About the Fund

The Jack Canfield Student Medical Emergency Relief Fund known as SMERF, is a service that provides grants to all UCSB students with expenses related to medical, dental, psychological, and optical emergencies. For the purpose of this fund, a medical emergency is a condition, injury, or illness that poses a risk to a person’s life, long-term health, or well-being and requires timely intervention. This does not include prescriptions or medical care for on-going non-emergency conditions.

History of SMERF
This fund was created in 1991 in honor of Ina Kristiansen, a UCSB Intramural employee, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Ina’s inability to receive proper medical care due to financial reasons led to her premature death. In an effort to celebrate Ina’s life, her family, friends, and coworkers created a student medical emergency fund at UCSB.

Seven years later, Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, compassionately donated $30,000 with a matching grant of $10,000 from fundraisers sponsored by UCSB Recreational Sports. This amount created the Jack Canfield Chicken Soup for the Soul endowment. From these endowed funds, only the interest was distributed to students in need. It was soon realized that approximately $3,000 in annual interest from the fund was simply not enough.

In the spring of 2005, students in Recreational Sports placed the Student Medical Emergency Relief Fund (SMERF) initiative on the ballot for election. SMERF asked students to pay 89¢ per quarter to support student medical emergencies. Both the undergraduate and graduate student body overwhelmingly passed the initiative, thus providing financial assistance to UCSB students in need.

Testimonials

We would like to thank each and every student for voting yes on the SMERF Initiative. Because of your vote, you have helped your fellow students in need. 

"I am so grateful of the existence of the SMERF Grant and that it could help me. It took great strides in making my almost insurmountable medical debt and make it more manageable once I can secure employment to pay the remainder of the debt. It was unfortunate enough that I fell ill and required emergency surgery a week before finals, but despite having Gaucho insurance there was a bill remaining of several thousand dollars. With the grant I finally have the prospect of getting the debt under control and am confident it soon will no longer serve as a barrier in securing funding to continue my education. I am hopeful again that financial obstacles will no longer hold me back due to my health problems."

"I would like to thank you all profusely for granting me this substantial award of aid toward my medical expenses. As an independent graduate student with heavy debt and a meager income, barely able to pay my groceries at present, these relief funds help considerably to alleviate my immediate financial strain and the attached mental stress. For these months following my freak double emergency, I've been riddled with anxiety, unsure of how I would manage to pay these bills anytime in the near future, given the extent and depth of my present financial issues. I have feared both for long term— the doubtless increasing impact to my credit, and what debilitations that will cost me in my future— and for the very pressing short-term concerns of making it through the month. It is a trial enough to be in graduate school, even given perfect health and sound finances, without all this worry. Staying the course when either or both legs of health or finances are compromised is no easy task. You have made it all the more endurable for me to continue on (much less stressed) forward toward my academic pursuit of a better future— better not only for myself but hopefully for others, as through my very research I aim to find the conditions under which our society might learn to better support its citizens (particularly its students and individuals in medical need) in the first place."

"I cannot adequately express in words my profound gratitude for the kindness that you all have shown me and of those who have established and supported this organization for such situations as mine. My words are limited, but I hope that through my future successes in the world I might better repay the favor you all bestowed upon me the other day. Thank you all again."

"I am writing a letter to show my deepest appreciation for all SMERF members to help me out my medical emergency last year. I have been moved deeply from my heart and feel really lucky of being a UCSB student and being taken good care of by SMERF resources. Moreover, I would like to pass that loving and caring to others who may need help in the future in whatever way I am capable of."

"My stories can be normal among other SMERF grant recipient. Unexpected high bills (four times more than insurance advisor estimated) for a simple test and high deductibles from insurance company destroy my belief that I am actually covered by my student health insurance. I tried to ask why I have unexpected high cost from the hospital and of course the answer is ‘An estimate is an average number and it is not accurate’. Thanks to SMERF and student health service, I am greatly relieved from the confusion and anxiety of my bills. Most importantly, those help alleviates my fear of visiting hospital in the future as a student."

"From my own experience and my humble opinion, SMERF does fulfill its original intention and indeed helps prevent Ina Kristiansen’s tragedy from happening again. Hopefully, in the near future, I could spread the beneficial I got from SMERF today to continue fulfilling SMERF’s original intention."