As a first-year medical student at Wayne State University in 2019, Dhruvil Patel dove headfirst into the community service opportunities given to students at the School of Medicine. He kicked off that year volunteering as clinic coordinator for Auntie Na’s Student Organization before serving as co-vice president, and eventually, president.
The student organization is a partner of Auntie Na’s Village, a nonprofit community development organization in west Detroit that includes a free student-run clinic providing underserved community members access to primary care. As part of Auntie Na’s, in 2019 Patel helped secure $25,000 from the Ford College Community Challenge, which was used during the COVID-19 pandemic to deliver food boxes during the lockdown. He later helped build a jogging track there.
“Auntie Na herself, the community champion that I had worked with, was incredibly supportive of opportunities for students to contribute to her non-profit. It is incredibly rare for those who have put their lives toward this work to trust students like me, but she welcomed us with open arms,” he said.
Now in his fourth and final year of medical school, the Class of 2023’s Patel is still a learning community coordinator, leading his Grey learning community’s research initiative and assisting in developing the school’s first peer mentoring program. He also is a founding member and project architect for the Wayne State University Global Health Research Collaborative. During the last three years the collaborative has trained more than 50 students from 20 countries in global health research principles and provided them mentorship opportunities.
“I think I could have only found such relationships within the community due to the history of service that Wayne State has,” he said. “Throughout my years here, at every level in this school, there is a willingness to go beyond our daily duties, not for our personal gain, but for the service of others, and this is a trait I look to continue emulating throughout my career.”
Patel’s efforts during the last four years earned him the Excellence in Public Health Award from the United States Public Health Service Physicians Professional Advisory Committee. He will receive the award from United States Public Health Service Representative and U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Gregory Scherle, M.D., at an event hosted by the USPHS at 4:30 p.m. May 11 in the Margherio Family Conference Center.
The awards program recognizes medical students who advance public health and those who exemplify the USPHS mission to protect, promote and advance the health and safety of the nation. The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service is dedicated to leading the nation’s public health promotion and disease prevention programs and to advancing public health science.
Patel was nominated for the award by School of Medicine administration.
“I am very honored to be nominated by the school and elated to be a recipient,” he said. “I cannot thank enough both my peer and faculty mentors, especially Dr. Jennifer Mendez, Dr. Joel Appel, Dr. Eric Ayers and Dr. Vijaya Arun Kumar, for the numerous hours they spent taking the time to provide the opportunities and encouraging both myself and my peers throughout this year. I also want to thank Sonia Brown, aka Auntie Na, for taking the time to work with both me and my peers to bring new resources into the Nardin Park community.”
Patel is expected to graduate with his medical degree in June. He has spent eight years in Detroit to get to this point.
“Being at Wayne State for both my undergraduate and medical school, I really can't thank enough the many advocates and members of both faculty and my peers for constantly striving to do something for the surrounding community,” he said. “A passion for service is palpable here. From the start of my first year, when we were integrated into community medical clinics, to the various student organizations having incredibly trustworthy and meaningful partnerships with community organizations and their champions, really encouraged me to find a place where I can contribute.”
Patel also credited his ongoing role in community service to his senior peers from the Auntie Na’s Student Organization he met early in medical school – specifically alumni Zaid Mohsen, M.D.; Laxman Mulpuri, M.D.; Nona Bhatia, M.D.; and Will Banks, M.D. – who helped him see what medical students are capable of in “giving back to the community, and providing me with immense encouragement and support to continue growing our initiatives.”