It may be easy to forget that Harvard Medical School, wedged between towering hospital complexes and concrete and glass research facilities, is part of a vibrant neighborhood community.
This year, HMS first-year medical students reached out to the School’s Mission Hill neighbors by hosting a Fall Fest party for students from the Mission Hill Grammar School on nearby St. Alphonsus Street.
HMS student council members, led by new student body president Lash Nolen, hosted the event, which provided an opportunity for medical students to connect and establish relationships with the younger students. The younger students, in turn, got a chance to participate in interactive games while also learning about health care and oral health careers in science and medicine from the older students.
“I decided to run for student council president because I felt there was a lot of missed opportunity to engage with the community,” said Nolen. “Luckily, a lot of my team members had the same vision. It started with the notion that HMS is near a lot of communities, yet we do not serve them all the time. It was an idea to upend the idea of HMS being an ivory tower.”
The event began on Halloween in the medical education center’s amphitheater, which was filled with laughter as Anthony D’Amico, HMS professor of radiation oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, performed a martial arts demonstration to illustrate the importance of trying and succeeding.
D’Amico shared a story about how, when he was young, he wanted to learn martial arts moves so he could eventually break a wooden board. Through trial and error, D’Amico said, he was able to finally break a board with his foot by using “the magic of trying until you succeed” philosophy. To the delight of the students he then broke a board with his foot.
Together with their HMS buddies—about 75 first-year students—the youngsters participated in different activities, such as pumpkin decorating, mummy games and science “Jeopardy,” all the while learning about health and science directly from HMS students.
A sixth-grade Mission Hill student learned something special from the HMS student with whom he was paired.
“I’ve learned to never give up, to try new things and to be myself,” said the student.
First-year med students said they volunteered to be buddies at Fall Fest because they wanted to show younger local students that anything is possible.
“It is important that we, as an HMS community, show that we are more than just medical students, and that we can give back to the community, especially to a community that has a lot of underrepresented minority students,” said first-year HMS student Dominick Falcon.
The first-year HMS student council students are hoping to make Fall Fest an annual event and broaden its reach by inviting more schools to join in.