May 18, 2007

Graduation 2007: Serving others second nature for VUSM Founder’s medalist

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Kristina Collins is all smiles after receiving the School of Medicine Founder’s Medal from Dean Steven Gabbe, M.D.
(photo by Neil Brake)

Graduation 2007: Serving others second nature for VUSM Founder’s medalist

During the first semester of her freshman year of medical school, Kristina Collins teamed with Anatomy study partner Katie Cox on a special project — they wanted to start a free health clinic in Nashville.

Not only did that dream come to fruition with the Shade Tree Family Clinic, Collins went on to work on several other community projects in addition to her schoolwork during her four years at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Last Friday she was awarded the Founder's Medal, presented to the top graduating student in each of Vanderbilt's schools.

Dean Steven Gabbe, M.D., recalls that Collins was identified during the application process as an outstanding future physician and credits the Canby Robinson Society for selecting her for a full scholarship.

“One of the expectations is the Canby Robinson scholars will not only prove to be outstanding students, but they will contribute to the community,” Gabbe said.

“I think she epitomizes the best in our students, both academically and in service to our community. We expect great things of her.”

Collins is doing a transitional year at University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga and will perform her dermatology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“To be picked as the Founder's Medalist is especially exciting for me because I am proud to represent my class,” she said. “They are all amazing people; they all deserve a Founder's Medal. I can't imagine having gone anywhere else for school.”

Although Collins has received more than $200,000 in educational scholarships spanning Arizona State University and Vanderbilt, she has given back priceless hours in the way of community service during those years.

She hopes to continue that trend as a dermatologist.

“I really want to do more with some of my public health interests, so this is an area where people often don't have adequate access — even people with insurance have trouble accessing dermatology,” Collins said.

“Imagine what it is like to be without insurance and have things like skin cancer, psoriasis, and not getting treatment.”

Vice Chair for Education John Sergent, M.D., said Collins made an impression on him during her Medicine clerkship by assisting Hurricane Katrina refugees in locating their families through the Red Cross Web site one night after her shift.

“Compassion is her most distinguishing feature,” he said. “She knows that being a doctor involves more than making the right diagnosis and writing the right prescription. It also involves commitment and caring.”