Senior Send-Off: Samantha Gridley Haley

May 15, 2017
Posted in Senior Send-Off

Name: Samantha Gridley Haley
Hometown: Milton, GA
Intended Specialty: Pediatrics


What do you wish you knew when you started medical school?

There are countless directions a career in medicine can take you. Everyone starts off medical school with biochemistry, and with my English major background and interest in advocacy, I wondered whether I had made the wrong choice in coming to medical school when the first class seemed so out of my comfort zone. All parts of medical school are important—I’m thankful for the basic science advances that will help me provide better care for my patients!—but in the Immersion years it gets really fun because you can focus on what gets you most excited in this big field.

What is the best piece of advice you have gotten from an attending or mentor?

One of my medical school interviews was with Dr. Warren Sandberg, Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. At the end of the interview I asked what advice he had for someone starting a career in medicine. He replied, “You’re never as good or as bad as you think you are.” I was surprised by how often I found myself coming back to this statement over the last four years. As a medical student there will be days when you’re showered with praise and other days when you feel like you’re the worst student. Having a big picture perspective is essential to weathering the day-to-day ups and downs in this field.

What is your favorite thing about your Vanderbilt experience?

I loved the freedom and flexibility of the Immersion Phase. It gave me a great opportunity to compare specialties I was deciding between and to work on areas where I still felt weak coming out of clerkship year. No other medical school allows you to create such a personalized curriculum in your third and fourth year!

Are there any people you want to especially thank for their support and/or guidance during medical school?

I’m thankful to Dean Amy Fleming, who was one of my Gabbe college mentors when I started medical school, and who was an invaluable resource to me throughout the residency application process. Dr. Ban Allos and Dr. Matt Miller, my current Gabbe college mentors, have done an excellent job creating a sense of community in our college, leading our Learning Communities group, and making College Cup weekend fun every year. Dr. Daniel Birchmore has been a fantastic mentor to me—he is the first to offer an encouraging word and treats each of his patients with the utmost respect. Ever modeling a mindset of service, he can frequently be found kneeling on one knee beside his patient’s hospital beds so that he can be at their eye level when he talks to them. He encouraged me to keep up with the hobbies I love in medical school—tennis and writing—and these were crucial outlets for me during the last four years. I’d also like to thank Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, whose leadership in serving the LGBT patient community is something I hope to emulate in my career. Dean Bonnie Miller has done an incredible job of elevating the values of service, cultural humility, and selflessness in our medical school, for which I am very grateful. I have also appreciated her willingness to share her excellent, and at times personal, prose at the Cultural Series—it has been a gift to get to know her better not just as an administrator but also as a person through this avenue. Dr. Michael Fowler is a true treasure of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine; he has a talent for presenting difficult information in the simplest terms, and he is the first to highlight the successes of his students, which makes us all enjoy learning from and working with him. Thank you also to Sarah Woodall, Katherine Anderson, Krista Gyarmati, Emily Korab, and Susan Lewis, without whom our many school-wide events and student organizations would not be possible. From orchestrating Cadaver Ball to White Coat Ceremony to College Cup, you have made VUSM feel like much more than a school—because of y’all, it feels like a family!

What is your most embarrassing moment from medical school?

The first day of medical school, we were in the auditorium and Dr. Zic (the admissions director at the time) asked us to say what we’re looking for in our medical school experience. I raised my hand and said, “I’m looking forward to being around people who are excited to go to work every day, even on our days when we’re up really early.” I was sitting toward the back, so he asked me to speak up and say my name. I replied without thinking, “MY NAME IS SAM AND I’M LOOKING FOR EXCITEMENT!” I can’t say that that was an inaccurate first impression to give my classmates, but I wish I had played it cool a little better on the first day of med school. 

Favorite quote that represents your medical school experience?

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot
It’s easy to go through medical training looking ahead to the next step, e.g. “I just have to get through surgery clerkship”; “I just have to get through Step 1.” Once I stopped focusing on what was on the horizon and started enjoying each part of the journey, my rotations became a lot more fun and I began to really enjoy my time as a medical student. I hope to apply the same mentality to my residency.