Harrogate — Three first-year medical students from the DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (DCOM) at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU)-Knoxville delivered pizzas and personal protective equipment (PPE) including surgical masks, KN95 masks and face shields to health care workers in the Emergency Department at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville on May 7. The delivery is the first of many the students plan to make to health care workers in the Knoxville area thanks to over $7,000 they have raised through a GiveCampus online campaign.

Elizabeth Taylor of Hampton, Georgia, Amy Rousselot of Midland, Texas and Priyanka Dharampuriya of Boston, Massachusetts, moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, in the summer of 2019 to begin medical school at DCOM at LMU-Knoxville. They never imagined that midway into their first year of medical school, the world would be shaken by a global pandemic. In just a few short months, they had built a connection to Knoxville and were eager to help however possible.

“Knoxville has become my second home, and on a personal level, I just wanted to give back to the community however I could,” said Dharampuriya. “In the classroom, we gain all this knowledge that will help us to help people in the future, but I felt compelled to help in a way that was more immediate. We feel a connection to those on the front lines. They are our peers and future colleagues.”

The students set an initial goal of $1,000, which was met within the first 24 hours. Their second goal was $5,000, which was met within a few short days, and now they are hoping to raise even more.

“As medical students, we are eager to help people in whatever way we can. While health care professionals are on the front lines of this battle, many health care students, like us, were wondering what we could possibly do to help. The response has been wonderful,” said Rousselot.

Their efforts are also extending to area small businesses, as the students are ordering meals from local restaurants.

“We have been in touch with local hospitals to make sure we order things that they truly need right now. Our first order consisted of surgical and KN95 masks, but we’re hoping to order other items such as gowns, shoe covers and bouffants soon,” said Taylor. “They have been so grateful and are so excited about our project.”

Food and PPE are not the only ways they have helped. The students also took to Instagram to recruit sponsors for flower bouquets that were delivered to local nurses through the Flourish Flower Truck for National Nurses Day on May 6.

Being in medical school during COVID-19 has had its challenges. The campus closed and classes were moved completely online.

“It was hard at first feeling isolated from friends, but thankfully we have technology to keep us connected,” said Taylor. “I love the sense of community we have been able to maintain with our class and faculty even though we are scattered all over the country. In these situations, you are forced to adapt to a new normal and to make the most of every day. I think we will be even more resilient and empathetic people after going through this time.”

Rousselot calls it a lesson in resilience. And her classmates agree.

“I hope I never take the simple things in life for granted again. The last month has made me realize even more how much we have to be grateful for,” said Taylor.

For updates on their progress or to donate to their campaign visit: www.givecampus.com/schools/LincolnMemorialUniversity/ppe-and-food-fundraiser-for-health-care-workers

The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine is located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. LMU-DCOM is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community, and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of osteopathic physicians to provide health care in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond. For more information about LMU-DCOM, call 1.800.325.0900, ext. 7082, email dcom@LMUnet.edu, or visit online at http://med.LMUnet.edu.