August 23, 2002

School of Medicine welcomes Class of 2006

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Kristy Marie Wolske smiles at Dr. Bonnie Miller as Dean Steven Gabbe helps with her white coat at the ceremony Monday morning in Light Hall. (photo by Dana Johnson)

School of Medicine welcomes Class of 2006

From left, Chris Welty, Mike Cross, Adam Tibble, and Brian Armstrong hoist Miriam Miller, Dr. Bonnie Miller's daughter, into the air during the medical student picnic Monday night. (photo by Anne Rayner Pollo)

From left, Chris Welty, Mike Cross, Adam Tibble, and Brian Armstrong hoist Miriam Miller, Dr. Bonnie Miller's daughter, into the air during the medical student picnic Monday night. (photo by Anne Rayner Pollo)

Twins Lydia, left, and Lisa White are among 20 students from Tennessee entering Vanderbilt School of Medicine this year. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Twins Lydia, left, and Lisa White are among 20 students from Tennessee entering Vanderbilt School of Medicine this year. (photo by Dana Johnson)

When Evonne Charboneau practiced law she worked with Navajo Indians in Arizona, people with disabilities in New York City, and Rio Grande Valley migrant farm workers in Texas. The major focus of her work was helping her clients with environmental and health issues.

Somewhere along the way she realized that she was more passionate about health issues than law, so at 51 Charboneau has become one of 104 members of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Class of 2006. The class began first-year orientation on Monday where they were greeted by administration and ceremoniously received their white coats.

Charboneau received her law degree from Columbia University School of Law and said she isn’t sure how she will combine her law and medical degrees. “But I feel like I did everything in health without having a medical degree,” she said.

She is one of two lawyers in the first-year class. The other is Douglas Scott Johnson, son of nephrologist Dr. H. Keith Johnson.

“I heard a friend of mine say that it’s remarkable that medical students are asked to treat patients with respect, consideration and compassion, but so few medical schools treat their students that way,” she said. “That’s not the case at Vanderbilt. Not only do you have an excellent academic environment, but you’re treated with compassion and dignity.”

The Class of 2006 comes from 33 states (20 are from Tennessee) and 44 percent are women. The students come from 57 colleges and universities (12 graduated from Vanderbilt) and 24 graduated from Ivy League schools. Eight of the students are in the M.D./Ph.D. program. The average MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) score is 11.2 and their average grade point average is 3.78.

Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, welcomed the new students and the large group of family members who came to Monday’s White Coat Ceremony. Jacobson told the group that 35 applicants applied for each student’s position.

“We feel an awesome responsibility taking some of the country’s finest students and making them into doctors,” Jacobson said, telling the students that Vanderbilt Medical School is one of the nation’s finest medical schools, made better by the Class of 2006.

“Medicine is one of the most rewarding careers you could ever choose,” he told the group.

 Dean Steven Gabbe told the incoming class that they are the "best and brightest" of the approximately 16,000 medical students in 125 accredited medical schools. "You will undergo an amazing transformative process, a lifelong learning process, and this is just the first step.”

Drs. Gerald S. Gotterer, senior associate dean for Faculty Affairs, and Bonnie M. Miller, associate dean for Medical Students, assisted Gabbe and Dr. J. Harold Helderman, chairman of the admissions committee, in the White Coat Ceremony. The physician’s white coat, worn by physicians since the late 19th century, is a symbol of honesty and integrity, the students are told.

This year’s White Coat Ceremony had an added element — sponsorship. More than 110 friends, faculty and alumni participated in the $100 medical school’s white coat sponsorship program this year. Each student received the name of their white coat sponsor in their coat pocket and was asked to write a thank-you note for the sponsorship.

Also included in the medical students’ first day was the traditional “Good Doctor” lecture by Dr. Deborah C. German, senior associate dean for Medical Education. Students are asked to imagine that someone close to them is seriously ill and that they are in a physician’s waiting room with that person. They are asked to name the qualities a good physician should have.

A new addition to the first-day orientation was a welcome from Dr. George C. Hill, associate dean for Diversity.

“One of the goals is to heighten your learning experience by, in the very broad sense, providing leadership in further increasing the diversity of individuals that you will encounter in your four years — that means your fellow students — both professional and graduate students, resident and fellows and faculty,” Hill said. “As Vice Chancellor Jacobson has noted previously, and I quote, ‘Our faculty, staff and students need to reflect the society in which we live. For too long, Vanderbilt has trailed its peer institutions in attracting applicants from a broader spectrum.”

Hill told the class that the medical school will offer new lectures and events to increase the diversity of experiences and to broaden the educational environment for the class.

The Class of 2006 includes a married couple, Alison and William Jarred Newman, and David Penner, who should be quite familiar with VUSM. His brother, Erik, graduated in 1999; his father, Gary, in 1972; and his uncle, Larry, in 1969. The class also includes a set of identical twins, Lisa and Lydia White from Pelham, Tenn., the second set of identical twins attending VUSM. Howard and Kimball Christianson are second-year students this year.

The Whites, 22, both food science majors at the University of Tennessee, had considered teaching or engineering as career choices until college. When it came time to select a medical school, the twins considered Johns Hopkins, Emory and others. “We pretty much looked at the same medical schools. Our interests are similar,” Lisa said.

They chose Vanderbilt because of its reputation and the friendliness of faculty and staff.

“The people here are so welcoming and friendly,” she said. “We just loved it when we came to visit. We knew it had a great reputation, but we didn’t realize the people here would be so wonderful. It made a big impact on us.”

Brian Armstrong, a graduate of Emory University, is a championship sprinter as well as a dancer and choreographer. He plans on using his musical talents to his advantage in medical school.

“I plan on doing a little choreography for the Cadaver Ball,” he said, laughing.

Armstrong said he had first-day jitters and had trouble sleeping on Sunday night.

“I’m just so excited to be here. Everybody I met here has been friendly and outgoing. The students here are incredible. I talked to a lot of students before I made my decision to come here. They helped recruit me.”

The medical students ended a full day of orientation with a picnic to welcome the first-year class at the home of Gabbe and Dr. Patricia C. Temple.