FAU Med Students Volunteer Time At Boca’s PROPEL Nonprofit

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Staff report

As a second year medical student at Florida Atlantic University Maryellen Campbell learned that she had to fulfill a requirement that involved providing a community service for a local nonprofit.

Instantly, she said she knew where she wanted to volunteer her time for the service learning project— at PROPEL, People Reaching Out to Provide Education & Leadership in Boca.

PROPEL works with local middle and high school students and provides leadership training, tutoring and life-skills programs.

Campbell worked at PROPEL as a tutor a few years ago when she took a gap year between graduating college and starting medical school.

“I always found that the role of the tutors had been a positive influence,” she said.

So, she reached out to PROPEL CEO Gregg Francis and director of the service learning projects for FAU Dr. Peter Averkiou to see if PROPEL could be added to the list of nonprofits the students could volunteer with.

“I thought it would be a great idea to go back to PROPEL,” she said.

“The FAU Schmidt College of Medicine has been very fortunate to be able to collaborate with PROPEL through our Service Learning Projects,” Peter Averkiou, M.D., F.A.A.P., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, and Director, Service Learning Projects, at FAU said. “The goal, through this mutually beneficial collaboration with PROPEL, is to provide personal experiences and reflection that will stay with our medical students for the rest of their professional and personal lives.”

Campbell and five of her classmates spent a few hours once a week visiting with PROPEL students. While they couldn’t perform any medical exams, they shared what it is like to be a medical student and discussed topics like why sleep is important and healthy living tips.

“It was really fun to see the excitement of kids who want to be nurses or doctors or in physical therapy,” she said.

Now, the program is gearing up to begin its second year and Campbell said she’s happy the program will continue.

PROPEL CEO Greg Francis said he was extremely impressed with the medical students.

“It’s a wonderful partnership,” he said. “They aren’t practicing medicine, but they are teaching about exercise and making healthy decisions for the body, mind and spirit. It helps get our kids comfortable with the medical community. They may not be getting medical treatment but they are getting medical knowledge.”

Francis said its a good experience for PROPEL students to see students who are excelling in their field.

“This Service Learning Project benefits our kids by giving them access to other young people who are working just as hard as they are, if not harder, to make their goals a reality,” Francis said. “We hope our students learn that one, if they want to be a doctor, that it’s achievable; and two, if they want to be healthier, here’s how.”

Francis said the program exposes the medical students to a community that is in need. PROPEL helps about 100 students and a majority live below the federal poverty line.

“These experiences will positively impact how our students will care for their patients in the future,” Averkiou said. “It will also encourage our students to be leaders and to give back to their community. PROPEL helps to instill compassion and the importance of service in our medical students. We look forward to many more years of working together with PROPEL.”