T he Rotaract Club of A.T. Still University is made up entirely of medical students who are reaching beyond individual patients to serve the entire city of Kirksville, Missouri, USA.
"Our school encourages students to be active in the community," says Alicia Apple, a third-year medical student who served as club president in 2009-10. "It's important as physicians to pay attention to people around us and be active in their lives outside medicine. Rotaract gives us the best opportunity to accomplish that."
While it's no secret that medical students spend most of their time learning and studying, Apple says, club members are dedicated to finding time for making tangible improvements to Kirksville, home of RI President Ray Klinginsmith.
One of the club's most visible contributions was designing, building, and raising money for a nine-hole disc golf course at a local park.
Rotaractors also have made an annual commitment to maintaining the Centennial Energy Trail, which was constructed and dedicated during Rotary International's 100th year. The trail is located next to a large nursing home and senior living facility.
"The addition of the disc golf course transformed a passive park into a very active and invigorating park," says Ron Gaber, a member of the Rotary Club of Kirksville and the Rotaract club’s faculty adviser. "It's just one of dozens of other community and Rotary club projects they have been involved in."
Jessica Kim, president of the A.T. Still club, says she was delighted when she learned that there was a Rotaract club affiliated with the university. Kim's experience as a Rotaractor, including her interactions with fellow members and local Rotarians, has strengthened her desire to one day join a Rotary club.
"I found it wonderful that Rotarians came from all walks of life -- from all educational and vocational backgrounds that shared the same goal of helping and serving others," Kim says. "As future physicians, we have the same priorities. I look forward to combining my work as a doctor and Rotarian to improve lives. I'm very fortunate to be associated with Rotary."
The A.T. Still club's unique membership will enhance the future of Rotary, Gaber says. The club designed and implemented a mentoring program that connects Rotaractors with Rotarian doctors so they can see firsthand the impact physicians have had on the worldwide medical field through Rotary.
"Rotarian physicians are well known for their humanitarian service offered in underdeveloped countries as well as their exemplary service in their community," Gaber says. "Mentorship is used to recruit physicians-in-training to become future Rotarians and to be of service to the needy."
Apple was the first Rotaractor to be selected for the program. She spent a week last summer with pediatrician Scott Cyrus, a member of the Rotary Club of Tulsa Sunrise, Oklahoma, as he made rounds at three hospitals.
She was especially impressed with the international work Cyrus has carried out because of his ties to Rotary.
"The program was a huge learning experience for me and opened up my eyes to what it means to be a Rotarian doctor," Apple says. "Their influence locally and internationally has inspired me to follow in their footsteps."