In the mid 1990s, Patricia A. Keener, M.D., Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a highly respected expert in community-based medicine, had a vision of revolutionizing the medical school curriculum by expanding it to include out-of-the-classroom service-learning experiences to allow medical students the opportunity to learn more about the communities and individuals that they would eventually serve as future health care professionals. The transition of general pediatrics to the newly developed IU Medical Group—PC, a separate entity from the IU School of Medicine, provided an opportunity to further develop this idea. Dr. Keener joined forces with Stephen Kirchhoff, M.H.A., then administrator of the general pediatrics department, as well as Shirley Lawson and Nancy Singleton, both knowledgeable and experienced administrative assistants to begin the task of transforming this vision into reality.
The first service-learning project originated in 1996 as a spin-off of one of Dr. Keener’s Introduction to Clinical Medicine classes, in which a group of students led an initiative to beautify the yards and homes of senior residents in the Indianapolis inner city Haughville and Blackburn neighborhoods who were no longer able to physically maintain their homes. A decade later, this project, known as Spring House Calls (SHC), continues to be one of the most-popular, large-scale and successful service-learning projects of the OMSL.
More success came when Dr. Keener was awarded a substantial grant from the Reilly Family Foundation supporting childhood initiatives. As a result, the team created the concept of a program aiming to teach underserved and underprivileged children computer based skills. During the summer of 1997, the OMSL acquired its first student intern, Molly Bozic, who had recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame. The trio, composed of Dr. Keener, Steve Kirchhoff and Molly Bozic crafted the curriculum for the program and worked with several community partners from the SHC project to launch Laptop Kids (for preschool children) and Community Computers (for seniors).
In need of a name for this new service based initiative, Dr. Keener and Steve decided to call it the Office of Medical Service-Learning, thus providing it with legitimacy and recognition. Dr. Keener was appointed Assistant Dean for Medical Service-Learning by then Dean Robert Holden. Additionally, Super Shot Saturday, the third OMSL project came into being. This project, headed by Sara Valladolid and Vanessa Elharrar provided free immunizations to the underserved Hispanic community in Indianapolis. That same summer, the OMSL acquired its second and third student interns, Sara Palecek and Lauren Smith to work with Molly to continue its improvement and evolution.
The Student Advisory Group (SAG), which functions as the major governing body of the OMSL, came into existence during the summer of 1999—Sara Palecek was selected as the first SAG chair. The OMSL teamed with the United Way of Indianapolis to create the Community Leadership Mentor Program, chaired by Sara Palecek, which is a program that offers medical students the opportunity to develop the skills necessary for non-profit board governance. Further, Vivek Gurudutt led the initiative to create the Calnali Health Education Outreach program with the goal of improving the health of a medically underserved region located in Calnali, Mexico. The tradition of incorporating student interns into the operation of the OMSL continued with Gracie Carver and Ana Lyman who worked in the OMSL during the summer.
The OMSL added two new projects: Medical Spanish, founded by Doug Miller, and Alternative Spring Break International, directed by Ben Wince and Gene Kim. Medical Spanish seeks to teach basic medically related Spanish to medical students in preparation for treating Hispanic patients who do not speak English. The Alternative Spring Break International is an annual trip to Nicaragua during which medical students teach basic health initiatives and participate in various building projects. Nikki Silver and Mary Palecek, the younger sister of Sara Palacek, joined Gracie Carver and the rest of the OMSL team for the summer of 2000. Sara’s older sister Betsy Palecek also worked in the office.
Alternative Spring Break Domestic, headed by William Swigart, Laurie Shipchandler, Emily Chui Webber, and Jeff Scott, as well as Doctor Camp, headed by Jason Isenberg and Mark Gibson were added to the OMSL project lineup. ASB Domestic takes place at Boggy Creek Gang Camp in Orlando, Florida where medical students serve as camp counselors for children with chronic medical conditions. Doctor Camp is a one day experience that allows medical students to mentor minority middle school students on the importance of science and medicine. Gracie Carver returned for her third summer with the OMSL and joined new summer intern, Melissa Lora.
In 2002, Ben Henkle, Claire Helbig, Kelly Kessler and Jeff Scott instituted the Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention program, devoted to educating young students in the Indianapolis Public School system about the harmful effects of using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Additionally, Emily Chui Webber founded Project Joy, a service-learning project in which medical students spend time participating in various fun activities with geriatric residents in Lockefield Village. Josh Miller and Heather Greist, two new faces, joined the OMSL for the summer of 2002, continuing the OMSL summer intern tradition.
Greenway Rounds, a project developed by Smriti Banthia, Mark Fisch, Leon Kelly, Marc Kohli and Arpan Patel was a one-time project held during orientation in 2003. The summer of 2003 marked the most prolific student intern base in the history of the OMSL when Zach Tempel, a pre-medical student at Miami University joined IU medical students Anna Csitkovits, Kristen Werne and Brent Suozzi to create a comprehensive review guide for students wishing to achieve a level III competency in Competency VI: The Social and Community Contexts of Medicine. Additionally, Travis Smith, a graduate student in accounting, joined the OMSL and developed an accounting system.
During the 2003/2004 school year, the OMSL incorporated an unprecedented four new projects. Robert Patterson initiated Diversity Week, which is a series of lectures during the week of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday exploring issues pertaining to diversity and medicine. Emily Chui Webber initiated the Reach Out and Read program to support the importance to reading to parents and young children. Molly Bozic, after having worked for several years with Dr. Keener, imported the Safe Sitter program into the OMSL by training medical students to be competent in life saving techniques of children. Further, Greg Berman founded Rock for Riley, a massive fund-raising effort culminating in a large-scale concert in order to raise funds for the Riley Hospital for Children. Medical students Jon Mccrea and Trent Miller joined Zach Tempel for the summer conducting research concerning medical service-learning on other medical school campuses. Additionally, Matt Lawson, son of Shirley Lawson joined to OMSL team working on various projects.
After participating extensively in the Best Buddies program as an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame, Melissa Spurr founded a chapter at the IU School of Medicine. This program involves medical students spending time with and enhancing the lives of individuals with mental disabilities. Zach Tempel returned to the OMSL for the third straight summer working on various projects with Dr. Keener focusing mainly on the Competency VI curriculum.
During the 2005/2006 school year, J.T. Gripe started the Helping Habitat program through the OMSL. Helping Habitat involves medical students participating in various Habitat for Humanity projects. After graduating from Miami University, Zach Tempel returned to the OMSL for the spring and summer of 2006 working with Dr. Keener and Steve to secure funding for the OMSL and increase awareness through expanded public relations. Additionally, Patricia Treadwell, M.D., professor of Pediatrics, was appointed assistant director of the Office of Medical Service-Learning.
In June 2006, three SAG members - Stephanie Cohen, Melissa Spurr, and Michelle Ojemuyiwa - joined recent graduate, Molly Bozic, MD, and Patricia Keener, MD, and Stephen Kirchhoff to present the workshop "Nurturing the Next Generation of Social Entreprenueurs, Community Leaders, and Health-Care Advocates: the Indiana University School of Medicine Office of Medical Service-Learning Experience" at the Community Campus Partnerships for Health national conference in Minneapolis, MN.
In the fall of 2006, the Faculty Adviosry Team was formed. Over 20 IUSM faculty volunteered to serve as mentors for OMSL student project leaders as well as advocate for and support the OMSL mission. In October 2006, a group of SAG officers presented an overview of the OMSL mission and programs at the IUSM Dean's Executive Council meeting.
In May 2007, Patricia Treadwell, MD, Stephen Kirchhoff, MHA, Brian Meek and Matt Zipse presented an updated version of the "Nurturing the Next Generation of Social Entreprenueurs, Community Leaders, and Health-Care Advocates: the Indiana University School of Medicine Office of Medical Service-Learning Experience" workshop at the second annual International Symposium on Service-Learning. This is a two-day conference hosted by the University of Indianapolis and co-sponsored by Stellenbosch Universtiy (in South Africa), Ningbo Institute of Technology (in China), and the Indiana Campus Compact.
In July 2007, the Office of Medical Service-Learning became a part of the IUSM Medical Student Affairs department, directed by Herbert Cushing, MD, and James Brokaw, PhD. With this change, Patricia Keener, MD, and Patricia Treadwell, MD, were appointed as faculty director and associate faculty director, respectively, and Stephen Kirchhoff was designated as OMSL director. In August, the OMSL offices relocated to the Van Nuys Medical Science Building.
In December 2007, the Camp Riley project, chaired by Meagan Hainlen (MS1 student at the Muncie regional center), was approved by the SAG as the newest OMSL project.
In 2008, the SAG changed its name to the Medical Student Service-Learning Group (MSSG). The OMSL/MSSG was approved as an official IUPUI student organization with a new constitution and bylaws. In July, Dr. Keener retired and became Faculty Director Emeritus. Dr. Treadwell was appointed as OMSL Faculty Director.
In the spring, the Creative Arts Therapy project and Student Outreach Clinic were approved as OMSL sponsored projects.
In the spring, the MS1 Class Service Project was approved for OMSL sponsorship. The first IUSM orchestra was also formed through the Creative Arts Therapy project and an inaugural concert was held in June 2010 at the Indiana History Center.
Past/current co-chairs of SAG/MSSG of OMSL
1999/2000: Sara Palecek
2000/2001: Sara Palecek
2001/2002: Ben Wince
2002/2003: Marc Kohli
2003/2004: Samir Belagaje
2004/2005: Laura Howell
2005/2006: Molly Bozic and Greg Berman
2006/2007: Joe Frank and Melissa Spurr
2007/2008: Brian Meek and Matt Zipse
2008/2009: Mike Schacht and Radhika Dave
2009/2010: Zach Tempel and Katie Sullivan
2010/2011: Caitlin Dugdale and Bill Steck