As a medical student here at the University of Michigan there are plenty of ways that we can give back to our community. From Wolverine Street Medicine, a group that provides healthcare to the homeless, to UMAC, a group that advocates for survivors of human rights abuses, to the dedicated students who run our Student-Run Free Clinic – helping others is in our blood. However – I might be a bit biased, but – no other event combines giving back to our community with as much fun, holiday cheer, and wacky tradition as Galens Tag Days.
What is Galens Tag Days, you ask? Tag Days is a large-scale fundraiser for children’s charities and organizations in our local county. Every year, medical students disperse throughout the hospital and the city wearing red ponchos and silly onesies. Looking like this, it’s hard for passersby to ignore our charming requests – and when they learn about our mission and the organizations we support, the donations come rolling in!
Every year, we raise tens of thousands of dollars in small donations from generous Ann Arbor supporters, and in exchange they receive a fashionable red, green or *maize* tag that they can tie to their coat zipper or dog’s collar! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our yearly fundraiser was moved entirely online in 2020, so we were especially excited to be back in person this year!
In addition to supporting a great cause (For The Kids! is the slogan of Tag Days), there are other compelling reasons for medical students to get involved in this event. Our incredible medical school faculty and staff drive around the town in “Happy Vans” or pull a “Happy Wagon” around the hospital, distributing snacks and beverages to warm our bodies and spirits during our cold shifts outside. It certainly makes our attendings less intimidating on the wards after we’ve played several rounds of chubby bunny with them outside the hospital.
Some faculty combinations have been going strong for years, and the competition between rival vans is real (I won’t name names, but this year there might have been a legendary van theft in the middle of a shift!) Happy Van Drivers include head of the pulmonary sequence for M1 students, transplant surgeons, and our very own Dean for Student Services, and it’s so special to get to know them in this unique context.
In addition to creating lasting memories with your med school best friends, Tag Days also allows you another opportunity to get to know students in other classes. As an M1, sharing a tagging experience with an M4 can create a lifelong connection with a future IM physician at Penn or OB/GYN at Northwestern (speaking from experience here!)
So – we have an excuse to break away from UWorld, support a great cause, get to authentically know attendings and build friendships and memories across the medical school – what’s not to love?
Although Tag Days 2021 is behind us (**online donations still accepted through December, details below), the most exciting part of this tradition is just around the corner! In January and February, we will allocate the funds raised during Tag Days 2020. That means we have the responsibility and privilege of distributing the nearly $80,000 that was raised last year!
Organizations we have funded in the past include Girls Group, Children’s Literacy Network, Student Advocacy Center, and the Leslie Science and Nature Center, and some of the projects and events we helped fund can be found on our Instagram page. Stay tuned to see where this year’s donations will go!
**Interested in supporting Tag Days? Donations can be made online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/tagdays2021 or you can Venmo us @GalensTagDays. We’re getting close to our goal and every donation helps!
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Curtis Kuo is a third-year student who just started his grad school years in the MD/PhD program. Curtis was a Junior Czar for this year’s Tag Days, which means he’ll be around next year as well! When not tagging, you can find Curtis in the lab working on his pipette skills, or playing the cello as a part of the infamous Smoker band!
Victoria Gomez is a fourth-year student applying into Internal Medicine and was a Senior Czar for this year’s Tag Days! She’s currently in the midst of interview season, but when she’s not in a blazer you can find her hosting a themed dinner party or exploring a new dog walk with her puppy, Maisie!