past ourselves and look to the needs of others – that’s what is important.” 

[More Than Just PA School: 29 PA Programs Perform Community Service] 

Midwestern University-Downers Grove PA Program, Arizona
PA students from the Midwestern University-Downers Grove campus hosted a food drive for a local food pantry in October. The donations were enough to fill the back of an SUV.

“Participating in community service and other events during PA Week helped to bring excitement to a quarter that has been hard academically,” said PA student Kali Chemelewski. “I think it helped my whole class feel connected with all the other PAs and PA students around the country. I personally enjoyed seeing all the excitement around service, the profession, and educating the public on health concerns over the week!”

NSU Fort Lauderdale PA students
NSU Fort Lauderdale PA students

Nova Southeastern University-Fort Lauderdale PA Program, Florida
The Nova Southeastern University-Fort Lauderdale PA class of 2022 organized a fundraiser to sell breast cancer awareness T-shirts to spread awareness and raise proceeds to donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Each shirt also came with an information pamphlet on how different medical professions are involved with breast cancer treatment. More than 200 shirts were sold across the Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Jacksonville campuses, raising over $1,000.

“Our favorite part about this fundraiser was seeing how supportive other programs and campuses were to this very important cause,” said PA student Connor Wasilnak. “One of our goals was to spread awareness in a fun (and fashionable) way throughout Florida, and it was rewarding to see the impact our fundraiser had on raising proceeds and spreading awareness.”

Towson University PA Program, Maryland
Towson University PA students held two virtual volunteer projects during PA Week. The first was a virtual supply drive for two local Baltimore charities: Helping Up Mission, which provides assistance to individuals fighting homelessness and addiction, and House of Ruth, which provides safety and resources to women and children who are victims of domestic violence. They organized an Amazon wish list with supplies and materials these organizations needed, like clothing, diapers, and toiletries. All the supplies were delivered to the program’s Student Academy Representative (SAR), who organized a time to deliver them to the local charities.

Towson PA students also organized a virtual sign-up drive for Be the Match bone marrow registry. Students received a swab DNA kit delivered to their homes, and were able to join the registry from their homes.

“I loved that we were able to put together multiple service opportunities for people to complete safely from their own home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said PA student Morgan Colagiovanni. 

[What Inspires Student Academy President-elect Mariah Leroux?] 

UNC Chapel Hill PA students
UNC Chapel Hill PA students

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill PA Program, North Carolina
PA students at UNC volunteered at the community garden in Chapel Hill. They spent the time harvesting potatoes, weeding, and planting pea plants. All the food that is planted in the community garden is then harvested and goes to people in need in the local community.

“My favorite part was feeling like we actually were contributing to the community. We have been in didactic online learning for seven months now and we are all craving opportunities to get back out there and make a difference in the lives of our future patients!” said PA student Patricia De Tomas. “Anyone who has the opportunity to give back really should. It was not only good for others but extremely therapeutic for me to take my mind off studying.”

The PA program also hosted a blood drive in the Chapel Hill community. The event lasted five hours and they were able to get a total of 53 donors, saving a potential total of 159 lives. Those who donated blood were even eligible for COVID-19 antibody testing. UNC Chapel Hill was able to raise an additional $530 for the PA program, which will fund travel and Conference opportunities, AAPA membership fees, and more community events.

University of Dayton PA Program
University of Dayton PA Program

University of Dayton PA Program, Ohio
The University of Dayton PA students participated in a clean sweep of the Great Miami River in downtown Dayton. They worked with the City of Dayton to organize a socially distant, safe cleanup on a Saturday morning.

“My favorite part was working with my fellow classmates outside of the classroom and getting to know the Dayton area,” said PA student Maddie Burgei. “I hope students make community service a priority because it is a great opportunity to educate their community about the PA profession.”

University of Dubuque PA Program
University of Dubuque PA Program

University of Dubuque PA Program, Iowa
PA students from the University of Dubuque hosted an Alzheimer’s Walk on campus in lieu of the usual community-held event.

“I’m personally very passionate about professional advocacy and community service gives us an opportunity to directly interact with the general population,” said PA student Tim Treloar. “This year is especially important for the profession due to our versatility to move where help is needed most.”

PA students at the University of Dubuque also planned a food drive to help the tri-state region replenish their diminishing resources for the increasing number of families in need.

[Servicemember Called to Serve as a PA: William Eisenhart]

University of Mount Union PA Program
University of Mount Union PA Program

University of Mount Union PA Program, Ohio
University of Mount Union PA students donated perishable food items to a local food pantry.

“Students should participate in service activities because it encourages personal growth and support of the local community,” said PA student Peter Lambrou. “Performing community service with your classmates is a rewarding way to take a break from the demands of PA school.”

The Service Committee thanks all PA students who participated in service events, especially during these unprecedented times. To find out about future volunteer and leadership opportunities for PA students, visit the Student Leadership Opportunities page.

Caitlin Harrison is AAPA’s senior manager of Student Academy and Volunteer Engagement and Governance. She is staff advisor to the Service Committee and can be reached at [email protected].