Students explore service opportunities at EVMS.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, images of superheroes filled Lewis Hall and the smell of popcorn wafted through the air. Someone walking by might have thought there was a movie theater nearby, but behind the double doors of Lester Hall, more than 100 EVMS medical students were about to make a decision that could have a lasting impact on their career.

The first-year students were deciding which service learning initiative they would spend the next few years volunteering with. As part of the new CareForward Curriculum, MD students choose from 16 initiatives under five pathways, or areas of need, in Hampton Roads.

Among the many options on display at the Service Learning Fair, getting certified in medical Spanish and acting as a translator in clinics; learning how to teach bystander CPR and holding classes in the community; and the newest addition, hotspotters, where students learn how to identify, investigate and treat patients with complex issues that require frequent care. 

“Service learning is touch — it is going out and learning things with real people and context,” says Don Robison, PhD, Director of Service Learning and Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine. “These are things you can’t learn in the classroom.” 

Students say the experience makes them feel more confident in their ability to care for patients. “We go out into the community and teach CPR,” says James Etheridge, MD Class of 2018. “You’re out there making a difference, but it’s equally making a difference in you.”

Phillip Connell, MD Class of 2020 agrees. “Service learning is great because it makes you feel like you are participating in the community from day one,” he says, “which is why many come to EVMS in the first place.”