THE NEOMED COVID-19 RELIEF INITIATIVE BY ELAINE GUREGIAN
tudying for the biggest exam of your life during a pandemic might seem like enough of a challenge for a rising third-year medicine student. But Poojajeet (Pooja) Khaira kept feeling like she wanted to help people who were hurting as the coronavirus spread. “You can always make time for something you’re passionate about, and you can’t study 24/7,” says the animated instigator of the NEOMED COVID-19 Relief Initiative. In between studying for the United States Medical Licensing Exam (better known as Step 1) that College of Medicine students (and their classmates across the country) must pass before moving ahead to their third year, Khaira organized students from the College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy. One of her goals was to provide opportunities to rising second-year College of Medicine students, whose usual options for getting medicineor research-related experience over the summer were limited by the pandemic. While Khaira gathered leads, second-year College of Medicine students Carla Baaklini and Maahi Mistry stepped up to share responsibilities as the projects mounted to more than a dozen. With the support of more than 20 student organizations, the initiative was born. “I feel like NEOMED is less competitive and more collaborative than other medical schools,” says Khaira. Third-year College of Pharmacy student Cecil Ekechukwu connected Khai-
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES - CENTER OF HOPE IN RAVENNA Led by Adrianna Nicholson, a second-year student in the College of Medicine, students helped in the dining room, prepared and served meals, cleaned kitchens, and inventoried and stocked pantries.
ASSOCIATION OF INDIAN PHYSICIANS OF NORTHERN OHIO (AIPNO) Led by Maahi Mistry and second-year College of Medicine student Meghana Chanamolu, students made quilts from kits provided by AIPNO for children in the hospital.
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ra to many pharmacy classmates, so the initiative brought the University’s colleges together, too. Joseph Zarconi, M.D. (’81), a professor of internal medicine and the medical director for NEOMED’s response to COVID-19, helped Khaira navigate legal and logistical questions, as well as sharing contacts with her. Paul Lecat, M.D., professor of internal medicine, pediatrics, and family and community medicine, also shared contacts at area hospitals, and staff from Student Services and Student Affairs offered helpful guidance. But students were the driving force, stresses Khaira, who says there has been no shortage of volunteers: “So many people wanted to help.”
AKRON-CANTON COMMUNITY FOODBANK Maahi Mistry coordinated student volunteers for this in-person volunteer opportunity. College of Pharmacy third-year student Mariah Carlton, representing the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, organized the food drive, with the help of Mistry and the Black Student Association.
AKRON COVID-19 MATCH INITIATIVE Sanjay Jinka, a second-year College of Medicine student representing the Walking Whales Barbell Club, led this project. Students contacted local organizations to ﬁnd places in need of the service that Akron Covid-19 Match provides — to pair healthy young adults with older adults or at-risk people who need help.
T H E PA S S I O N O F P H Y S I C I A N S , P H A R M A C I S T S A N D H E A LT H C A R E R E S E A R C H E R S