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Medical Students Shed Locks of Love

Thursday, May 01, 2008

 Organizer Brian Harkavy invited the crowd to participate in his haircut. More than a few took him up on the offer, and by the end all 25 of his braids were gone.

Nearly 40 students got ready for summer on April 29 by cutting off their hair and donating it to charity. Second-year medical student Brian Harkavy organized the event as a community service project for himself and his fellow medical students. The collected ponytails went to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children suffering from hair loss due to a variety of medical conditions.

"This was the third time I've donated my hair," Harkavy explained. "I had long hair in high school, and I'd always volunteered with children, I'm interested in helping children, I'm planning to go into Pediatrics, so when a friend told me about Locks of Love, it was definitely something I wanted to do." It wasn't until hearing about a medical school classmate who had donated her hair to the cause, though, that Harkavy got the idea to do a Locks of Love event here on campus. "I realized that I wasn't the only one doing this; there were others out there who wanted to donate and some who probably would donate if they knew about it, so why not organize it as a group thing?" Harkavy recalled.

When efforts to get a corporate sponsor for the event didn't pan out, Harkavy took on all the arrangements himself. Luck was on his side. At the second-year student auction, Harkavy saw one of the prizes was a free haircut. He called up the salon offering it and asked if they would donate their services for this event, and the stylist who answered the phone readily agreed to do it. When it became clear that more than one stylist would be needed for the growing crowd, friends asked around for Harkavy until they found another stylist willing to donate her time as well.

Harkavy admits even he was surprised by the enthusiastic turnout for event. Although not everyone was able to meet the requirements to donate hair (Locks of Love requires the ponytails to be at least 10 inches), those who couldn't give stuck around to cheer on those who could. Harkavy had initially targeted only med students, but word soon spread across campus, and students from the schools of Pharmacy, Dentistry, Social Work, Nursing and Law all showed up to donate. They had many reasons for doing so, but "most of them involved a personal connection to someone with an illness like these kids [who get the wigs] have – cancer, alopecia," said Harkavy. "And the students at this university are in professions where we help people – medicine, social work, law – and this was another way to do that."

Although Harkavy would like to see a Locks of Love held annually, if not even more often, with finals and medical boards looming, he's not going to jump right into the next one. "First I'm taking a month off," he admitted with a laugh.

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University of Maryland School of Medicine
Caelie Haines
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 Second year med student Shannon Graf looks like she's having second thoughts about making the cut…

 …but in the end she's able to smile at her new 'do.

 Katie Jacobson Betts was excited to join the cutting crew for a great cause.

 Here she gets her first look at her new look.

 After giving the gift of hair, birthday girl Nidhi Goel was gifted with a cake.

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