November 16, 2001

Gee delivers first message to medical students

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Chancellor Gordon Gee addresses the medical student body this week in Light Hall. This was Gee’s first address to medical students. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Gee delivers first message to medical students

Rebekah Gee, daughter of Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon Gee, will be graduating debt-free from Cornell’s Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College next year, thanks to her father.

“I wish every one of you could do that,” Gee told a packed lecture hall during his first meeting with Vanderbilt medical students. “She is going to be able to make choices that she might not have been able to make (graduating with debt). I want that for every one of you.”

Making sure that students seeking a medical education can afford to come to Vanderbilt and that student debt is not overwhelming when they leave is one of the university’s priorities, Gee told the students.

“When our fourth-year students walk across that stage at Langford to get their degrees, there’s about $9 or $10 million worth of debt,” Gee said. “It’s a huge investment you’ve made in yourself.”

Several members of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine faculty and administration attended Gee’s speech, including Dean Steven G. Gabbe and Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

Gee told the students that they are lucky to be at Vanderbilt and that Vanderbilt is lucky to have them.

“The reason I came here and the reason Dean Gabbe came here is that we feel there are very few places on the face of the earth, academically and intellectually, that provide the kind of opportunities that exist at Vanderbilt,” Gee said. “It is one of the most interesting, one of the most complex, and one of the most lively places that one could go to school.”

Gee said that even though Vanderbilt is a complex institution, the 330-acre campus with 10,200 students is relatively small. By comparison, Ohio State, where Gee served as president from 1990 to 1998, has 55,000 students on 15,236 acres.

“That campus stretched across three time zones,” Gee said laughing. “But I walked from my office to here (Light Hall) in five minutes today. I walked past one of the truly great colleges of arts and sciences, past a wonderful, world-class law school, by a very, very fine school of management, and ended up here at one of the truly, truly great medical centers.

“We’re on this 330 acres. Let’s take advantage of it. We want our undergraduates or our graduate students to come over here and spend some time with you, to volunteer in the hospital, to spend some time in the labs; but we also, at the same time, want you to take part in some of the unique opportunities we offer on our campus.”

Gee also challenged the medical students to become a part of the Nashville community while they’re at Vanderbilt.

“We’ve sort of pulled a magnolia curtain around this place,” he said. “It’s sort of a ‘Vanderbubble.’ But the greatness of this university is not supposed to be measured by Nobel Laureates, writers of the great American novel, or by those who find a cure for cancer, but by how much difference we make in our community. I encourage you to get out of these halls and integrate yourself into the community.

“In this post 9/11 world, a lot of people are going to get down under their beds and talk about how the world has changed and isn’t it terrible. But what we need to do is say ‘yes, the world has changed. But we’re going to continue to make a difference. We’re going to continue to invest in ourselves and in our community.’”

Gee said he is convinced that Vanderbilt is well on its way to becoming one of the top institutions in the country.

“Vanderbilt is as poised as any university to continue a dash for distinction. This is our time.”