Premedicine students partner with Mission Waco

Jubilee Market clerk Dianna Castillo restocks shelves. The market is a community development project affiliated with Mission Waco. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Stephanie Jatnieks | Contributor

Baylor University premedicine students are immersing themselves in their local community by partnering with Mission Waco. Through this organization, they are able to learn the importance of compassion and working in diverse communities as they prepare to become health care professionals.

Southlake senior Adam Floyd, American Medical Student Association service chair, said it is important to make a difference in the Waco community now, especially as a young professional.

We get excited about being the neurologist who, 15 or 20  years from now, cures Alzheimer’s Disease or something of the sort,” Floyd said.That’s truly an awesome goal, and I believe that for most people it is rooted in a genuine desire to help others, but we often are so focused on our futures that we forget to ask what we can do now.

Mission Waco is a local nonprofit organization that strives to empower, mobilize and address issues dealing with the marginalized in society. Through this partnership, the hope is that Baylor students in the American Medical Student Association will become compassionate health professionals who are more informed and immersed in their communities.

Wheaton, Ill., sophomore Lauren Haley said that through Mission Waco students are reminded that medicine is more than just fixing the patient, its about treating the person as a whole and serving others. American Medical Student Association students volunteer at the after-school youth program that provides adolescents with homework help, enrichment through activities, and a meal.

Flower Mound senior Niharika Koka, American Medical Student Association member, said she recognizes the importance of serving people as a whole, rather than focusing on fixing a problem.

“Pre-med students know that treating a patient is so much more than handing them a paper with a prescription,” Koka said. “The best doctors treat their patients in a holistic manner. And an important part of that is considering the environment that they grew up in and the social influences around them every day.”

Haley, who donates her time through the organization every Tuesday, said not only do the volunteers help the children with their homework, but will also often listen to disputes and hear about the children’s weekend.

Haley said it’s amazing to see the relationships these children have formed, and reminded her the importance of community.

These students have grown together and truly treat each other like family,” Haley said. “They are incredibly loyal and caring for each other as if they were all each other’s siblings.”

For students that are pursuing careers in medicine, academic achievement can be of the utmost importance, it’s easy to get focused solely on grades. Suzi Elnagar, director of Mission Waco’s youth program, said this program reminds students the importance of working with diverse populations and recognizing the different backgrounds their patients will come from.

In addition to volunteering, Koka is in charge of reviewing applications for those who hope to work at Mission Waco and get involved in the community through service. When she interviews students, Koka said she looks for people who will be invested and honor the time commitment that goes into working at Mission Waco.

She said she recognizes that the relationships they build serve with these children will be a building block for how students will eventually build relationships with their patients.

“Building relationships is not done over a single day, but over weeks and months,” Koka said. “We can’t be mentors to them without building trust, and that takes time.”