IUSM students practice leadership with local service projects

November 13, 2014

IU School of Medicine students spent Oct. 25 giving back to the community with service projects at several municipal parks across the Indianapolis area.

From left, Will Berry, Mike Johnston and Rahul Abhyankar at the Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens. | Photo By Annalise Almdale

The projects, arranged in coordination with Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation, or Indy Parks, included trash and brush removal from the grounds surrounding a boat ramp at Riverside Park; painting at the community recreation center, also at Riverside Park; and preparing grounds for winter at the Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens. The volunteer activities were held in conjunction with IUSM Leadership Day, an annual series of workshops conducted by IUSM faculty and organized by the IUSM Medical Student Council.

This is the first year that service projects were a part of Leadership Day.

“I thought it was important this year to ask my fellow students to really think beyond their own development as leaders and reflect on how leadership also involved thinking about your community," said Annalise Almdale, fourth-year medical student and vice president of the IU Medical Student Council. "As medical students, we spend a lot of our time focused on our own educations. I wanted to take an afternoon to look outside ourselves -- to look to the community."

The students were "very helpful" in completing the service projects and excited to bring positive change to the Indianapolis community, said Wilbert Allen McClendon, senior manager of community partnerships for Indy Parks.

Bryce McKee, back row, top, and, fromt left, Franklin Bueno, Neil Keshvani, Dessi Moneva and Rachel Frantz paint a room in the community recreation center at Riverside Park. | Photo By Annalise Almdale

“We really rely on volunteers like the students Annalise brought to us,” he said. “It's good for the city because it offers a better use of our resources, and teaches people the importance of giving back.”

Indy Parks also conducts an annual service project with physician, student and staff volunteers from the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health and IU Health Methodist Hospital, McClendon added.

"I think that it’s important that people get engaged in these sorts of community projects throughout their medical careers," he said. "It gives the participants that 'warm and fuzzy feeling,' but it also provides some much-needed attention to public spaces that people really use and enjoy."

In addition to the volunteer projects, Almdale said that Leadership Day provided students a valuable opportunity to learn leadership skills which will not only advance their academic careers but also their future professional careers as physicians.

Leadership Day speakers included Stephen P. Bogdewic, Ph.D., executive vice dean and George W. Copeland Professor of Family Medicine at the IU School of Medicine; Antwione Haywood, Ph.D., assistant dean for medical student affairs and an academic specialist in the Office of Medical Student Affairs at the IU School of Medicine; and Carla and Marc Drizin, the husband-and-wife founders of Ignite Consulting, a professional HR recruiting firm based in Carmel, Ind.

IUSM student volunteers clear brush and fallen limbs at Garfield Park. | Photo By Annalise Almdale

The Drizin team invited students to practice different intellectual exercises in order to encourage them to think more about their goals and future plans. Also a highlight was Dr. Hayward's presentation, "What I Learned About Leadership Through Romantic Comedies," said Almdale, who explained Dr. Haywood used the film "Hitch" to explore nuances in leadership. 

Almdale said students also enjoyed informal question-and-answer session with the IU School of Medicine Teacher Learner Advocacy Committee, which provides discrete conflict mediation services to students. 

About 50 students participated in the workshops, with half continuing on to join in the parks project.

"Doctors are really looked up to as leaders in their community," said Almdale. "I don’t think anybody is really taught how to lead, but I think the Leadership Day is making people aware of how to become a more efficient leader -- as well as now through the volunteer component getting a chance to immediately put some of those ideas into practice.”