The University of Georgia’s MEDLIFE chapter has recently seen incredible growth and made notable achievements in their fourth year. This year, UGA was awarded second place for MEDLIFE’s “Best Chapter” in the MEDLIFE awards, and the chapter’s member count is on the rise. With more than 160 active members, UGA’s hard work and great effort have certainly made an impact on UGA’s campus and in the MEDLIFE community. Read the following interview with UGA to learn more about this MEDLIFE chapter, how they got their start, and what they’re doing for sustainable growth.
When and how did your chapter begin?
The MEDLIFE UGA Chapter was founded in Fall 2010 by Emily Peng and Kelsey Campolong. Our chapter started with 10 active members and now, four years later, it has expanded to a twelve-member executive board with a total member base of over 200 students. Our listserv has over 1,700 individuals subscribed and we maintain an active core of 90 to 100 members throughout the year. During the 2013-2014 academic year, our chapter was able to raise $4000 for the MEDFund and perform over 150 hours of local service in Athens, GA. Since our first trip in January 2011, we have sent over 100 UGA students on weeklong mobile clinics to Peru, Ecuador, and Tanzania, allowing them to obtain hands-on experience in shadowing doctors and providing health care abroad. Our mission is to provide sustainable aid to impoverished communities (both on a local and global scale) and to provide leadership and service opportunities to the students of the University of Georgia.
What strategies did you use to promote MEDLIFE on campus?
We utilize a variety of strategies to promote MEDLIFE on the UGA campus throughout the school year as well as during summer terms. One of the main ways that we get the word out about our organization at such a large university is through interactive events, such as the Fall and Spring Activities Fair, the Summer Orientations Fairs, and Interest Meetings. At these fairs, student organizations host a table along with all of their promotional materials. We have created an informative trifold board to help catch the eyes of students walking by during these events and provide visual evidence of the message of MEDLIFE. In addition to the wonderful posters, flyers, and handouts provided by National MEDLIFE, we also have created a general flyer to help advertise the work we do as a local chapter. Every semester we hold a General Interest Meeting in order to inform students about the work that MEDLIFE at UGA does both locally and abroad. We are usually able to gain a great deal of interest from both these meetings as well as the fairs we table at.
We also have increased our presence on social media sites such Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, in addition to creating our own website (www.medlifeatuga.com) hosted by WordPress.com. As well, one of the most effective tools that we have used in the past to get the word about any of our events or general body meetings is the use of not only our own, but also other student organizations’ and department listservs. Emailing through various listservs all over campus has helped us reach out to students who may have never heard of MEDLIFE at UGA.
What system do you use to recruit new members? What process does a new member go through once part of the chapter?
Through tabling at Activities Fairs, hosting Interest Meetings at the start of every semester, passing out and posting flyers around campus, speaking in classrooms, and sending bi-weekly emails through various listservs, we are able to recruit new members. More generally, anytime that we host an event, no matter the size, we always urge our Executive Members and general body members to always reinforce MEDLIFE’s mission by spreading the word about all the great work we do as a chapter and as a national organization. As well, our chapter continuously seeks organizations on campus that share common interests and goals in order to partner with. As we form relationships with other organizations on the campus of the University of Georgia, we find that this is also a very effective way to gain new members.
Students are able to become members of MEDLIFE at UGA fairly easily. At every meeting, we have several general membership forms printed out for our prospective students to fill out at the time that they decide to pay their dues. This form helps us keep track of their name, major, year, and whether or not they are interested in attending a Mobile Clinic in the upcoming semester. Once a student becomes a member, their information is placed into our google document roster for that school year and then they are placed into a family group by our Internal Affairs Chair. Each member placed into a Family Group is assigned one of the ten Family Heads that the Executive Board has appointed. Within the Family Groups, Family Heads are responsible for maintaining attendance at each general meeting. Attendance is then sent to our Internal Affairs Chair. Members are encouraged by both the Executive Board as well as their Family Heads to attend service and fundraising events as well as mobile clinics.
What activities do you organize to keep your members interested throughout the year?
FUNDRAISERS: We host scarf and bake sales at the Tate Student Center on the UGA campus as well as the Athens West Broad Farmer’s Market. We are also planning on hosting our fourth annual Benefit Concert at a local music venue here in Athens called Nuci’s Space on October 18, 2014. Our fourth annual 5K race for Global Health will take place in Spring 2015. All of the money we raise at any of these events is donated directly to the MEDFund to help provide medicine, education, and developmental projects in Latin America, Africa, and India.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: MEDLIFE at UGA, first and foremost is a service orientated organization. We aim to provide members the opportunity to go out and serve their nearby community here in Athens, GA. We volunteer at the local Food Bank that packages and delivers meals for families in need, organize clothing donations at the Project Safe Thrift Store, and partner with MedShare a nonprofit organization in Decatur, GA, that packages surplus medical supplies and sends it abroad to communities in need. As well, our chapter will be solely hosting its first ever blood drive on September 23, 2014. In addition, we plan to increase our partnerships with other local nonprofits such as Thomas Lay After School Program, Campus Kitchen at UGA, Mercy Health Center, Athens Area Homeless Shelter, and Casa de Amistad. This year, we are also applying for the 2014 Volunteer UGA Sustainability Service Grant in order to continue our efforts with Athens Nurses Clinic to help improve the quality of their current facility.
FAMILY GROUPS: We have selected ten Family Heads this year to serve as liaisons between the Executive Board and our general body members. This chapter initiative was started in Fall 2012 by our current Co-President, Zoheb Sulaiman. Through these groups, we maintain a communal, friendly environment, as our organization grows larger and we strive to create a more interactive line of communication between the board and chapter members. These family groups are divided randomly so that each group has a variety of ages and majors in hopes that natural mentoring relationships and networking within our member base will occur.
EDUCATION: For the past two years, we have invited professors from differing and unique disciplines to come share their passion and research with our members. Our global health lecture series allow us to create an environment to teach our members the importance of public health. For this semester, we have confirmed Dr. Colleen O’Brien Cherry (Global Health) and our wonderful faculty advisor, Dr. Maria Navarro (World Hunger and Development), to come speak. Moreover, we plan to have our 2nd annual Pre-Health Spotlight in Spring 2015, in which nursing students, public health graduate students, and medical students will come speak about their experiences and decision to enter their intended professional field.
MOBILE CLINICS:We send UGA students on year-round medical brigades to Peru, Ecuador, and Tanzania during winter, spring and summer breaks. They are able to volunteer with students from across the nation and work alongside local medical professionals to provide primary care services to individuals and families who otherwise lack access to quality health care. Students also work with local villagers and community leaders on community development projects, such as staircase building, hygiene projects, and mobile schools. As a chapter, we were able to increase the amount of students attending mobile clinics from approximately fifty total students from 2011 to 2013 to approximately eighty students during the 2013-2014 academic year. This year, we will be sending UGA students to Lima, Peru for Winter Break in December 2014, Cusco, Peru over Spring Break in March 2015, Moshi, Tanzania in May 2015, and Esmeraldas, Ecuador in August 2015.
What are your goals as a chapter for this academic year (2014-2015)?
We would like to achieve six broad goals for this school year:
- Increase awareness about MEDLIFE
- Increase community involvement
- Diversify our members’ view of the world
- Increase the number of students we send on Mobile Clinics
- Increase fundraising efforts
- Increase opportunities for team building and leadership