August 23, 1996

School days dawn for class of 2000

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Incoming Medical student Kane Lai made a splash at Dean John Chapman's annual picnic and pool party to welcome the School of Medicine's new students.

School days dawn for class of 2000

Dean John Chapman helps Varsha Khatri slip on the traditional white coat while Dr. John Lukens Jr. summons the next student.

Dean John Chapman helps Varsha Khatri slip on the traditional white coat while Dr. John Lukens Jr. summons the next student.

Identical twins Justin (left) and Dana Piasecki are among this year's incoming class of medical students.

Identical twins Justin (left) and Dana Piasecki are among this year's incoming class of medical students.

Learning the names and faces of just over 100 first-year medical students is never an easy task at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

It's no less daunting this year, and could even prove to be a bit more difficult, thanks to identical twins Justin and Dana Piasecki.

The brothers joined 102 fellow classmates earlier this week in the registration and orientation of the Class of 2000. They all received matching coats at Monday's White Coat Ceremony, the traditional VUSM ceremony at which each new medical student is presented with the traditional physician's garment.

Medical school has been in the Piaseckis' plans for several years. Attending the same medical school, though, is an added bonus.

"We've always been interested in science, and we wanted to go to the same medical school," said Justin Piasecki. "Dr. Lukens (chairman of the VUSM admissions committee) and Vanderbilt helped us with that process," said Dana.

The Piaseckis will mix medical school with their other passion – flatwater kayaking. Justin, who is married, even lives in Hermitage so he can live nearer the water.

The two participated in the '96 Olympic trials but did not qualify for the centennial games in Atlanta. If their medical school schedules allow, the twins will train for the 2000 trials over the next few years.

Of the 104 medical students, 67 are male and 37 are female. Three students are Mexican-American and two are African-American. The class also includes Chinese, Filipino, Hispanic, Indian Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Southeast Asian students.

Class members range in age from 20 to 30 years old.

A total of 32 states are represented in the new class of medical students. California has the most representatives with 15, followed by Tennessee with 14 students.

New York has eight representatives, Virginia has seven and Georgia has six.

One of the Californians in the incoming medical school class is 22-year-old Amy Shaw, from Solvang, Calif.

Shaw, who will pursue her MD/Ph.D degree over the next seven to eight years, comes to medical school having already succeeded in the business world.

During a drought in her sixth-grade year, the 12-year-old Shaw started her own business of growing drought-tolerant trees to replace water-succulent trees. The business proved to be very successful for Shaw and she continued growing the trees until her sophomore year in college.

She credits her love of medicine to her father, a large-animal veterinarian, and said she too wanted to be a veterinarian until her focus shifted to human patients while doing research at the National Institutes of Health.

Fifty colleges and universities are represented in the new medical school class. The most students are from Vanderbilt University (15). Stanford has seven graduates, Harvard University and Duke University have six each.

The incoming class brings a broad and diverse background to VUSM:

€ One student has a Ph.D. and five have master's degrees.

€ One student was a poet, another an artist and two are photographers. One student has performed in professional ballets.

€ One student was a golf caddy at a country club, two worked in construction, one was a sports writer for a small-town newspaper and two were radio disc jockeys.

€ Two students were born at Vanderbilt University Hospital.

Among those greeting the students at Monday's orientation were Dr. John E. Chapman, Dean of the School of Medicine, who greeted his 33rd group of first-year students. Also participating were Drs. Gerald S. Gotterer, Associate Dean, and Deborah C. German, Associate Dean for Students. German elicited more than 50 responses from students when she asked them to name characteristics of "The Good Doctor," a physician they would choose to treat a seriously ill loved one.

The responses ranged from "affordable" to "understanding." One student suggested the ideal physician should be a "Vandy alum."

Dr. Roscoe R. Robinson, Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs, also greeted the group on Monday, telling them to be proud of the heritage around them at VUSM.

"You have very good, plain reasons to be proud. Some of them are looking down at you from these walls," he said, referring to the portraits of Drs. Canby Robinson, Barney Brooks, Amos Christie and others.

"The tradition, values and heritage are all factors in Vanderbilt's place of foremost ranking among medical schools," he said, adding, "I believe we will grow very, very proud of you indeed."

Joshua Thomas, from Gulfport, Miss., is one of the students who selected Vanderbilt based on its reputation.

Thomas, whose brother Justin is a third-year medical student, said Vanderbilt's ranking as one of the best medical schools in the country is one of the reasons he chose VUSM.

"I didn't want to be far from home. Vanderbilt has excellent academics and is ranked 14th in the nation. What else can I say," he said.

Thomas said he chose medicine as a career because of the mixture of science and humanity.

"Medicine offers an ideal combination of scientific inquiry and social conscience. It is one of the few areas where you can use scientific knowledge and have an impact on people's lives."