All Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine students are required to take part in a service learning project along with nursing, physician assistant, and allied health students from Jefferson College of Health Sciences. The requirement is a component of the Interprofessional Leadership Course that students take during Year 1, which helps health professionals from different vocations know more about each other's roles and priorities. In its first three years, the program has launched 38 projects helping 29 different organizations in the Roanoke Valley.
Community and Diversity Advisory Board
Students in the Interprofessional Leadership Course are divided into teams of around nine students. Since many students are not from Southwest Virginia, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine has a Community and Diversity Advisory Board that helps network the students into the community and provide ideas and locations for their service learning projects that are based on their individual personal values.
Picking a Project
Each group picks a project and has it approved by the interprofessionalism faculty. While some groups may pick the same organization to help, the focus of each group is different. Students arrange times with the organization to complete their service time hours within a month-and-a-half period. Each group is required to complete 13-17 hours of service, but may donate additional time beyond that. After the projects' conclusions, there is a presentation and poster session with faculty and the Community and Diversity Advisory board where groups share their outcomes. Teams can also invite representatives from the community organization where they completed their service learning project.
The service learning project was included in the curriculum for multiple reasons. It allows the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Jefferson College of Health Sciences to give back to the community and make a difference, and community service encourages students to see the responsibility they have to the world around them. In addition, the selection and completion of the project as a interprofessional team helps reinforce the roles, responsibilities, and team work students learn and practice in the classroom.
The Interprofessionalism Leadership Course faculty hopes many students will decide to continue their projects even after completing the required hours for the course. Many students in the first few classes have continued or started another spin-off project after officially completing their service learning projects.