A time to serve

Medical students: Get tips on hosting service fundraisers at your school

Using their spring fundraising project as an example, SOMA members outline steps other students can follow for successful service projects.


As aspiring osteopathic physicians, we have social duties that extend beyond the clinic and hospital walls. We are called to be both health care professionals and community leaders. The AOA’s Code of Ethics notes that physicians are responsible for participating in community activities and services.

To give medical students a head start in this area, the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) encourages medical students to contribute to their communities by planning different local and national outreach projects throughout the year, including a large collaborative fundraising event once a year.

Across the country, SOMA student leaders from different osteopathic medical schools work together every spring to raise money for the same cause. SOMA cohorts are divided into regions, and this year, students at the osteopathic medical schools on the Eastern Seaboard dedicated their spring semester fundraiser to Parkinson’s disease research.

Pancakes for Parkinson’s is a fundraising and community outreach project established by The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), an organization devoted to raising money for and supporting Parkinson’s disease research. Various groups around the country hold Pancakes for Parkinson’s events, where they serve pancakes, raise money for MJFF and educate the public on the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder affecting more than five million people worldwide, according to MJFF. Over 60,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States every year. Although this disease doesn’t yet have a cure, research has led to innovative therapies that have improved patients’ lives. MJFF has contributed over $450 million to Parkinson’s research to date.

Pancakes for Parkinson's materials adorn a table at an event at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine-Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

Want to host your own event?

So far, 11 osteopathic medical schools have held Pancakes for Parkinson’s events. To provide tips for other students who want to host this event in the future, here’s a step-by-step outline of the process. Students interested in other causes can use a modified version of the outline.

1) Register: We started by registering our different teams on the MJFF website and requesting promotional gear such a large banner, flyers and pamphlets with information on Parkinson’s disease.

2) Enlist the help of faculty and your community: Next, we reached out to school administrators, community members and small businesses. They helped us collect griddles, batter and other materials we needed to cook massive amounts of pancakes.

3) Secure an event location: This could be a school cafeteria, a local church or another community space.

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4) Recruit volunteers: You’ll probably need to have additional hands on deck to assist in cooking the pancakes on the day of the event. Talk to your teachers, and don’t forget to remind fellow students that the time will be counted toward their accrued community service hours.

5) Put together an education plan: Give away pamphlets, recruit your neurology teacher to give a short lecture, or invite a Parkinson’s patient to discuss his or her experience with the disease. A Parkinson’s patient who is now symptom-free as a result of the advances in deep brain stimulation spoke at an event held by SOMA leaders at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine-Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He told the audience how important Parkinson’s research is to treating and curing the disease.

6) Cook pancakes! On the day of the event, we charged attendees $3 to $5 per plate of pancakes, which we served with various toppings such as strawberry, blueberry and banana. Don’t be afraid to spice things up by naming your pancake platters after popular teachers or administrators (with their permission, of course!).

7) Raise money: Set a fundraising goal and encourage people to donate before and after the event.

About 120 people attended each event that the 11 East Coast SOMA chapters hosted on their respective campuses. We have collected about $4,100 in donations for MJFF and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and educated more than 1,500 people about the disease. The student leaders at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine, actually received so much donated supplies that they gave the surplus to a local shelter once the event was over. Pancakes for Parkinson’s was not only a way to raise awareness on Parkinson’s disease, but also an opportunity for students to show their communities what they stand for as future osteopathic physicians.

One comment

  1. Charidy

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