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VUSM Social Mission Committee encourages future physicians

Posted by on Monday, May 22, 2023 in Nashville, Student Initiatives, Third Year .

Vanderbilt and Meharry medical students teamed with Vanderbilt University Medical Center residents and fellows to visit eight local public schools

A medical student volunteer demonstrates a simulation for high school students

By: Lexie Little

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Social Mission Committee (SMC) operates with a mission to educate diverse, socially and culturally accountable future physician leaders. MD student members promote understanding of care systems and social determinants of health, recognizing patients need both care that addresses the social factors of their wellbeing and physicians who represent their communities.

To advance that goal, SMC students invited Meharry Medical students and Vanderbilt University Medical Center residents and fellows to introduce local high school students from diverse backgrounds to the medical field and encourage those students to pursue a medical career.

Volunteer and Vanderbilt Anesthesiology resident Dr. Laura Ibidunni never saw someone who looked like her in a physician role until medical school. She quickly accepted the opportunity to speak to local students on National Doctor’s Day (March 30) thanks to support from the Graduate Medical Education program.

“I believe that the experience of Doctor’s Day in these high schools is invaluable,” Ibidunni said. “Being a black woman and first-generation physician, I can easily say that my first experience seeing a doctor who looked like me was in medical school. My goal going into these high schools was not only to expose these students to medicine but also be a face of familiarity that allows them to know and believe their goals are attainable.”

Organizers Kayla Buttafuoco and Rishub Das (Vanderbilt M3s and SMC co-presidents) recruited volunteers to teach didactic learning sessions, lead hands-on workshops, and discuss pathways to careers in health care with more than 600 students at eight Metro Nashville public high schools.

At each school, volunteers led lecture-style sessions about cardiac arrest and cancer, followed by an introduction to careers in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, speech therapy, and related fields. Volunteers discussed their own backgrounds and paths to medical school and beyond. An open Q&A session allowed high school students to ask questions and engage with VUSM and VUMC representatives.

 MD student volunteers stand on either side of a classroom screen
Student volunteers formed panels to answer questions about careers in medicine.

“I loved seeing how excited and eager the students were during the session,” Buttafuoco said. “There was a variety of interests across many medical professions, and I think we appealed to all of them by making the event fun and interactive. One of the biggest impacts of the event came from speaking about our experiences starting from high school and spending a few extra minutes talking to students individually.”

Participants gained hands-on experience in CPR, learned how to read a chest X-ray and 3d anatomy heart models, and practiced venipuncture and suturing. Basic Life Support (BLS) certification teams and the Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA) provided necessary support through supplies and training.

In each session, high school students could find a mentor from a diverse background who might have experienced similar circumstances.

“It was important to us that our volunteers were equally diverse to facilitate connections with the students,” Das said. “It was exciting to see how many students were interested in health care and had already begun thinking about what kind of role they wanted to play, as well as the financial considerations of pursuing some of these careers. It meant a lot that we were able to talk about how some of us (who also came from low income backgrounds) were able to pursue our dreams – and live to tell the tale.”

A medical student shows high schoolers a medical procedure
Alex Lupi, MD, leads students in a hands-on learning session

Das credited volunteers from Meharry and VUMC for making the sessions possible. More volunteers allowed them to expand the Doctor’s Day event, in its second year, to double the number of public schools from the year prior. SMC intends to hold the event again in the future, complementing its 615 Pre-Med program that connects undergraduate students underrepresented in medicine with mentors to guide them through the application and training process.

Through earlier exposure to the field, SMC hopes to encourage the next generation of socially and culturally accountable physicians, improving patient care and public health.

Thank you to the following schools:

  • Cane Ridge High School
  • Glencliff High School
  • Hillsboro High School
  • Hillwood High School
  • Maplewood High School
  • McGavock High School
  • John Overton High School
  • Pearl Cohn High School