Catching up with the Medical Student Council president

Sarah Kemp is a fourth-year medical student and the president of the Medical Student Council at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The student council brings together representatives from across the Medical School — including from the Duluth campus —  to enhance the educational experience for all students. We sat down with Kemp to talk about the council’s focus and one of the biggest issues facing medical students today.

You’re making students’ mental health and well-being a priority during your time as president. Why is that?

Encouraging medical students to take care of themselves is a big priority in medical education and at medical schools everywhere. The stresses and demands we face tend to aggravate any underlying mental health issues that students might have, and they also make it harder for us to do the things that would alleviate some of that stress. We’re in a hard position.

What can the student council do about that?

We’re giving all students an opportunity to voice their ideas about what the best version of medical school looks like. Then we can take those ideas to leadership and say, “Here’s what we’d like to see moving forward.”

For some people, just having a day off to do errands is a huge stress reliever, and giving them that time to themselves is important. Other people want more support from their peers, and so we’ve hosted forums where students can come together and talk about what’s difficult. We then make sure that everyone who needs a person to talk to has a person to talk to. 

How have Medical School leaders responded to your ideas?

Dean Jakub Tolar has been very supportive, and it’s clear that our well-being is one of his priorities, which means a lot to us. He and the other deans have helped us increase communication among everyone at the Medical School. For example, if there’s an event about health and wellness within the Medical School, the course directors know to let students attend, no questions asked. It’s a small thing, but it’s important. 

And they want to hear our ideas. I email them directly and always get a response back, and they have open office hours, when we can just walk in and have a conversation. There are a lot of people here who are invested in making medical school a positive experience for all of us.

What do you enjoy most about being a student at the Medical School?

Some people are hesitant about applying here because it’s a bigger medical school. But I think in some ways, it’s easier to be an individual here because we have access to so many resources at the University and within the Twin Cities. It’s really easy for us to find our own path, and that leads to a lot of awesome opportunities.  

Published on October 17, 2018

(Photo: Scott Streble)

Medical School Student Council by the numbers

40+ members

1,000+ students represented

10-15 representatives from each class

10 representatives from Duluth campus