Serving the Community

Medical students, residents, and a team of other volunteers from Doctors Manitoba and MD Financial become dinner hosts for a night at Agape Table

It’s a chilly evening in late March. But it’s cozy inside the hall at All Saint’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg. A team of volunteers, including about 35 city doctors, medical students and residents, are manning a buffet service line, dishing out a dinner of pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes. They are also clearing tables and chatting with dinner guests.

agape table group

This is Agape Table, a West Broadway-based non-profit agency which feeds meals to people in need. But tonight’s dinner is special. The agency has never served dinner in its 37-year history. It has been a breakfast-and-lunch- only operation, until now. But an initiative by Doctors Manitoba, the Manitoba Medical Students’ Association, MD Financial, the Professional Association of Residents and Interns of Manitoba — has made this dinner possible.

“The guests are still talking about it,” says Dave Feniuk, the non-profit agency’s general manager, a few weeks later.

About 300 guests were served dinner that night. The residents-and-medical-students volunteer evening made a lasting impression on Matthew Campbell. He’s an associate portfolio manager with MD Financial. He also volunteered that night, clearing and cleaning tables, and talking to guests.

“Getting involved makes me think more about what’s important in life. We can often get caught up in our personal lives but doing this keeps you grounded. It lets you not take things for granted,” Campbell says. “It makes you think about life and reminds you to be grateful.” Campbell, a father of two young girls, spent part of the evening talking to a couple with two young kids as well. The conversation stands as one of the highlights of the evening for him.

Tharuna Abbu, a fourth year medical student at the University of Manitoba, also pitched in that night.

“I loved seeing people coming together as a community and treat each other with kindness and dignity,” she says.

The evening at Agape Table will help her become a better doctor, Abbu adds.

“I think in medicine, it’s easy to distance ourselves from our most vulnerable patient populations. This can really impede our ability to provide meaningful, patient- centred care, because as a practitioner, you can’t understand what your patient’s life is truly like.” says Abbu, who is soon headed to the University of British Columbia to study family medicine.

“Volunteering can help us bridge this divide, connect meaningfully with our patients, and better understand how to serve our communities,” she says.

It’s no surprise that doctors and medical students want to help and be a part of the community, says Matt Maruca, general counsel for Doctors Manitoba. He volunteered that night too.

“They care immensely about people and have a very strong desire to help anyone in need.”

The evening was also a learning experience that will improve health care long term, says Maruca.

“It gave doctors and medical students a chance to see people outside their typical environment, and to focus more on upstream health and the social determinants of health.”

It was also a chance to go “upstream and start thinking about how to prevent people from ever needing to go to the hospital or clinic,” he says.

Doctors Manitoba and its partners are planning more volunteer outreach events in the future.