May 21, 2004

Founder’s Medals awarded to top student from Medicine, Nursing

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Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the Medical School, congratulates Founder’s Medalist Mary Hunt Martin.

Founder’s Medals awarded to top student from Medicine, Nursing

Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the Nursing School, presents a Founder’s Medal to Tanya R. Sorrell.

Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the Nursing School, presents a Founder’s Medal to Tanya R. Sorrell.

Two students — one from the School of Medicine, the other from the School of Nursing — received two of Vanderbilt University’s 2004 Founder’s Medals during the Commencement ceremony.

For one student, pursuing a medical career was an unlikely choice.

It wasn’t all that long ago when Mary Hunt Martin passed out at the sight of her friend getting a cut stitched up in the emergency room. Needless to say, she had her doubts that a medical degree was in her future.

On May 14, she stood in Langford Auditorium to receive her diploma, and like so many of her classmates, the event was almost surreal. This was it. She was actually a doctor.

Martin certainly never imagined she’d be receiving the Founder’s Medal. At Stanford University, she was a B+ student throughout her undergraduate years. But things changed, she said, when she began studying for her career.

“I never thought I’d be at the top of my class,” Martin said. “But I really enjoyed medicine. This was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And Vanderbilt is just a great place to go to medical school — it’s student-focused, and I hope it always remains that way.”

Martin accepted her degree from her father, Raymond Martin III, M.D, who received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt, as well as her grandfather, Raymond Martin Jr., who was is a 1945 graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“My family is so important to me, so it’s wonderful to be able to share this day with them,” Martin said. “It’s great to be able to talk to my grandpa about medicine and Vanderbilt, and I know my father is very proud of me. My entire family has been so supportive.

“But there was never any pressure to become a doctor. My father left work at work. Even though some people have joked about it, I really wasn’t learning the arteries at age 5.”

Martin is sad that she’ll have to leave Nashville, where her family lives, for her residency in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital, but family will always be close to her heart.

“I’m doing a combined Medicine and Pediatric residency, so that eventually I could go into family practice,” Martin said.

She said she’s especially interested in working in underserved areas, “maybe even Third World medicine.”

For the immediate future, Martin was looking forward to the class party that was being held at her parent’s house later that day.

Nursing’s Sorrell honored

Among the nursing graduates who returned for graduation was Vanderbilt School of Nursing’s 2004 Founder’s Medalist, Tanya R. Sorrell.

Sorrell enrolled in the School of Nursing with no prior nursing experience through the school’s innovative “bridge” program, and completed the program to become a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner working with patients in an underserved community in Yuma, Ariz.

Sorrell always knew she wanted to work in mental health.

“I’ve always been interested in the mind and personalities, and how stress affects our minds and our bodies, particularly minorities and the stresses they experience in society,” Sorrell said.

She was awarded a bachelor of science degree in pre-med and psychology from Louisiana State University and went on to earn a master of science degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in clinical and health psychology.

She then worked as a therapist for several years before she realized that a master’s degree in Nursing could make big difference in her impact on patients.

“In working as a therapist, I always saw there was a piece missing. I worked in crisis therapy and I noticed sometimes things would fall through the cracks and there wasn’t always a holistic approach in mental health, especially the mental health care of minority patients. I wanted to see what I could do to close those gaps as a nurse practitioner,” Sorrell said.

Sorrell enrolled in the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program in August 2003.

Susie Adams, M.S.N., board-certified advanced practice registered nurse and director of the program, said Sorrell came to Vanderbilt with an impressive record of academic and community service achievements.

“Tanya’s lifelong commitment to improving the lives of minority people around the world by individually and collectively empowering others makes her a quiet standout among a class of highly talented peers,” Adams said.

Sorrell was awarded the Julia Hereford Alumni Full Merit Scholarship during her first year at Vanderbilt, she was chosen by fellow classmates to serve as president of the International Health Coalition; she organized the first VUSN Medical Missions Information Summit, worked with Refugee and Immigrant Mental Health Services of Nashville, and made several trips overseas to work in mental health in underserved communities around the world.

“My most memorable trip was probably to Thailand, because you were working with people there who you knew had very little materially, but they were rich in experience and happy and content.”

Sorrell is now living and working in Yuma, as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner at The EXCEL Group Inc., where she is the only PMHNP on staff, and sees more than a dozen patients a day.

“It’s a 30 percent solely Spanish speaking patient population. So part of my nurse practitioner position includes coordinating mental health with medical care, because frequently mental health patients are the least likely to have adequate medical care, especially minorities.”

In the future, she hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in nursing and reach out to even more minorities with mental health needs. She said being chosen as the Founder’s Medalist is something she will carry with her in the years to come.

“It’s a great and unbelievable honor,” Sorrell said.