UMass Medical School Students Improve Health, Community Relations through MLK Service Awards

UMass Medical School (UMMS) students are tackling community health and other issues through five new projects funded by the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Semester of Service Student Awards. The award program, now in its fourth year, is designed to support student-driven service and service-learning projects that strengthen the school’s relationships with the local community, address community needs, and meet student learning objectives.

The five projects funded are:

  • Farm-to-Health Center Initiative: Prescriptions for Food Insecurity. The goals of the Farm-to-Health Center Initiative are to assess the level of food insecurity (lack of access to enough nutritious food for all household members to lead an active and healthy life) among patients at the Family Health Center of Worcester; to improve patient access to farm-fresh vegetables; and to educate physicians and UMMS students about food insecurity and resources for hungry families in Worcester.
  • Worcester Free Clinic Tobacco Cessation Project. The goals of this project are to train a small number of committed medical and nursing students in tobacco cessation methods at the Worcester Free Clinics; to decrease tobacco dependence among clinic patients by increasing the availability of effective counseling and connecting patients with Quitworks (free tobacco cessation support); and to decrease the time burden of tobacco cessation counseling on physician volunteers at the clinics so they have more time to spend on acute visits.
  • Mentoring Local Refugee Youth for Healthy Lifestyles. Students will work with the Worcester Refugee Assistance Project, a nonprofit organization that helps refugees from Burma resettle and achieve self-reliance through mentoring and advocacy. This project will enhance mentorship relationships between UMMS students and refugee youth that were fostered with support from prior MLK Semester of Service Student Awards. Students will focus on developing skills for a healthy lifestyle, including promoting healthy eating, exercising, and stress-reduction techniques.
  • Increasing STEM Career Opportunities in the Worcester Latino Community. The goal of this project is to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) awareness and education in the Latino community in the greater Worcester area by partnering with the community organization Centro Las Americas and the EcoTarium science museum to host STEM education events. Participants will employ new strategies for engaging Latinos in STEM fields while providing UMMS students with teaching opportunities.
  • Health Education in Department of Youth Services Central MA Region Correctional Facilities. This project will continue and expand a health education curriculum for teenage residents in the Department of Youth Services Central MA Region Correctional Facilities. Medical students will offer a series of health-focused workshops to provide residents with the information and skills they need to make healthy decisions both during their stay and after they leave secure treatment.

Read more about these projects and the award at