For Release: November 11, 2005
Contact: Andy Nordhoff (603) 653-0784

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Medical Students Volunteer for the "Common Good"

The Albert Schweitzer Fellows, a select group of students at Dartmouth Medical School, organized a volunteer effort to serve local community members on the first Common Good Day on October 20. The Fellows, who will contribute at least 200 hours of service on their individual service projects, pooled their collective resources and bridged members of the DMS community with areas in need in New Hampshire and Vermont. The group service day focused on seven locations around the Upper Valley that displayed varying degrees of need. "We thought this would be a fantastic way for us to get back to the reason why we wanted to attend medical school in the first place; to participate, integrate and improve the health of our community," said Schweitzer Fellow Rahim Nazerali.

Over fifty participants in Common Good Day chose from several opportunities to volunteer, from assisting at The Haven, an emergency shelter for displaced families, to cooking meals at David's House, a home-away-from-home for children receiving medical treatment at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and their families. Several of the day's projects were centered on enhancing outdoor venues for children and adults to maintain an active lifestyle.

In Lebanon, NH, 15 volunteers constructed a new trail so children in a local low-income housing development could ride their bikes safely away from traffic. Working alongside faculty members and pre-medical students from Dartmouth's Nathan Smith Pre-Medical Society, the DMS students accomplished much more of the project than they originally planned on, perhaps due to the unexpected appearance of several enthusiastic helpers. The young children living in the neighborhood were eager to lend a hand, borrowing shovels to move gravel, digging up grass, pushing wheelbarrows and bringing water to their new friends. "It was exhausting, but the words coming out of the children's mouths made it all worth it," said second year medical student Rachel Rackow. "I heard one child exclaim, 'This is the best day of my life!' And the instant there was enough path to bike on, there were kids on bikes riding on it - with helmets of course!"

Two separate DMS groups cut new hiking trails on both states of the Connecticut River. In Quechee, VT, Ashlee Logan led a group of trailblazers through the forest at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS). "One of the VINS volunteers asked us if our efforts were part of our curriculum - we replied that this was a break from our curriculum," she said with a smile. On the other side of the border, a group of students worked with Upper Valley Land Trust (UVLT) and handled some much needed trail maintenance in Lyme, NH. The crew cleared brush, sank new signposts at trailheads and carved out new drainage routes to restore the paths after the fall's heavy rainfall. "We were all grateful for the opportunity to spend a beautiful afternoon out of doors," said DMS student Andrew Saunders. "We're looking forward to working on future projects with UVLT."

At the Outreach House, a home for senior citizens in Hanover, NH, DMS crew raked leaves, cleared out garages and prepared the house for the long winter ahead. After their chores were completed, volunteers enjoyed connecting with the grateful residents and some students hope they to return and rekindle conversations.

At the end of the afternoon, all the students and faculty regrouped and celebrated their hard work at a cookout on the lawn at the medical school. "This was a fantastic way for us to bring medical students, professors, undergraduates, and the entire community together to accomplish several worthy goals," said one student between bites. "I'm hopeful that this will be the first of many Common Good Days to come."

The 2005 Schweitzer Fellows and their projects are listed below:

Allison Binkowski, Rachel Rakow: Work with nurses, health teachers, coaches, parents and students in area high schools to increase awareness of eating disorders.

Ashlee Logan , Rahim Nazerali: Work with the health educators in the Mascoma School District to promote good health through improved nutrition, healthy active living and positive lifestyle changes among school-aged children.

Rusty Phillips, Andy Cronin: Document, through video recorded interviews, the military service of the veterans and civilians at the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in White River Junction, VT in an effort to better understand and serve the medical needs of this patient population.

Andrew Saunders, Heidi Keup: Through the palliative care program at DHMC and Hospice of VT and NH, pair medical students with end of life patients in the Upper Valley. Expose medical students to end-of- life care and issues, while providing practical help and compassionate companionship to patients in the last stages of life.

Nate Link, Zoe Unger: Bring local practitioners to the NH State prison for Women. Provide to health education workshops designed to educate and empower the inmates.


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