UK Medical Students Pitch in to Help Others amid COVID-19 Pandemic


It was after a recent call to her grandfather when Claire Ottman realized just how vulnerable senior citizens were, not only to COVID-19, but also to the consequences of social isolation. She said some of the only times her grandfather got out of the house during the day were when friends picked him up to take him to the grocery store, lunch with his friends, and to church.

“Now, he is quarantined at home and cannot do any of those activities,” Claire said. “It broke my heart hearing how limited his life had become now, and it made me realize this was the new reality the majority of seniors are facing.”

Claire, along with Kathryn Perry, both of whom are medical students at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus, figured out a way they could help people like Claire’s grandfather. They and their fellow medical students began working with the Kentucky Grand Hotel and Spa’s Stay Strong Care Package Program, collecting donations of items for seniors such as tissues, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, snacks, books, puzzle books, and decks of cards.

By donating these items, these students aim to help senior citizens stay inside, stay healthy, and stay safe during the pandemic.

“We realized that these items are essential for this population of people,” Claire said. “I think this population did so much for us. It’s the least we can do in this situation to help them out.”

Claire said the College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus has been very responsive since she and Kathryn started collecting donations. Students have not only brought in items, but also have made cards with handwritten notes.

“Overall, I think we are all banding together during this time and find small, yet very impactful ways to help out,” Claire said.

To help with the initiative, contact the Kentucky Grand Hotel at 270-779-8988.


As child care facilities have been asked by the state to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical students have volunteered to help babysit for clinicians, nurses, and other various health care staff members who are working tirelessly to provide high-quality care for Kentuckians during this time.

"I think that during hard-hitting, grave times like these, the biggest source of anxiety and worry for most people is the safety of their family," Shruti Nanivadekar, a third-year medical student who coordinates the list of volunteers, said. "I know that if it was me, as a resident on the frontline, I would hate to have the unnecessary worry of the safety and well-being of my children and younger siblings while I was out there working long, hard hours."

Shruti got this idea by looking online on medical school forums to see how other medical students were helping out their communities, and she saw child care as a need that would arise. And it did. Since the initiative started, she has received emails from multiple faculty members asking to use the list of contacts.

"The health care workers - doctors, residents, nurses, social workers - are already working so hard, that helping out a little with child care during the day while we are working remotely was the least we could do as fellow members of the community to help with this crisis," she added.


Madeline Rukavina, a third-year medical student at UK, led a donation drive for local homeless shelters in Lexington, Ky., to help facilities in desperate need of supplies. Since making the call-out to her fellow medical students, she said several items have been collected for organizations such as Bluegrass Families First and the Hope Center. Donations have included more than 100 pairs of socks, along with sanitation wipes, laundry detergent, infant formula, diapers, toilet paper, and more. 

"I know these organizations and many others in Lexington are still desperate for more of these types of items right now," Madeline said, so she encourages those interested in helping to do so by donating to local shelters. A list of items still needed can be found on the websites for the Hope Center and Bluegrass Families First. Madeline said both organizations can have someone come to your trunk to collect the donations to maintain social distancing protocols.