Hooked on Medicine: Goup founded by M2 promotes crocheting, creativity and well-being
Medical student OreOluwa “Comfort” Aluko created Hooked on Medicine to connect with peers and give back to the community through her favorite hobby.
January 9, 2024
In a quiet study lounge in early January, a half-dozen medical students sit around at various tables in a makeshift circle with crochet hooks and knitting needles in their hands, yarn in their laps. As always, there are bags of extra yarn and plenty of spare crochet hooks at the front of the room, available for anyone who needs it. It's the first week back after the winter break, so the students chat about the holidays and upcoming semester as they work on knitted beanies and crocheted animals.
Hooked on Medicine (HoM), a student interest group for anyone interested in crocheting and knitting, is both a creative and social outlet for students and faculty. Founded by the Class of 2026's OreOluwa "Comfort" Aluko, the group offers students and faculty a creative outlet as a way to reduce stress at twice-monthly meetings called "Thread Thursdays.” Members gather to crochet, knit, chat and relax — it’s a quiet break in the day and allows students to get away from the regular excitement of medical school life. The group donates crocheted and knitted items to VCU Health Volunteer Services, which distributes them to staff who then disperses the items to patients across hospital locations.
“Medical school is difficult and can be very stressful, and having a creative outlet helps students explore and cultivate interests and skills outside of the medical curriculum,” Aluko said. "Having a creative outlet helps students step outside of the books and into life. It facilitates great connections and conversations with the people around us, which will help us connect with patients and their families in the future.”
The first stitch
As a child, Aluko learned to knit from her grandmother, and in the fourth grade, she took those foundational skills and applied them to crocheting. In her best estimates, Aluko has crocheted close to 100 items throughout her life, and close to a dozen just last year. Her favorite item to make is a blanket — they can take upwards of three months to make, she said, but they are especially gratifying because “the crochet patterns are always displayed so beautifully on a big project like that.”
Aluko decided to share her artistic skills with her peers by starting HoM after M1 exams. The group is open to all students, regardless of their crocheting or knitting abilities, and Aluko and other experienced members offer lessons to prospective crocheters. Attendees are welcome to bring their own supplies, but not required to do so — as a student interest group registered with the School of Medicine, HoM uses its funding to help cover the cost of yarn, crochet hooks and other supplies.
Nicole Deiorio, M.D., professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and associate dean for student affairs, attends the meetings both as the group’s faculty adviser and as a knitter — and “a very beginner crocheter” — herself. She’s currently working on a sweater vest for her husband, and said she feels like she’s gotten more out of the group than she’s put in.
“Comfort sets such a nice tone of being welcoming,” Deiorio said. “She’s set up a really comfortable, relaxing environment for people who want to just come and work on their own projects or learn some new skills."
She noted that it’s important for students to see faculty placing value on non-academic activities, and that groups like HoM helps facilitate strong student-faculty relationships.
“We’re getting to know each other in a low-key, casual context,” Deiorio said. “I feel like if we’ve built that connection and trust in this way, it pays dividends when it’s more high stakes.”
Providing 'comfort and hope'
Early on, Aluko wanted to donate handmade items from the group to patients, and Volunteer Services at VCU Health were more than happy to accept the donations. At the end of the HoM's first semester, they distributed hats, sweaters and various plush toys.
Amanda Landes, director of VCU Health Volunteer Services, knows firsthand how appreciative patients are of receiving these handmade items.
“They know that someone took the time and effort to craft something that would be given to them to provide comfort and hope,” Landes said.
Last semester, HoM focused on crocheting and donating handmade jellyfish, a popular animal amongst the young patients at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR). According to Aluko, jellyfish are surprisingly easy to make, especially since patterns are available for free online. The group has been using a pattern that their former co-president, Niki Chin, found on Instagram.
This semester, HoM will focus on making “granny squares,” small, 4x4 pieces of fabric that members will then be able to put together to make small lap blankets. According to Landes, handmade blankets are the most requested items from patients as they provide “warmth and cheerful color in what might otherwise be a regular hospital room."
“Blankets are a very time-consuming project,”" Aluko said. “However, breaking it up this way will make the whole process much easier and we hope to get more done."
Moving forward, although Aluko has formally stepped down as leader of the SIG — a common practice for M2s as they prepare to transition into clinical rotations — HoM’s new leader, the Class of 2027’s Paula Petersen, aims to continue Aluko’s efforts by expanding the collaboration between HoM and the greater Richmond community. After a recent meeting with Volunteer Services, Petersen said the group hopes to offer crocheting lessons to kids at CHoR and students at local elementary schools.
“Crocheting and knitting is so much fun, even if it’s something small someone is able to take home that day, and we would love to share that fun with more of the Richmond community,” Aluko said.
Interested in joining Hooked on Medicine?
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