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Student Spotlights

Community Leadership Mentor Program provides future physicians a rare crash course in nonprofit community service

Jan. 24, 2013

Future physicians with an interest in professionally serving their community recently took a step closer to their career goals at a workshop designed to educate medical students about nonprofit organizations.

Fourteen students from the IU School of Medicine’s Indianapolis and Lafayette campuses visited the United Way of Central Indiana Jan. 12 to hear local experts in the nonprofit field discuss topics such as nonprofit board and staff member roles, leadership models and fundraising. The workshop is part of a larger educational program, the Community Leadership Mentor Program, a student-led project at the IU School of Medicine sponsored by the school’s Office of Medical Service-Learning in partnership with the United Way.

"Physicians are really in a unique position to serve nonprofit boards," said Katherine Miller, a second-year medical student and co-chair of the Community Leadership Mentor Program. "Not only are they educated in health care, but they’re able to learn about the challenges facing the most vulnerable in the community through the intimate relationships formed through their profession."

Community Leadership Mentor Program workshop participants

IU School of Medicine students participated in a Community Leadership Mentor Program workshop on Jan. 12.

Established in 1999, this type of nonprofit board leadership program remains distinct among medical schools, according to Stephen Kirchhoff, program co-advisor and director of the Office of Medical Service-Learning.

"Although their talents will be highly valuable to the communities they serve after graduation, it’s rare for medical students to have an opportunity to learn more about board governance and the intricacies of running a not-for-profit organization," added Toni Lin, M.D., an assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at the IU School of Medicine who participant in the program nearly 10 years ago and now serves as its co-advisor. "This program is unique on a national level."

A highlight of the Jan. 12 event included a keynote address from Kenneth Klotz, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine and a physician at Wishard Memorial Hospital, who shared his volunteer experiences with area free clinics and international medical mission trips.

"I really learned a lot from the presentations about the attitudes and skills that are required of a member of a nonprofit board," said Danyal Fer, a second-year medical student and president of the IU School of Medicine Class of 2016, who attended the session. "This sort of service deepens skills in management, and working with others, that will be useful throughout our practice."

First-year students in the Community Leadership Mentor Program will make three site visits to United Way-affiliated nonprofit organizations in the spring. Through its affiliating with the United Way, medical students are given the opportunity to observe at nearly 30 agencies devoted to serving the Indianapolis community, including the Indianapolis Urban League, Lafayette Crisis Center, YMCA and La Plaza.

In the second year of the program, IU School of Medicine students in the program will actively observe board and committee meetings at their chosen agency. Fer notes his top choices include the American Red Cross due to his interest in disaster preparedness and recovery, and Techpoint, an agency that fosters the technology sector of Indianapolis.

In the final two years of medical school, Community Leadership Mentor Program members will have the opportunity to become more actively involved with the chosen agency board. 

"This program has not only taught me about how nonprofit boards are run, but also the many wonderful agencies that are dedicated to serving the people of Indianapolis," said Miller, who served last year at St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services and Child Advocates, an adoption placement and services agency. "It’s really helped expand my view of the ways in which physicians can become involved in their communities

"I used imagined myself only in the role of a volunteer at a free clinic," he added. "Now, while I still hope to serve in that capacity as a physician, I’m also eager to explore the many other ways in which physicians can use their skills as volunteers."

In addition to Fer, this year’s program participants include first-year medical students Ethan Ferguson, Ben Hendricks, Neil Keshvani, John Mayo, Katie Meyer, Frank Rutigliano and Ben Wahle and second-year medical students Ryan Kammeyer, Sarah Kleiman, Laura Palmer, Laura Secor, Anne Wanaselja and Jennifer Weekes. The other co-chair of the program is Brian O’Neill, a second-year medical student.

Moreover, Lucas Buchler, a fourth-year medical student and former participate in Community Leadership Mentor Program, recently earned an IUPUI Service Learning Assistant Scholarship to survey other program alumni about how their experiences have influenced their leadership roles on nonprofit boards, and other community service projects, now that they’ve entered clinical practice.

"The results are expected to be published in the coming year," said Kirchhoff, who will help guide the date-collection project. "We’re hoping the survey results can be used to demonstrate the value of developing a similar program at other schools."

The Office of Medical Service-Learning promotes a lifelong commitment to community service through innovative service-learning experiences.

Students interested in joining the Community Leadership Mentor Program can contact program co-chairs, Miller, at, or O'Neill, at

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