On a cold, blustery Saturday morning, A.T. Still University-Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM) student Nathan Boys, OMS II, stood inside the University’s Interprofessional Education Building and surveyed the icy scene outside.
The inhospitable weather was a reminder why he and other ATSU Rotaract members were there. Joined by Kirksville, Missouri’s three professional Rotary clubs, as well as college and high school Rotary organization members, the day’s mission was clear – help people stay warm to improve their health.
“Warm Up Kirksville” was an event organized by ATSU Rotaract members to provide 90 blankets to the Community Mission in Kirksville. Those blankets will land in the hands of those who need them most during the winter weeks ahead.
Wyatt Eikermann, OMS II, ATSU Rotaract’s event coordinator, attended the Rotary Leadership Institute last fall. While participating in a discussion about community involvement and knowing the Community Mission was low on blankets, an idea took shape. The student organization made a $200 donation to the project and local Rotary clubs matched, providing an $800 pool for materials.
That was enough for 60 blankets and Elsie Gaber, a member of Kirksville’s Thousand Hills Rotary Club and former ATSU employee, donated materials for another 30. Then, volunteers gathered and got to work.
“We were all in there cutting and tying,” Eikermann said. “It was good to have collaboration between every part of Rotary, from the youth to actual Rotary members.”
It all ties back to one of the reasons Boys, Eikermann, and others are at ATSU-KCOM.
“It really helps us give back to our patient base, those in need who can’t afford the basic necessities of generalized health. If you don’t have warmth, you can’t function with almost anything else. Your drive to survive is focused on that warmth,” Eikermann said. “We were able to provide some of that warmth and now they can keep going with generalized health concerns they would have, and maybe put more focus on things that should have been a priority to start with.
“It ties in well with our osteopathic philosophy. It’s about the whole person.”
ATSU Rotaract organizes activities in local senior centers, volunteers with the Community Mission, and more.
Boys, ATSU Rotaract’s president, said volunteering allows him to step back and gain a broader perspective.
“Sometimes we can get so bogged down in the quiz that’s happening this afternoon, the pathways you have to learn, disease presentations,” he said. “This is a good way for me to remember we’re taking care of people. That’s why we got into it. We’re healers of people who want to help people. That just feeds that fire that I think we all have, to take care of the whole person and not just one aspect of their life.”
Boys had his first involvement in Rotary while in high school, when he attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Association. He took part in an ATSU Rotaract event halfway through his second semester in his first year at ATSU-KCOM and has been with the organization ever since.
His only regret is not getting involved earlier.
“Your time is important, but it’s also about how you spend your time. This is a really good way to spend your time. I feel like I enjoy school even more when I’m able to volunteer and give back,” Boys said. “Just jump in and get involved. You meet so many people in Kirksville. We’re not just part of the University, we’re part of the community. We’re not just doctors of a clinic, we’re doctors of the community. Being able to get that foundation, make those connections, really has been beneficial for us, probably more than I know right now. Don’t be afraid to get involved.”
Both Boys and Eikermann plan to stay involved with Rotaract and eventually join service clubs as professionals, having seen the value of volunteering and truly connecting with a community. They want that same deep connection as practicing physicians.
“If you don’t know the populations you’ll eventually be taking care of, you won’t know how to effectively take care of them,” Eikermann said.