“Happiness" grants for student proposals help make wellness ideas become reality

Cooking classes, art exhibits and a podcast among student-driven projects to enhance culture of wellness and community

Nov. 14, 2018

Ten student-led proposals were recently awarded mini-grants to help foster community and wellness in the School of Medicine. Eight were proposed by M.D. students, and two driven by Graduate Studies students. The grants averaged $500 each, funded directly by the Dean's office. With a focus on increasing engagement and boosting well-being, this initiative is casually referred to as the happiness grants.

Twenty complete applications were submitted. They were reviewed by an interdisciplinary panel of faculty and staff who directly support students across OHSU, and evaluated for:

  • Originality
  • Feasibility
  • Impact
  • Sustainability
  • Dissemination

The idea for the grants was started by the deans for student affairs in graduate studies and undergraduate medical education: Jackie Wirz, Ph.D., Ben Schneider, M.D., and Nicole DeIorio, M.D., now succeeded by Amy Garcia, M.D.

George Mejicano, M.D., senior associate dean for education, OHSU School of Medicine, was the executive sponsor of the initiative. "These mini-grants are intended to spark and further the passions and creativity of our students in ways that revitalize and build community in the school," Dr. Mejicano said. "Just seeing the applications alone spoke to the pent-up need and the exciting ideas that we hope the grants will unleash."

One funded project was led by Hannah Wilson, R.D.N., Esther Xu, Aloura Linfesty and Elaine Sim, students in the Graduate Programs in Human Nutrition. They sought to address food insecurity through a partnership with the Free Clinic – a community nonprofit in Vancouver, Washington – to provide emergency meal kits. Each kit includes canned beans, corn, tomatoes, green beans, fruit and brown rice, as well as some education to help recipients learn how to prepare nutritious meals on a limited budget.

Wilson said their group hopes to "develop a sustainable model for providing access to nutritious meals that can be utilized in clinics serving low-income populations at high risk for food insecurity." This project also bolsters a years-long collaboration between OHSU GPHN students and the Free Clinic.

First Do No Harmony a cappella groupAnother project to receive a mini-grant was "First Do No Harmony," an interprofessional a cappella group of student singers that celebrates music and medicine (pictured; photo courtesy of Kendall Weierich). Participants are involved from across the Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Dentistry.

M.D. student Kendall Weierich, one of the group organizers, said singers were "bonded by our love for music" and started performing together in January 2018. In the project proposal, Weierich highlighted the impact of this group by recounting a recent performance in the Robertson Life Sciences Building: "One fellow student in the audience wrote on social media: 'There was just a med student choral mob in the lobby of my medical school. And just like that I was reminded of goodness and beauty.' We believe that this project will make a positive and lasting impact on our community."

All of the mini-grant funded projects are:

  • Cupping (an ancient therapeutic Chinese medicine modality)
  • Emergency Food Kits to Reduce Food Insecurity at the Free Clinic
  • "First Do No Harmony" Performances - Music and Medicine
  • Fostering wellness and community through soccer
  • hAPIness - APAMSA Wellness Workshop Series
  • Healthy Eating
  • OHSU Graduate Student Cooking Challenge
  • RLSB Student Art Exhibition
  • Suicide Prevention Workshop
  • The SOAP Note Podcast