At the beginning of this school year, The University of Puerto Rico organized a meeting for all those interested in volunteering with MEDLIFE at their university. They had an incredibly impressive turnout; over 300 students turned up to learn more about the work MEDLIFE does! The UPRM MEDLIFE chapter’s hard work and great organizational skills make them our New Chapter of the Year award winners! A big congratulations and thank you goes to them for their dedication to MEDLIFE. Here is an interview with the presidents of the chapter which includes advice on how to recruit lots of members and run a successful MEDLIFE chapter.
When and how did your chapter begin?
The MEDLIFE-UPRM Chapter was founded by Eduard H. Valdes and Paola C. Diaz last year, after attending a Mobile Clinic in Tena, Ecuador. Most of the 2014-2015 Executive Board members met in January 2014, at our first Mobile Clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador. Up to date, the UPR-MAYAGÃEZ MEDLIFE Chapter counts with 93 active members from all faculties and has officially participated in two Mobile Clinics: one in Riobamba, Ecuador and the other one in Lima, PerÃº. Our main mission is to provide activities that enhance students’ skills in leadership, teamwork and community service. For this year, our next destination is Tena, Ecuador.
What strategies did you use to promote MEDLIFE on campus?
We love to incorporate technology in everything we do. So, we have mainly promoted our activities through social networks. We sent mass-email recruitment, and used our official Facebook and Instagram pages to our advantage. The Facebook Pages App is really useful; it allows us to share information and photos easily. Also, the page makes use of statistics algorithms that let us know how many people have seen the posts. In addition, our Social Media and Advertising Officer is also a member of Her Campus- UPR Mayaguez, so she has written various articles about MEDLIFE UPRM. We also participated in student fairs, posted flyers around the campus, and even made brochures.
What system do you use to recruit new members? What process does a new member go through once part of the chapter?
As part of our technological innovations we introduced online attendance lists. Instead of going through the hassle of passing a list through a classroom that has more than 300 people, we made a live form on our Google drive. The form is similar to the ones used for surveys but more accessible. The students are able to access the form from their smartphones by scanning a QR code displayed on our power point presentation. As the students submit the form the results are posted on a spreadsheet on our drive. This reduces the margin of error and allows us to save time as we can now skip the process of copying all the names and emails to a computer. Not to mention that we are also saving trees in the process by not having to print a bunch of papers to be used as lists for every meeting.
On the topic of saving trees, once the students are done submitting their responses the list can be organized in alphabetical order, field of study or how they became aware of the chapter’s meeting. By doing this we were reassured that we could concentrate more on online promotions since most of the students replied that they were informed of the meeting by a social network. Rather than going through campus posting flyers or any type of advertisement that requires the use of paper, we put our efforts into spreading the word in the social networks and email newsletters.
Effortlessly sending emails is just another advantage of our attendance list form. Emails can be copied directly from the spreadsheet into the newsletter mailing list. This eliminates the process of adding email addresses one by one to the mailing list.
What activities do you organize to keep your members interested throughout the year?
FUNDRAISERS: Our team has ramped up fundraising efforts organizing activities, such as cake and pizza sales.
CHAPTER FUND: We decided to create the “Chapter Fund” to help relieve the cost for the students who have actively participated in 90% of our activities and cannot afford the trip. This fund has rewarded the dedicated students who have put in the hard work towards our MEDLIFE chapter.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: As community service, we created the “Patch Adams” activity. Members from our chapter volunteer and dress as clowns in an effort to bring humor to orphans, patients and other people. We also created an event called “VÃsteme para mi fiesta”, where we collect donated prom dresses and deliver them to selected girls who cannot afford the expenses.
EDUCATION: We also added “Triage Training” to our list of activities. The students learn basic medical techniques. They practice how to measure vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature; the students also learn how to use the stethoscope and perform a heart auscultation.
MEDLIFE WEEK: A whole week dedicated to MED’s activities: Medicine, Education and Development. We end the week with a White Coat Ceremony to formally initiate all our new members.
What are your goals as a chapter for this academic year (2014-2015)?
We will continue with our previous activities, but we would also like to accomplish these new goals:
- Organize a Health Fair and offer free basic healthcare services to all faculty members of our university.
- Expand our interdisciplinary membership base.
- Offer more MED’s activities: Medicine, Education and Development.
- Organize local Mobile Clinics and offer hands-on experience to train our students, and provide a space where they can learn prior to the Mobile Clinic.