Q&A with M3 Georgina Sellyn
M3 Georgina Sellyn advocates for skin protection in athletics, planning community tennis tournaments at various medical schools across the country
By: Lexie Little
May is National Tennis Month and Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Third-year medical student Georgina Sellyn intends to honor both with determination. A former Vanderbilt University tennis player, Sellyn plans to pursue a career in dermatology, combining her passion for skin care prevention with her love of the game.
The Glasgow, Scotland, native majored in cognitive neuroscience at Vanderbilt before continuing her studies at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She now hopes to educate others about skin cancer while sharing her journey as an athlete and future physician.
Q: How did you decide to come to Vanderbilt from Glasgow? How did you become interested in majoring in cognitive neuroscience here?
A: When I was 16, my mother and I relocated to the U.S. in hopes of a bright future and to further my tennis career. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to compete on the Vanderbilt Women’s Tennis team during my undergraduate and master’s degrees. During this experience, I took my first neuroscience class and found it to be fascinating. I was interested in the complexities of the brain and also curious about the field of neuro-oncology. This led me to pursue some shadowing opportunities and research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt that opened the door to a host of invaluable mentors who have been instrumental in my path to where I am today.
Q: Why did you choose to stay at Vanderbilt for medical school?
A: Throughout my undergraduate experience and gap years before medical school, I was grateful to work in a pediatric research lab, Surgical Outcomes Center for Kids (SOCKs), where I learned how to conduct clinical outcomes research and worked with incredible mentors. I always knew it would be a dream for me to pursue my medical education at Vanderbilt’s world-class institution. I recall sitting in the first floor of Eskind Biomedical Library studying for the MCAT between my research job and tennis coaching job, seeing groups of students arrive for their interview days, and I hoped that one day that could be me. I still feel incredibly fortunate that I am in medical school here.
Q: Have you had the opportunity to meet or work with Dr. Ann Price, the physician liaison for the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association (VMAA) and a pioneer in Vanderbilt and Southeastern Conference women’s tennis?
A: Dr. Price is an invaluable mentor, and I have always looked to her for guidance throughout my path from tennis to medicine. Dr. Price does not only have an impressive career as a physician, but she was also an incredible tennis player and is a Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Famer. She has paved the path for female athletes in medicine and continues to inspire many female student athletes to pursue this career.
Q: You’re preparing for your fourth year of medical school and residency. What sparked your interest in dermatology?
A: As I was exploring a variety of specialties during my clerkship year, I knew I wanted to be in a specialty that offered both medical and procedural elements, while also maintaining patient relationships. During this time, my own personal sun damage from years of outdoor tennis and the reality of skin cancer diagnoses in players around me sparked my interest to explore the field of dermatology. After my first dermatology rotation early in my third year, I developed great admiration for the variety and vastness within the field, and have discovered great meaning in my patient interactions in addition to a deep curiosity for the wealth of pathologies and treatment options. Additionally, I realized through dermatology I could help patients directly, but also contribute to the field through advocacy and community skin cancer prevention efforts.
Q: You’ve gone to area schools to teach about skin care and preventative care. How did you become involved in educating the public about the importance of skin care measures, especially sunscreen use and UV protection?
A: I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Dr. Powers, a former Vanderbilt medical student and current dermatology attending. Together, we wanted to help educate the community about preventative care and found the opportunity to educate children in schools. I think it is important to include children in the initiative of community education as they can adopt healthy and safe habits for their future as well. Some parents have told us that their children excitedly taught them all of the tips they had learned from us at school. It is rewarding to see our efforts make a direct impact within the community.
Q: How are you furthering your efforts in skin care education?
A: With a passion for preventative health, specifically skin cancer prevention, I wanted to find a way to intertwine my love for tennis as well. Thus, together with a close friend and dermatology resident, Sarah Millan, we developed a new initiative to host tennis tournaments across the nation in order to raise awareness for skin cancer prevention, specifically within the athletic community. Sports like tennis often lead to life-long sun exposure, and so we wanted to bring attention to sun safety within this population while also raising donations for the nonprofit, IMPACT Melanoma, to implement resources, education, and areas of shade within local communities and areas experiencing health and social inequities. The first tournament site is in Nashville at Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt Athletics has kindly donated its tennis courts for this initiative. Our other tournaments sites will be in Washington D.C., Boston, and Orlando in Summer 2023.
Q: How can the community get involved in the upcoming tournament?
A: We would love to see the Nashville community get together to help support our efforts in skin cancer prevention and have a fun day of tennis as well. Players of any level are welcome to sign up to play. We will be providing lunch and gift bags to all players. Players can sign up on the website or directly email organizers. You can also follow us on social media @serveyourskin.