August 22, 1997

Class of 2001 launches educational odyssey

Class of 2001 launches educational odyssey

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Jim Eaton, of Spokane, Wash., plunged into four years of medical school as well as Dean Chapman's pool last week. The dean's annual picnic for incoming School of Medicine students was just one of the many events greeting the class of 2001 as they began their studies. (photo by Donna Marie Jones)

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Sister Mary Diana Dreger was one of 103 incoming medical students to receive the traditional white coat from Dean John Chapman and Dr. Deborah German, associate dean for students. (photo by Donna Marie Jones)

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Elvis (aka second-year medical student David Harley) was on hand to pump up the crowd in Light Hall last week as incoming students were matched with their second-year student advisors. (photo by Donna Marie Jones)

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The dean's pool was the place for Timothy Sherry, of Seattle, and other incoming medical students. (photo by Donna Marie Jones)

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Yen-Lin Chen (left) of Cambridge, Mass., Nicole Daamen, of San Diego, and Folasade Adenike Aworinde, of Nigeria, at orientation. (photo by Donna Marie Jones)

Sister Mary Diana Dreger stood quietly in the doorway of the medical student lounge on the third floor of Light Hall earlier this week. Draped across the shoulder of the long white robe of her habit was a black leather briefcase.

She studied the crowd of mingling students with a smile, helped herself to a light breakfast, then joined a small group of talking students. The Dominican nun from Nashville's St. Cecilia Convent is the first nun ever to attend Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She joins 103 classmates in the class of 2001, an outstanding and diverse group from 34 states, at this week of registration and orientation.

Dreger is being sent to school by her fellow sisters who decided that, as their convent prepared for the future, that it would be a good idea to have a physician among them. Dreger, a biology major from SUNY at Stony Brook and a science teacher for 14 years, was the obvious choice.

"We have been treated beautifully by doctors in the community, many of whom are Vanderbilt doctors," Dreger said. "But we want an in-house physician, who will also have much to offer the Nashville community," she said.

Dreger, 35, has been relieved of her teaching duties at St. Cecilia Academy in Nashville while she attends medical school, but will continue to live at the convent's Motherhouse.

She will be 42 when she completes her residency.

Dreger is no stranger to the medical field. She has volunteered at Vine Hill Clinic and has worked with Nashville physicians over the past year, learning more about becoming one of them.

"I am thrilled to be able to see all that medicine can do. I love interacting with patients and have been so encouraged by people who knew what I have planned to do," she said. "I have a feeling I'm going to be so busy that time will go by quickly. I look forward to all I have to learn along the way."

Dreger and her fellow classmates received matching coats at Monday's White Coat Ceremony, the traditional VUSM ceremony at which each new medical student is presented with the traditional physician's garment.

Carmel Colgrove enters the class of 2001 at an institution that is very familiar to her family. Her brother, Eric, graduated from VUSM in 1995. He is currently a pediatric resident at Vanderbilt University Hospital.

Colgrove has always wanted to be a physician, whereas her brother changed his focus at the University of California-Davis from engineering to medicine.

"People say I'm following in his footsteps, but actually he followed in mine," she said, laughing. "Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be a doctor."

Colgrove said she chose VUSM not because her brother attended, but because of the love that Eric and his classmates have for the medical school.

"Everyone I know raves about Vanderbilt. I wanted to be part of that."

Of the 104 new medical students, 67 are male and 37 are female. The class includes Mexican-American, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cuban, Nigerian, and Southeast Asian students.

The students range in age from 19 to 44.

A total of 34 states are represented in the new class. Tennessee has the most representatives in this class (19) followed by California, with 13 students.

Illinois has eight representatives and Virginia has five. Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Texas have four representatives each.

Fifty-one colleges and universities are represented in the new medical school class. The most students are from Vanderbilt University (14). Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University have six graduates each. Duke University and the University of Virginia have five each.

Four students have Ph.D. degrees and one student in the entering class has a law degree.

They come from varied backgrounds with a variety of experiences. One student was born in Nigeria and educated in Holland, while another worked as a medical aide in free clinics in Guyana and Romania.

One incoming medical student was a part-time assistant on Yitzhak Rabin's team during the implementation of peace agreements between Israel and Palestine, as well as the Palestinian and Jordanian peace accord.

One student is the first in his family to graduate from high school, another immigrated from Taiwan at the age of 12, speaking no English. And another student was born and raised in Russia and immigrated to the United States at the age of 19 with very limited English.

One medical school student played in the professional women's tennis circuit while another trained in 1996 for the 2000 Olympics and placed second at the U.S. National Championships for Modern Pentathlon.

Many of the students have already done published research work and many have volunteered hundreds of hours in medical clinics in hospitals across the nation.

Stacy Chance, a Johns Hopkins graduate, was particularly awed by the accomplishments of his fellow students. He is not only the first member of his family to attend any type of graduate school, but the first to graduate from high school.

Both of his parents have recently received their high school equivalency degrees, however.

"I've always been interested in going into medicine for a career," Chance said. "There have been no particular role models, but I've chosen medicine for the same reasons that many of my classmates have. I like helping people."

Among those greeting the students at Monday's orientation were Dr. John E. Chapman, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Gerald S. Gotterer, Associate Dean; Dr. John N. Lukens, Chairman of the Admission Committee; and Dr. Deborah C. German, Associate Dean of Students. Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, also greeted the group Monday.

"You are the focus of one of our three major missions," Jacobson told the group. "When you finish in 2001, you will be the best prepared group of doctors on the planet. Welcome to Vanderbilt," he said.