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MedLinks: 10 Years And Still Going Strong

By Veena Ramaswamy

associate features editor

The MedLinks program is looking back and looking forward as it celebrates its ten year anniversary.

This term, MedLinks has increased its publicity efforts and recruitment in hopes that more students will become actively involved in the program.

“It’s about friends helping friends, students helping students. No one understands you more than another student. That’s why this program works so well,” said MedLink coordinator and MIT Medical Assistant Health Coordinator Julie A. Banda.

MedLinks is a student run peer advocacy program sponsored by MIT Medical that trains students to serve as liaisons between MIT Medical and the student body. There are currently around 90 MedLinks.

Efforts increase student awareness

One major program requirement is an 8-week training program where MedLinks members are trained in listening and communication skills, MIT Medical policies, procedures and resources and other health topics such as eating disorders and alcohol problems.

Many MedLinks involved in the program find it very rewarding.

“I joined because I thought it sounded like a pretty good program being able to help people out,” said MedLink Diana L. Lam ’04.

“We want people to feel comfortable to come and ask us questions on health related issues. We are here to help,” MedLink Weifeng Victoria Lee ’06 said.

Not all dorms have MedLinks

Many MedLinks give medical advice to their friends. Coordinators are looking to expand the population MedLinks serves though a heightened advertising campaign promoting the program’s services and recruiting new members.

“It’s been really exciting, with the publicity we’ve seen a lot of interest from people who want to become MedLinks. Having a MedLink in a living group or a dorm is a really valuable asset. And there are currently a couple of dorms and living groups that have no MedLinks,” Banda said.

If every living group and dorm has at least one MedLink, it will be more likely that students will know their MedLinks and feel comfortable enough with them to seek their help.

“So many people are hesitant to approach us or go to MIT Medical. We wish more people sought our help or just came and talked to us,” MedLink Lisa J. Mroszczyk ’04 said.

“The more people we train, the greater the chance we will have of people knowing the MedLinks personally. This will give them more of a reason to seek the MedLinks out,” Laura Stuart, MedLink coordinator and MIT Medical Health Educator, said.

Dorms currently without MedLinks include New House, Random Hall, Senior House. There are also several Living Groups without MedLinks.

RAAs don’t have to be MedLinks

For the past few years with Residence Based Advising (RBA), Resident Associate Advisors (RAA) have been required to be MedLinksm but this policy will no longer be in place for the fall semester.

RAA’s will still be trained by MIT Medical, but in different areas than the MedLinks program normally covers. Such areas for RAA’s will include health related issues such as eating disorders and dealing with stress.

“RAA’s will have training catered to their exact needs. This way they’ll get the benefit of training from MIT Medical but they don’t have the requirement of becoming active MedLinks,” Banda said.

Stratton to house siesta room

MedLinks will ameliorate the MIT student population’s end-of-the-term health woes by transforming Twenty Chimneys in the Student Center into a “Siesta Room” on Monday and Tuesday. There will be beds for students to take a snooze from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Thursday, the “Siesta Room” will be moved to the Mezzanine Lounge.

“This is the first time we’re doing this. It should give people a nice place to nap rather than napping on desks or tables at the student center. And we’ll have people there to wake you up when you’d like,” Lam said.