Medical students encourage humanism in medicine while giving back

Students raised more than $4,000 to support youth mental health services in Edmonton.

Shelby Soke - 25 July 2017

Medical students displayed compassion and care for their community by raising $4,758.68 for the iHuman Youth Society as part of their 2017 humanism project.

Each second-year medical class chooses a local organization to support as to the class cause throughout the year. According to theArnold P. Gold Foundation, humanism in health care entails a respectful and compassionate relationship between physicians, as well as all other members of the health care team and their patients. It reflects attitudes and behaviors that are sensitive to the values and the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of others.

Umair Sajid is the Gold Humanism Honor Society representative for the U of A medical class of 2019. He said his class chose to support the iHuman Youth Society because he and his classmates felt an empathetic pull towards the population the organization serves.

"The at-risk youth iHuman supports are close to our age," said Sajid. "You can reflect and imagine if you were in a tough position a few years ago or were facing similar risk factors, and realize how that could affect your life."

"A lot of the time when we are learning about an illness or issue, the underlying disease is only a small part of what impacts a person's overall health. Social risk factors and other things we can't treat in a clinic can be even more significant than illness. Realizing that there are organizations like iHuman that can support youth in ways that we might not be able to as physicians, that is important."

As the Gold Humanism Honor Society representative, Sajid's role was to organize fundraising activities for the class cause, such as a bake sale and silent auction at student events. Sajid noted that organizations supported by the humanism project are typically smaller local non-profit agencies, where their support has the potential to make a big impact.

The money raised by the students went to iHuman's LiNKS Mental Health Clinic. LiNKS is a unique program developed by the youth of iHuman. The clinic model allows youth to access mental health services in an environment that they feel safe to attend, while it helps eliminate the stigma about needing counselling or mental health supports.

In 2016, the clinic provided 2,900 15-minute appointments to more than 230 individual youth. These services are free, so the money raised by the medical students covered more than two weeks' worth of direct counselling by the team of psychologists and counsellors. The organization was able to leverage the donation with some of their regular donors, who are professionals in the health field and provided an additional week of services.

"LiNKS was in a dire financial situation this year as some of our funding has expired," explained Catherine Broomfiled, executive director, iHuman Youth Society. "The unexpected gift of almost $5,000 couldn't have come at a better time and had such an immediate and meaningful impact on the direct access to services for the youth. We truly appreciate the tremendous effort of the medical students. Because of their generosity, youth have access to mental health supports where they would not otherwise access existing services."

Sajid encourages all medical students and members of the public to get involved and support the humanism project events. The class of 2020 has already voted on their class cause and selected Crystal Kids.