At the end of October, the University of Connecticut’s Community Health Leaders (UCHL) program opened up its annual application to pre-health students seeking clinical volunteering experience. The application can be found on the UCHL website and will remain open until Wednesday, Nov. 24.
Undergraduate students who are currently in their sophomore year or higher and have a GPA of at least 3.0 are encouraged to apply. Students from colleges and universities outside of UConn are welcome to apply as well, according to the UCHL website.
The UCHL program was created as an opportunity to teach student volunteers about social determinants of health and allow them to screen patients at various UConn Health locations, according to co-founder Jacquie Steele, a fourth-year medical student at the UConn School of Medicine.
“We decided that we wanted to create a program that addressed social determinants of health, which are the things that happen in someone’s life that affect their health — so things like access to transportation, your race, socioeconomic status, access to a telephone [and] being able to afford insurance,” Steele said in a phone interview.
The clinical volunteering aspect of the program opened in January 2020, with 20 student volunteers screening patients in the waiting room of UConn Health’s West Hartford clinic, according to Steele. In March of 2020, in-person volunteering was replaced with virtual sessions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The in-person mode of instruction was brought back in the summer of 2021.
Steele emphasized that UCHL is looking for students in the pre-health track, which includes a variety of pre-professional health programs such as medicine, social work and dentistry.
The application consists of two essay questions, with the first asking students to describe a healthcare topic important to them, and the second asking why they want to join UCHL. Students also need to submit a resume and fill out paperwork. The paperwork consists of a participation agreement, liability release form, self-guided orientation acknowledgement, confidentiality acknowledgement, training attestation and safety checklist.
“Basically, in the application we’re looking for a handful of things, one of which is just passion or readiness to learn,” Steele said. “We’re looking for people who are interested in helping the Connecticut community or the community as a whole, and people interested in learning more about health equity.”
According to Steele, clinical experience is more active than job shadowing because students can interact with patients directly rather than just listening and watching a physician.
“You have to have some sort of clinical experience depending on what health field you’re going into,” Steele said. “It also really helps students decide if this is something that they want to do… It’s the best way to learn early on if it’s something that really suits them and fills their cup.”
When asked for tips or suggestions to prospective applicants, Steele stressed the importance of filling out the required paperwork correctly.
“Our biggest thing is assuming people [who] apply filling the paperwork [out] correctly,” Steele said. “Because if it’s wrong, it’s just our easiest way to screen people out when we get so many applicants.”
More information about UCHL and the application can be found on the UCHL website