Medical students launch volunteer service to help Boston medical personnel

BOSTON — They may not be on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, but a group of medical students has launched a volunteer service to help those who are.

Founded last month, Boston Medical Personnel Support provides child care, grocery and pharmacy runs and other errands needed by staff at Boston Medical Center, the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program and all Tufts-affiliated hospitals, including Tufts Medical Center, Lahey Hospital, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, South Shore Hospital and St. Elizabeth's Medical Center.

The initiative, started by a few first-year students at Boston University School of Medicine, has taken off in just a few weeks.

"We sent a volunteer sign-up sheet to our classmates, and, in less than 12 hours, we got over 100 volunteers, and it seemed like we could kind of make something out of this," one of the founders of the organization, S.G. Keller, told Boston 25 News Wednesday. "We had sent out request sign-ups to providers offering support services. Three days later, we were just filling child care requests and doing groceries and basically doing anything that we can to help out people who are really on the front lines of this crisis."

By Wednesday, more than 500 student volunteers from 24 professional health schools in Massachusetts and outside the state had signed up. Volunteers monitor incoming requests from medical personnel, coordinate the services remotely and physically carry them out, too.

By Wednesday afternoon, 46 of the 53 requested services had been matched for a total of more than 230 hours of volunteer work. The majority of services are child care, but one of the most unique was a laundry request for a worker whose washing machine had broken.

Katherine Cochran, a first-year Tufts Medical student leading the program at her school, volunteered to babysit for a Boston Medical Center resident.

"I was there from 8 to 5, and it was a three-year-old girl who was just enchanting," Cochran said. "All of us want to do something to help in this crisis, and this is a way we feel like we can really step up to the challenge."

The services are not exclusive to doctors and nurses; the leaders of the organization are striving to make it accessible to everyone.

"We wanted to make sure when we were building this organization it wasn't just high-level care providers that were getting these services, since everybody is basically involved in this pandemic, and every level is helping out in the way they can, from janitors to environmental services," said co-founder Ravi Patel, a Boston University medical student. "We wanted to make accessibility a big cornerstone to this project."

Organizers are working with the hospitals to spread the word about their service, and they have posted forms in hospital lounges, available in both English and Spanish.

"We’ve gotten requests from physical therapists, CNAs, case managers, lab support, dental staff and front desk staff. " said BU medical student Madhura Shah, who has created the spread sheets for the effort. "We have a team of three volunteers who are on duty, 8 a.m., to 8 p.m., to monitor the requests."

As the students volunteer to help in a medical field they are passionate about and eager to enter, they are also attending classes online, balancing both academics and a desire to help their community.

"All they do all day is they work, and they're helping others," BU medical student Tyler Hanna said of those on the front lines. "But it's really hard when you're in that role sometimes to have someone to help you. And this is how we can help those helpers."

To sign up as a student volunteer, or to apply for a service, visit www.mpsboston.org.

The organization is also working with the group, BMC Need PPE, which has raised more than $23,000 to purchase personal protective equipment that is at a critically low level, including N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, gloves and face shields. To donate to the effort, go to https://mpsboston.org/donate.


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- Massachusetts Coronavirus Information

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