Similar to our advice about pre-med capstone projects, you should ask yourself the following questions:
What am I especially good at? What is my “superpower?”
Do I have access to a large group of peers? Access to funds?
What resources are available at my college or in my community that I could use to make an impact?
Hopefully, there’s an endeavor that fits somewhere in the middle of these three areas (like the top three circles of the Venn diagram).
You don’t have to be the person who spearheads the initiative (although that will be a bonus when discussing the activity in your medical school application). The most important part is finding a volunteer opportunity that speaks to your passions beyond the mere desire (or worse, obligation) to contribute.
In the sections below, we’ll pose 10 questions about your skills, passions, and resources to help you find a personalized way to volunteer during coronavirus.
Are You a Networker with Lots of Connections?
Save the Frontline – a team of Cornell and CMU students has partnered with East End Group, a construction firm that has donated more 36,000 N95 masks and built a website to function as a clearinghouse between those that need PPE supplies and those that want to donate, sell, or fund the purchase of more. They are focusing on healthcare workers in New York City and Long Island, especially those in public hospitals and those serving uninsured and underserved communities.
Are You an Activist or a Public Health Advocate?
Contact Tracing – consider a job or volunteer activity as a contact tracer. Partners in Health is hiring contact tracers, resource coordinators, and case investigators to reach out to all contacts of COVID patients, counsel them on testing and quarantine, refer them for testing, and connect them to necessary resources.
Mutual Aid Networks – think of a mutual aid network as a kind of hyper-local COVID-19 Craigslist where neighbors post their needs—groceries, translation services, pharmacy runs, even cash to make rent—and others can choose to answer the call.
Are You Crafty or Artistic?
Columbia American Medical Student Association showed support to Mount Sinai Morningside by writing Get Well Cards for patients / Thank You Cards for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the current COVID-19 crisis.
Through Chemo Angels, you can send a card, letter, or note once a week to someone undergoing chemotherapy.
Through Warm Up America or the Binky Patrol, you can crochet or knit afghan squares that will help build blankets for both babies and adults.
Are You Skilled with Technology?
Train others in technology to help overcome poverty with Right Here at Home.
Develop video games to help App to Succeed teach youth in need how to make good financial decisions.
Are You Good at Working with Children?
Through Upchieve, you can work with underserved and under-resourced youth who may suffer from domestic chaos, weak internet connection, or lack of a computer.
Provide learning and encouragement to children around the world via Skype and the Granny Cloud website.
Volunteer to be an Online Ambassador with Ark of Hope for Children.
Become an online mentor through the Smart is Strong Foundation.
Do You Enjoy Working with the Elderly?
Brain Exercise Initiative – teach brain games to people with dementia over your phone or iPad; the materials can be adapted for online delivery.
TimeSlips – bring meaning and purpose into the lives of elders through creative engagement.
Meals on Wheels likely needs more volunteers in your community.
Caring Connections is asking for volunteers willing to deliver groceries.
Dorot – alleviate social isolation among the elderly and homebound by making weekly, friendly phone calls.
Are You a Good Writer or Communicator?
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has also led to the viral proliferation of falsehoods, misinformation, and even conspiracy theories. Pre-meds students can use their scientific background to help dispel misinformation through social media.
Further, as developments continue to come from reputable sources such as the CDC, spreading accurate information can help keep people informed. Look to see how your community is distributing information or organizing resources – offer to centralize and update information. Here is an example.
Do You Speak Multiple Languages?
Paper-airplanes.org – provide online tutoring to bridge gaps in language, higher education, and professional skills training for conflict-affected individuals.
Translators without Borders – this nonprofit combines language skills with humanitarian aid; volunteers provide translations to international organizations that focus on crisis relief, health, and education.
Do You Have an Interest in Mental Health?
Crisis Text Line (requires ~30 hours of training) – if you’ve already received crisis hotline training, check to see if your community’s crisis hotline could use additional phone or chat volunteers; many crisis hotlines are overloaded right now.
7 Cups – become an online emotional support person for people who desperately need comfort and a listening ear.
Were You Furloughed and Still Want to Help on the Frontlines?
Look into the volunteer National Medical Reserves Corps branch near you.
Donate blood and volunteer to help the Red Cross address blood delivery and donation needs in your community; remote volunteering options exist for those at high risk.
Google terms like ‘telescribe,’ ‘telemedicine scribe,’ or ‘telehealth scribe’ and look at websites for major scribe recruiting companies, such as Scribe America.
Write to local doctors and offer to help them keep their electronic medical records (EMR) and scribe their telehealth visits. For example, GWU is seeking student volunteers to serve as scribes.
Which volunteering opportunity sounds most interesting to you? TAKE OUR POLL!
Have any other ideas for how pre-meds can volunteer during coronavirus? Let us know in the comments below so we can add it to our list of examples!