January 25, 2002

Parents visit, experience students’ world

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Jacqueline Reasoner and her daughter Darcie, VMS II, and a group of other parents look at organs with Dr. Alice Clark Coogan, associate professor of Pathology, at the organ recital during Parent's Weekend. (photo by Anne Rayner Pollo)

Parents visit, experience students’ world

Mary Hunt Martin, VMS II, looks at some of the displays with her parents Raymond and Wendy Martin. (photo by Anne Rayner Pollo)

Mary Hunt Martin, VMS II, looks at some of the displays with her parents Raymond and Wendy Martin. (photo by Anne Rayner Pollo)

Neil Osheroff, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry, told the 670 family members of medical students gathered at Parents’ Weekend to look closely at the medical students next to them.

“There’s something different about them,” he said. “There’s been a change. What’s changed them? Challenge. Constant intellectual challenge. You should be very proud of your sons and daughters. We are immensely proud of them.”

The 670 family members represented 190 families from 36 states. They were treated to a weekend of activities including a Friday evening dinner, a daylong program headlined “the Vanderbilt Experience,” and a Saturday evening dinner featuring musically talented Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students.

In addition to comments from Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, Dean Steven G. Gabbe, and VUSM senior associate deans, Deborah C. German and Roger D. Chalkley, and associate dean Bonnie M. Miller, the family members heard a panel discussion about Vanderbilt’s Institutional Review Board and had the opportunity to participate in an organ recital, an up-close look at some of the body’s vital organs.

“It’s so impressive,” said Julie Guelich of Edina, Minn., mother of first-year student Jill Guelich. “We were here for the first day of orientation and for the white coat ceremony. I love the whole concept of the “Good Doctor” (German’s presentation on the first day of orientation) and treating people and not diseases.”

Jill Guelich said the format was chock full of information for students.

“It’s fun to hear the perspective they give on each year,” she said. “It’s making me proud to be here too and realize that even though we get bogged down, we’ll soon see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m enjoying my time here. Vanderbilt is really a special place.”

Jeannette J. Norden, Ph.D., professor of Cell Biology, has taught the second-year neuroscience course for the past 15 years. She told the group that medical students face a challenge to take all the information they have learned from the first-year curriculum, and build upon that knowledge in the second year—the end result being the ability to use the information in a clinical setting someday.

“We realize that we cannot teach our students everything they need to know,” Norden said. “It’s incumbent upon us to teach our students they need to be lifelong learners.”

Norden told the group that she tries to put faces with disease processes in her class. For example, a woman who lost her husband after a six-year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease has spoken to Norden’s classes about what it was like to slowly lose the man with whom she had hoped to grow old. They see a 10-minute clip of the man in the final stages of the disease.

“I could stand up and talk all day long about the brain and Alzheimer’s Disease, but that pales in comparison to hearing and seeing how a man was robbed of his dignity and his humanity by this disease. After that 10-minute clip, I believe our students are never the same afterward.”

Gabbe told the group that one of his goals is to see VUSM rank in one of the top 5 or 10 medical schools in the country. He told about meeting a first-year student on campus late one night, the student heading to the anatomy lab to study for a test. Gabbe tagged along and found a group of second-year students helping the first-year group study. “I told one of them how kind he was to give up his time to help the first-year group study, and he said ‘that’s the way it’s done here. That’s what is expected of us. It was done for us.’”

Jacobson said that health care is going through a time of “unprecedented change, changes happening so fast that most of us can barely keep up.”

One vehicle causing change in the health care industry is the Internet, giving both physicians and patients a wealth of information. Physicians of the future must become lifelong learners.

“Your sons and daughters are going to be better doctors than we are,” Jacobson said. “They’ll know more. They’ll heal more, and they’ll also know how to prevent disease more. Their patients will have better lives. I’m confident.”