The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) Class of 2020 hails from 30 states, seven foreign countries, and 61 different undergraduate institutions. Some took time after graduating from college to explore and pursue related interests and passions. Others came straight through. Despite our diverse backgrounds and prior experiences, when 91 of us arrived on campus for the start of orientation in late July, we all made a commitment to new transitions, starting a career in medicine, and dedicating ourselves to lifelong learning.
Newly-minted medical students completing orientation across the United States obtain new ID badges, learn about their school’s curriculum, and try on scrubs.
While medical student orientation is not unique to VUSM, I believe how VUSM conducts orientation certainly is. Whether explicitly stated or not, at the center of VUSM’s ethos is a complete investment in its students and unrelenting desire to foster a strong sense of community on campus.
As a result, as part of orientation we also had countless opportunities to meet and get to know our classmates, including a “Medical Outdoor Orientation (MOO)” trip where we could choose to either pontoon on Center Hill Lake, white water raft down the Ocoee River, or hike the Fiery Gizzard Trail near Chattanooga, TN. After the trips, we all met 45 minutes northwest of Nashville to have a bonfire, great food, and a campout on a picturesque farm. During the middle of the week, our Associate Dean for Medical Student Affairs, Dr. Amy Fleming graciously invited the entire class over to her house for a catered fiesta dinner. At the end of the week, after an impromptu line-dancing lesson, we were assigned (sorted) to one of the school’s four colleges for continued learning and growth, mentorship, and collegiality, which lasts the four or more years we are at VUSM. Shortly after, one of our college faculty mentors invited the entire college and its new members over to his house for a pool party and dinner.
The week following orientation, we had our first course, “Foundations of the Profession”, where we learned about medicine as a moral profession and the fundamental promise of delivering exceptional care to every individual patient every single time. At the completion of the course, we had our White Coat Ceremony where Dr. Bonnie Miller said ever so eloquently, “white coats should not feel airy and light. They have no magical powers. They will not instantly transform you. You will in fact be transformed over the coming years, but that will result from your own hard work and your travels alongside the essence of life, illness, love, and death…we will be here to help you and guide you, to inspire you and sustain your curiosity, to ensure that the sense of excitement and possibility and optimism you’re experiencing right now never wanes.”
At VUSM, you will learn alongside incredibly unique, multitalented classmates in a community that is cohesive and conducive to exponential growth, all while receiving continued support from the school and faculty—starting day one of medical student orientation