First-year UND med students get a little extra care this holiday season

Last week, 64 first-year medical students received a little holiday pick-me-up, courtesy of a collection of volunteers at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences. Arranged by the SMHS Office of Student Affairs and Office of the Dean, care packages, which included personalized notes from SMHS faculty, staff, and other medical students, were provided to the newest UND med students in the SMHS building in Grand Forks.

“Although this pandemic season is hard for everyone, we are finding that our first-year medical students are struggling more than most,” explained the School’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs James Porter, Ph.D. “They’re stressed by the adaptation to medical school, COVID, and difficulty in building social support structures in their new environment when they are only in their new environment virtually and have little opportunity to actually bond with each other or other members of the SMHS community. At this holiday season, we wanted to show our first-years a little additional support and North Dakota nice.”

Packages were “delivered” in a physically-distant sort of way at the SMHS on Thursday, Dec. 10. Students, both humbled and surprised at the packages, were exceedingly grateful.

“These care packages were such a generous gift from the university faculty and staff that really demonstrated their care for students and attentiveness to mental health,” said Megan Corn, first-year med student and President of the MD Class of 2024. “The hand-written notes were a beautiful touch that made us all feel closer to faculty and classmates in these trying times.”

Or as Corn’s classmate Jessica Zola put it, “The care packages provided by the SMHS were an extremely thoughtful surprise, and the personal letters made my day!”

“I still remember when I was a medical student many years ago,” added SMHS Senior Associate Dean for Medicine and Research, Dr. Marc Basson. “It was certainly challenging then, and is more challenging now with the increased burden of much more information to be mastered in the curriculum. I’m tremendously grateful to all of our faculty, staff, and especially our senior students who took the time to reach out in support of our first-year students this year despite their own stresses and pressures.”