September 26, 1997

Mini Medical School’s first class eager to learn

Mini Medical School's first class eager to learn

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Learning more about the inner workings of medicine drew Pearl and Earl Dennis, and nearly 300 others, to the first session of VUMC's Mini Medical School. (Photo by Donna Marie Jones)

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Dr. John Sargent welcomed the Mini Medical School's first class. (Photo by Donna Marie Jones)

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Dr. Anderson Spickard III (left), performed a mock physical exam of patient Jed Griffin during the class. (Photo by Donna Marie Jones)

Nearly 300 Middle Tennesseans packed Light Hall Monday night for the opening session of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Mini MedicalSchool.

The eight-week-long 'school' was created to teach major principles of medicine to non-medical people and is open to Vanderbilt personnel and members of the Nashville community. And judging by the reactions of incoming class members, this is a school the students have eagerly anticipated attending.

"We've looked forward to this since we heard about it," said Pearl Dennis, who attended the school's inaugural class with her husband, Earl.

The retired couple from Nashville said they were drawn to the school for the opportunity to take a more informed role in determining their own health care needs.

"We thought it would be a great way to learn more about medicine and about the techniques and technologies used today, which tends to interest you more as you get older," Earl Dennis said.

Uwanna Wilkes also saw the Mini Medical School as a chance to learn more about medicine, but the recent Vanderbilt University graduate's reasons for enrolling were a bit different.

"I'm trying to get every experience with medicine I possibly can," Wilkes said. "I'm interested in going to medical school, and I believe this is a great opportunity to learn."

VUMC's Mini Medical School kicked off with an introduction to Vanderbilt and a brief history of medical care by Dr. John S. Sergent, professor of Medicine and chief medical officer of the Vanderbilt Medical Group and one of the school's planners. Dr. W. Anderson Spickard III, assistant professor of Medicine, hosted the evening's first session, an in-depth look at how physicians gather information to diagnose a patient's condition. Dr. Corey M. Slovis, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, covered emergency room care in the class's second section.

The Mini Medical School meets each Monday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Two separate sessions, with a break and refreshments, are held each night. Future topic areas will cover everything from managing a heart attack to the biology of infectious diseases to neurobiology.

Monday's session was fast paced, informative, informal and relaxed. One-liners flew as fast as the information, which was delivered in an anecdotal, storytelling style that drew the students in and kept their attention. Class participation was invited, and, if the opening session was any indication, curiosity about medicine is not in short supply.

Jack Vandercook, who works in health care marketing in Nashville, was impressed with VUMC's Mini Medical School. He sees it as an opportunity to get a first-hand look at the healing side of health care, rather than the business side.

"This was a good chance for me to sort of see how the other side lives, to see how Vanderbilt physicians communicate and present themselves to the public.

"So, far, I think they're doing a fantastic job."