July 28, 2000

Scholarships provide early clinical experience

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This year’s Christie Society Summer Scholars are (from left) Brent Frisbie, Elizabeth Atkinson, Kristin Ehst, Mona Patel, Lisa Andrews, Brenda Harris, Allan Moore and Jonathan Spanier. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

Scholarships provide early clinical experience

When it comes to honing the skills necessary to become a physician, it's hard to beat hands-on experience.

Eight Vanderbilt University Medical School students got an early taste of that experience through the Dr. Amos U. Christie Society scholarships and scholarships provided by the estate of the late Darlene Hoffman, a longtime supporter of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

The scholars were offered a variety of clinical and laboratory research opportunities in pediatrics, including the chance to be placed in VUMC's pediatric and adolescent wards, clinics, basic science laboratories and pediatric offices. This summer, each served two weeks in the Newborn Nursery, Pediatric Acute Care Clinic, Adolescent Service, and in a pediatric elective.

This year's Christie Society and Hoffman Scholars were first-year medical students Lisa Andrews, Kristin Ehst, Brent Frisbie, Brenda Harris, Allan Moore, Mona Patel, and Jonathan Spanier, along with second-year student Elizabeth Atkinson.

They shadowed attending physicians, residents and more senior medical students who routinely provide care. After a year spent primarily in the classroom, the scholarship offered the opportunity to interact face-to-face with patients for the first time, said Moore.

"It was an invaluable experience. We were allowed to do patient histories and preliminary exams and we learned a lot of the basics — how to introduce yourself to patients and families; how to use a stethoscope; how to ask questions and take a history; how to interact with nurses, physicians and staff.

"It really put a human face on a dream," Moore said. "It was all about making kids feel better and it made all the studying and reading worth it."

Unlike the other scholars, Atkinson decided to apply for the scholarship during her second year of medical school.

"I surrendered what little summer vacation I had following Step 1 of the boards to participate, and I don't regret that decision for a second. The Amos Christie experience allowed me to expand my interests in pediatrics as well as giving my confidence a boost as I head into my clinical years," Atkinson said.

For Frisbie, the scholarship offered a chance to continue research he had begun as part of an Introduction to Biomedical Research Project, working with Dr. Kathryn M. Edwards, professor of Pediatrics, to evaluate the accuracy of various diagnostic tools in identifying the etiologic agents in acute respiratory infections.

"Not only have I learned much, the scholarship has allowed me to continue working over my summer break in an area that I have a real interest in," Frisbie said. "I will also continue working on the project as an elective in the fall."

The Christie Society program was created in 1990 and honors Dr. Amos U. Christie, who was professor and chair of Pediatrics from 1943-1968. The Hoffman scholarships began in 1996.

"The popularity of the program has grown progressively," said Dr. Harris D. Riley Jr., professor of Pediatrics and chairman of the Christie Society Summer Scholars Program. "Each scholar brings something new to the program, and I know Dr. Christie would be pleased by this year's group."