August 8, 2008

Class of 2012 embarks on medical education journey

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First-year School of Medicine student Tendeukai Hungwe laughs with her classmates during introductions at orientation last Thursday in 208 Light Hall. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Class of 2012 embarks on medical education journey

Members of the Class of 2012 take the plunge during a welcoming party last week. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Members of the Class of 2012 take the plunge during a welcoming party last week. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Interim Dean Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., welcomes the new class. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Interim Dean Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., welcomes the new class. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine welcomed the most ethnically and racially diverse class in its history at First-Year Orientation last week.

Of the 105 medical students in the Class of 2012, 20 belong to minorities underrepresented in medicine and 12 hail from 10 foreign countries, including El Salvador, Pakistan and Ghana. In addition, the students represent 52 universities or colleges and 41 undergraduate majors.

Through the work of John Zic, M.D., associate dean of Admissions, George Hill, Ph.D., associate dean for Diversity in Medical Education, and the VUSM Admissions Committee, the school has seen an increase in underrepresented minority applicants from fewer than 300 in 2002 to more than 600 in 2008.

“We seek applicants with potential to become leaders and scholars in medicine and those with a rich history of experiences,” said Zic. “Our goal is to create an orchestra of the brightest young men and women with a passion for their future career in medicine.”

“This shows that a tremendous recruiting effort has been made; there's been a sea change here with great teamwork from so many,” said Hill, who emphasized the importance of creating a culture at VUSM where students learn from each other.

“As we add broad diversity, we need to provide further opportunities for students to gain cultural sensitivity to individuals from different backgrounds, taking advantage of a tremendous opportunity that many have worked to create.”

Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, welcomed the Class of 2012. “The education you'll begin today will give you preparation in medicine that is second to none,” he said. “Each of you brings remarkable intellect, energy and character.”

Jacobson then told the students what an exceptional group they are, boasting an average MCAT score of 11.3 and a collective 3.8 GPA. VUSM received 48 applications for every slot in the Class of 2012.

Interim Dean Jeff Balser, M.D.,Ph.D., an alumnus of VUSM, told the students that he knew how they were feeling on their first day. “You are about to embark on an amazing path of discovery, one that few people ever experience,” he said. “This Medical Center, vast and intimidating as it may seem, is filled with faculty and staff inviting you to join us in our quest for discovery.”

Connected to that quest is VUSM's Emphasis Program, which requires students to complete a research project during their first two years of medical school. The Class of 2012 will be the first to experience broader emphasis opportunities, thanks to recently obtained short-term training grants funded by the National Institutes of Health.

First-year student Dana Warren chose VUSM because of the Emphasis Program. “It will improve my medical education by enhancing my skills in research and experimental design,” she explained.

First-year students also will have access to more educational and research opportunities outside the United States, via the Vanderbilt Institute of Global Health (IGH). The IGH seeks to improve health services and outcomes in resource-limited settings through research, service and training.

New this year are revamped second-year courses — the final installment in VUSM's new medical curriculum. In the Disease, Diagnosis and Therapeutics course, students will learn a systems-based approach to pathology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, laboratory medicine and imaging. In the Patient, Profession and Society course, they will learn the basics of clinical epidemiology and will experience public health programs first-hand. In the Brain and Behavior module, they will study neuroscience and psychiatry focused on the relationships between the brain, the mind and psychiatry.

First-year medical student Adam Wegner said he found Orientation “a bit overwhelming, especially meeting all the new people. But VUSM is a top school that cares about the success and well-being of its students. I'm sure my classmates and I will thrive in this new environment.”