Where did the idea surrounding Community-Engaged Learning come from?
Community is such a big part of who we are. It is ingrained in our culture, and we knew we had to find a way to formally integrate service into our curriculum. Community-engaged learning was the perfect way to do it. So, in 2014-2016, we started as Service-Learning and piloted formalizing our systems and structures that tackle various community needs and programs. Since then, it has been part of our curriculum for the majority of most EVMS students. In 2018 – 2019, we switched to Community-Engaged Learning, which is an umbrella term that captures various experiential learning experiences all in one term.
Why is Community-Engaged Learning such a strong learning tool for your students?
Our goal at EVMS is to teach community-focused physicians and health professionals who embody skills like cultural humility and empathy. The students need to go out into the community and see what aliments and life is like for those they treat in the clinical setting. It also helps our students gain a better understanding of the different factors or social determinants of health that play into health and how hard it can be to stay healthy and follow some doctor's advice when the environment they live/work in is less than ideal.
What type of impactful change has this program had on your student body?
Our students learn about various social determinants of health and acquire problem-solving and leadership skills, while practicing cultural humility within the context of real-world experiences. It helps them build meaningful relationships with the community they will serve when they graduate while becoming a better healthcare professional.
This year's survey of incoming Medical and Med Master Students showed that 51% state CEL impacted their decision to enroll at EVMS.
“Connection and service to the community was an important consideration when applying to medical school.”
Why is getting students out of the classroom and in these environments so critical?
Community-Engaged Learning is a form of experiential learning. The experiential learning theory is “learning by doing,” meaning that we best learn through cycles of action and reflection/revision or looking back.
We think about community as our classroom. We are here to act and give back within our means, and we ask our students to look back on their experiences, challenging them to reflect and write about them.
It is our desire to develop extraordinary, community-oriented physicians, and we see Community-Engaged Learning as a key part of that development process. It strengthens foundational science knowledge, clinical skills and problem-solving abilities in the context of real-world experience.
When an EVMS student is planning out his or her academic path, where does Community-Engaged Learning fit? The beginning? The end? Throughout?
We are a constant presence in students' experience at EVMS as we are embedded throughout the curriculum in the MD, MPA and Medical Master’s programs.
What are the six pathways that your students can pursue for Community-Engaged Learning?
To keep us focused on crucial community problems, we synthesized five key issues from our community-driven data-informed approach, and all our initiatives aim directly at them. Moreover, recognizing health inequities around our globe, we developed a pathway that focuses on global communities that are here locally in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore. We call the six need areas “Service Pathways” and each of our initiatives points directly at valued outcomes in one of them. Each pathway has various initiatives that are united by a common target population or by a specific need in the community.
How can a community partner get involved with your program?
We have site requirements that help us determine which community partners or sites best suit our needs. We look for a safe environment, a culture of learning and education, and the ability to have immersive experiences for our students. Prospective partners can apply to become one of our community partners for long-term or short-term/one-off partnerships by clicking on HERE. Once the application is received, we carefully assess prospective partner needs and our current capacity before forming a partnership.
How do you measure the success of your community-engagement learning program?
The experience our students get and the skills they develop in the community setting are immeasurable. As such, we do not measure our success only by the number of patients or community members we impact but more so by the successful community opportunities we provide our students. We successfully provided over 1500 community-engagement opportunities during the 2022-2023 academic year.
What type of feedback have you received from community partners?
AT EVMS, the community has a voice. We connect with our partners regularly during in-person site visits, online meetings and check-ins, and routine correspondence about our programs. Through all of these channels, we are able to receive feedback, discuss opportunities, and collaborate with our partners. The feedback we receive comes both formally and informally and is almost always positive. Whenever we have obstacles or challenges, we tackle them together with the community partner, because we are in a bi-directional partnership and our mutual goal is to serve the community.
How can someone participate in the Initiatives or programs you have on your website?
We are always looking for credentialed medical professionals (MD, DO, DNP, etc.) to volunteer in our initiatives. Interested volunteers can click HERE to put in an application. Since we are a formal component of the curriculum, we prioritize all other opportunities to current students of EVMS.
How can someone support your Community-Engaged Learning and other service efforts?
We can partner together in the form of donations, gifts in kind, volunteered time and expertise, et cetera. Please click on the corresponding links for the support you are interested in giving.
Do you operate (have service events) throughout the year?
Our students are a volunteer workforce that is very time impoverished. So, we have events throughout the academic year (August to April) with events slowing down in the summer. However, we have events during the summer depending on student availability.