COVID-19 fundraiser organizers reflect on med students’ role in global health
by Emma Mattson
In early May 2021, in the middle of an intense Brain, Behavior & Movement block, one question was simmering in M1 Shreyas Krishnapura’s head:
How could the Vanderbilt community contribute to COVID-19 relief in India, which was being particularly hard hit by the pandemic?
Now, six weeks later, the fundraiser organized by Krishnapura and M2 Maddy Ball has raised over $2,600. By the time the fundraiser officially closed on Friday, June 18, more than 50 individuals had contributed.
All proceeds went to the Chinmaya Mission, a non-profit organization with offices in India and in the U.S. Chinmaya Mission will distribute the funds to various hospitals in India to provide PPE and other needed supplies.
The fundraiser extended beyond medical students and into the larger Vanderbilt community as well, supported by the School of Medicine deans.
“The deans were extremely supportive in trying to get this fundraiser hosted on the VUMC side, and we were really excited about that kind of support,” Krishnapura said. “That really made the fundraiser larger than what it could have been.”
The organizers shared about the fundraiser through emails to the student body, the VUMC newsletter, and a public-facing website.
“When you log on and you see the donor site, you can see Vanderbilt University Medical Center right up there in the top left-hand corner, and that holds a lot of weight,” Krishnapura said. “A lot of people saw that and knew that this was going to a worthy cause. I’m very happy that the deans advocated for us and that the medical center was so willing to collaborate.”
Per fundraiser organizer Maddy Ball, institutional support from VUSM deans provided visibility and encouragement to the initiative.
“The amount of institutional support gave validity to our fundraiser in a way that sending out a Venmo request to people doesn’t,” Ball said. “That is a way to generate a lot of funds, but this way we had a legitimate website where people can donate to.”
Krishnapura, who has family in India, said that the warmth of the VUSM community touched him personally.
“After the newsletter and through the emails that we sent to the school, a lot of people reached out to me and said, ‘Oh, I didn’t even realize the situation was this bad. I hope your family’s doing well. I’m definitely going to donate to this,’” Krishnapura said. “It felt much more personal, in that sense, because people recognized there are people directly being affected by this issue.”
Though this fundraiser has officially closed, the need for medical supplies and support remains great in India. If you’d like to continue giving throughout the crisis, Krishnapura recommends contributing to GiveIndia, a trusted giving platform for causes in India.
“If people are still interested in donating, there’s still amazing other organizations out there— organizations that we didn’t end up working with but that could use the support as well,” Ball said. “Even though the cases are still going down, this is going to be a need and a challenge that India continues to face beyond the end of this specific fundraiser.”
And, Ball said, initiatives like this fit right into the overall calling to be a med student.
“It’s easy to get so caught up in medical school that you sometimes forget about these other issues,” Ball said. “The reason we’re in medical school is to hopefully alleviate some of these issues long term, so why not do it now while we’re in medical school?”