**Published in Progress in Community Health Partnerships (PCHP) 16.2S. All rights reserved.**
BACKGROUND: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, medical students organized grassroots volunteer initiatives to address community-level needs. These required community partnerships and extra-institutional resources to effectively operate. Due to curricular constraints, these efforts often lacked familiarity and working knowledge of existing university infrastructure on how to engage with established community partnerships and resources.
OBJECTIVES: The authors call for institutions to capitalize upon the response experience gained by medical students during the pandemic. This includes: (1) formally integrating the infrastructure and community relationships established by student COVID-19 volunteer initiatives into existing university community-engagement systems, and (2) incorporating Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) into medical student curricula as a framework for community engagement and disaster response.
METHODS: A case study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) presents student COVID-19 response initiatives, their outcomes, and how their approach emulated the ABCD model. The ABCD model asserts that communities should employ “Asset Mapping” to identify the skills and resources of community members, rather than using “deficiency-oriented” approaches. Further, the case study demonstrates how the use of an established ABCD model could have contributed to a more effective and efficient COVID-19 student response.
CONCLUSIONS: Experiences at UNMC support the value of utilizing a modified ABCD model to facilitate community relationships related to rapid health response. Formal integration of the ABCD model within a university’s centralized Office of Community Engagement will increase access and foster town-gown reciprocal relationships, empowering students, academic health centers, and surrounding communities in times of crisis and calm.