OUWB volunteers step up at local church on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
An image of the group of OUWB students who volunteered on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Students, staff, and administration from OUWB pause for a group photo while cleaning Welcome Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 15, 2024.

Not even single digit temps could keep about 20 members of the OUWB community from giving back to the community Monday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Students, staff, and administration from the school spent the morning at Welcome Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac.

The OUWB community members vacuumed, dusted, polished furniture, wiped windows, mopped the large fellowship hall, cleaned the kitchen, and more.

It was all part of the school’s commitment to annually participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service.

Christopher Carpenter, M.D., Stephan Sharf Interim Dean, was among those who vacuumed large parts of the church. He even continued vacuuming after all the students had left.

“Community service is a part of OUWB culture,” he said. “Combining this type of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day allows students to connect with the community in a way that is more unique.”

An image of Dr. Carpenter talking with student Sara Lee

OUWB Dean Christopher Carpenter, M.D., chats with Serly Tomas, M1, at Welcome Missionary Baptist Church on Jan. 15, 2024.

He added that he hopes the day also helped students understand that there are opportunities to serve “in all areas of life and they should be seeking out opportunities whenever they can.”

That’s one big reason Carpenter said it was important for him to be at the Pontiac church on Monday.

“I wanted to not only show the students that I support them…(but) that they should be striving to continue this kind of service throughout their careers,” he said.

OUWB students generally expressed an appreciation for — and understanding of the importance of — such service opportunities.

Nick Belair, M1, cleaned the church pew with Pledge. He said the service work he does at OUWB is a continuation of volunteering he did as an undergraduate in Eugene, Oregon.

Belair said doing service work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has special meaning.

“Dr. King was the epitome of a community leader,” he said.

“I just think of service as a very important aspect of medicine. Doing community service on MLK Day…reminds you of what it means to be part of a community and especially someone who’s not from this area it’s nice to build connections with new people and become part of the community.”

Max Kuang, M2, said he considered it important to serve on Monday. Among the various cleaning tasks he performed, Kuang helped clean the church kitchen.

“It shows that, as medical students, we care about the greater community,” he said. “When I’m a doctor, I plan to play a major part in my community and be seen as a community leader…and not just work in a clinical setting.”

Sarah Nortelus, M1, took a break from mopping part of the kitchen to explain that she “really likes to volunteer and give back to the community.”

“I thought what better way to do it than today, which is a day of service and we don’t have classes,” she said. “I’m excited that OUWB participates and wanted to be part of it.”

An image of OUWB students who volunteered at Martin Luther King Jr. event

From left, Sarah Nortelus, Sara Trumza, and Jookta Basu, all M1s, pause for a photo while helping clean Welcome Missionary Baptist Church on Jan. 15, 2024.

Nortelus said it’s important to instill the importance of service in medical students so that they continue to be involved in their communities as doctors.

Sara Trumza, M1, said volunteering has been a big part of her journey to medical school.

“I wanted to keep up with that when I started med school,” she said. “I’m happy that there’s time to volunteer still, and that OUWB participates in this day of service.”

Trumza said that she believes being a good physician means “really connecting with your community and understanding where your patients are coming from.”

“It all helps you be more empathetic, and understanding, and provide more compassionate care,” she said.

Cleaning Welcome Missionary Baptist Church was the lone opportunity for such service after inclement weather forced cancellation of several others planned on Saturday and Monday.

Still, Trixy Hall, coordinator, Graduate Programs and Community Outreach, said she’s always looking for opportunities for OUWB to get involved in giving back.

OUWB’s mission, in fact, is “to develop compassionate physicians who are dedicated to improving the health of their communities, collaboration, and lifelong learning.”

“If people don’t give back, what kind of world would this be?” she said. “If we don’t help others, we will be a stagnated community.”

Hall said she hopes the opportunity helped build their compassion and “realize that service does make a difference.”

People like Willie Shaw, facilities manager, Welcome Missionary Baptist Church, confirmed that volunteers like those from OUWB on Monday do make a difference.

“A lot of people use today as a day off and relax,” he said. “But not these students…they are really motivated and did a beautiful, wonderful job. I’m really impressed by OUWB.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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