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Educational journey begins for incoming VUSM students

Jul. 28, 2021, 3:33 PM

Incoming medical student Olivia Prosak receives her white coat from Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, while Amy Fleming, MD, looks on.
Incoming medical student Olivia Prosak receives her white coat from Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, while Amy Fleming, MD, looks on. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

by Kathy Whitney

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine officially welcomed 96 first-year students to its ranks with its annual White Coat ceremony, held July 23.

The school once again celebrated this milestone with not only the new medical students, but with their family and friends as well, which it had not been able to do last year due to COVID-19 precautions.

Amy Fleming, MD, looks on as Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, helps Dominic Okonkwo into his white coat at last week’s ceremony.
Amy Fleming, MD, looks on as Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, helps Dominic Okonkwo into his white coat at last week’s ceremony. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

Donald Brady, MD, senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education, thanked the white coat donors, who represent more than 600 households across 38 states, with the oldest donor being from the VUSM Class of ’47 at age 97.

“It is wonderful and refreshing to see everyone here today — especially our new medical students and their guests — in a much more normal setting than one year ago,” Brady said.

“I would submit to you that the white coat you receive today symbolizes not just the success of your medical school application, but more importantly the summated contributions of everyone who has enabled you to be who you are today and the physician you will grow into being over the coming years. Every loved one who has supported you, each mentor and teacher who has guided you, each peer who will share the journey with you, and each patient — as yet unseen — who will invite you into their most personal, and vulnerable, spaces.”

Kevin Zhang is one of 96 incoming medical students this year.
Kevin Zhang is one of 96 incoming medical students this year. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

The incoming class was selected from a pool of 7,408 applicants, an increase of 26% from the previous cycle.

“I’ve been working with premed students since 1999, and I’ve never seen this kind of increase in one year,” said VUSM director of admissions Jennifer Kimble, M.Ed. “There is a lot of speculation as to why. I think what happened is that this time last year (spring 2020), applicants saw that typical premed jobs dried up, and candidates decided to forgo a transitional year and go straight into the application cycle.”

The students who successfully matriculated to VUSM come to Vanderbilt from 33 states, five foreign countries and 54 undergraduate schools with 38 majors. Members of the class include students who served as COVID-19 screeners, Eagle Scouts, musicians and researchers. This year, students who did take a transition year before starting medical school worked as researchers, full-time employees in various positions, medical scribes, and volunteers at senior homes among other activities.

White coat recipients recite the Oath for Teachers and Learners of Medicine at Vanderbilt.
White coat recipients recite the Oath for Teachers and Learners of Medicine at Vanderbilt. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

Fifty-two percent of the new first-year class is female, 48% is male, 25% is under-represented in medicine, and 5% is international. The GPA range is 3.0 to 4.0, and the MCAT range is 70th to 100th percentile. The 96 members of the class include 77 MD, 16 Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), two Medical Innovators Development Program (MIDP) and one oral and maxillofacial surgery students.

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