Everyone knows that medical students are some of the busiest people in the world.

That’s why it is amazing when you learn how much time UTMB third-year medical student Greg Valentine has consistently devoted to community service projects since he arrived in Galveston three years ago, just before Hurricane Ike. On top of all his classes, studies and clinical responsibilities, he rarely spends less than 20 hours a week on community service.  
Bahar Ravandi, Greg Valentine and Tasia Newton, medical students from UTMB, talk to fourth-grade students during their weekly meeting for the Sir William Osler Name That Book Competition that Valentine created. Photo courtesy Jennifer Reynolds/Galveston County Daily News.
In 2009, Valentine, a passionate community organizer, was named an Unsung Hero by the Galveston County Daily News--in part for his volunteer work in the wake of Hurricane Ike--and in part for founding the Hands and Feet Medical Mission, a program that sends teams of medical students every other month to the Texas/Mexico border to offer free medical services to indigent patients.
And those are only a couple of his volunteer projects.
Last year he was named one of UTMB Health’s Osler Student Scholars, and awarded a $10,000 per year scholarship for the second, third, and fourth years of medical school. The Osler program stresses the importance for medical professionals of the ideals of community service, humility, empathy and academic excellence.
Even as he continued to spearhead Hands and Feet, this past September Valentine launched yet another full-blown new community initiative—the Sir William Osler Name That Book Competition for third- and fourth-grade GISD students.
The program has challenged students from Oppe, Parker, Early Childhood University and Morgan elementary schools to compete with each other as experts on the content of 35 select books.
Every week since September, Valentine has dispatched teams of UTMB Osler Society medical students to each of the four participating elementary schools to tutor and mentor the children in preparation for a culminating event—a Jeopardy-like competition that pits teams from each school against each other to determine which school has amassed the most literary expertise over its five months of participation in the Valentine reading project.
Photo courtesy Jennifer Reynolds/Galveston County Daily News.
“This program has been a fantastic push for my students to experience books they never would have chosen to read on their own,” says Patricia McAllister, a fourth-grade teacher at Oppe School whose class is participating in the reading program.
But just as valuable as the academic challenge are the human connections that have formed between med students and elementary students.
“Having you guys come and help us is what I like the best,” BenClore, an Oppe fourth grader, told the medical students.
“This is my favorite thing that I do,” said medical student Tasia Newton. “The kids get so excited it warms my heart. This is my perfect study break. I am so glad that Greg came up with this program.”
Valentine is committed to the idea of changing children’s lives. Even before he arrived at UTMB Health, he became involved with the Fundatia Broken Heart Orphanage in Bucharest, Romania as a side venture during an undergraduate study abroad trip. He continues to make yearly mission visits to the orphanage and maintains ongoing telephone and email mentoring contact.
The new reading project with children in Galveston “has just helped reinforce and reaffirm that pediatrics is the field for me,” said Valentine.
“Greg is a very idealistic young man who wants to make a difference in the lives of the communities where he works,” said Dr. Patricia Beach, an Osler Faculty Scholar who helped Valentine develop the Galveston reading program.
Beach, along with numerous other UTMB Health faculty members, offered not only advice, but financial support from her endowment for Valentine’s reading program.
Valentine raised more than $3,000 from numerous different Osler Society and Scholar sources  to purchase books, teaching supplies, contest incentives, and other materials to bring his program to life. He worked with fellow med student Sean Paschall to organize the reading program with the goal that Paschall, a Blackwell Osler Society member, take over as the leader of the program next year.
“This is not just a one-time thing,” said Valentine, “We’re putting a system in place to insure this reading competition will keep on going year after year.”
“Greg is one of the students who has a deep and abiding interest in making the world a better place,” said Cheryl Vaiani, assistant professor of medical ethics in the Institute for Medical Humanities and fellow Schweitzer Society member with Valentine.
His latest award is the 2011 American Medical Association Foundation Excellence in Medicine Leadership Award; he was chosen as one of the top 24 medical students in the nation who “exemplify the medical profession’s highest values: commitment to service, community involvement, altruism, leadership and dedication to patient care.”
“He is a great example of the medical professional of the future,” said Vaiani.