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Wisdom from the Graduating Class of 2020

Posted by on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 in Alumni .

In order to honor and celebrate our 2020 graduating class, the Vanderbilt MSTP dedicated our last seminar series of the year to our graduates. Over Zoom, we shared memory videos and gave each graduate a few minutes to share some wisdom, words of advice, and gratitude with our program. Their invaluable advice to our younger students is shared below.

“Don’t be afraid to try something completely new in terms of research and make sure to pick a research mentor that is supportive of your career goals even if their work doesn’t match exactly what you want to do in the future. A supportive mentor and comfortable training environment will provide you the best opportunity to grow as a scientist during the graduate phase of training.”
-Shawn Barton, MD, PhD, Neurology, Emory University

“During your training, you will often feel insignificant or unimportant. This is particularly true in clinical settings, when you may feel like the least important person in the hospital. To prevent despondency, commit to making a difference in some small way every single day. You can help your classmates become better doctors by teaching effectively in CBL. You can brighten a patient’s stay by visiting with them during your clinical down time. You can contribute to discovery by supporting your lab colleagues even when your project is floundering. You start your career the first time you put on your white coat, so don’t let your role as ‘trainee’ prevent you from contributing meaningfully wherever you can.”
-Kevin Graepel, MD, PhD, Pediatrics, St. Louis Children’s Hospital

“I planned how this journey should look, set up an idea of how to get the “checkboxes” accomplished, but I didn’t end up meeting personal or professional goals in the way planned. Looking back, the challenging times were the most meaningful to my growth. I wished I had embraced the challenges more because those experiences made me who I am today”
-Rachana Haliyur, MD, PhD, Ophthalmology, University of Michigan

“The first is pretty practical. As Elazar Edelman said during his Physician Scientist Speaker Series talk, with respect to balancing clinical and research activities, focus on the thing you are doing at the time and give it your all. I lived this during my preclinical years, graduate, and clinical years and don’t regret minimizing the bleed through between the clinic and the lab. Secondly, find the mentors who you idolize not only for what they do at work but also how they live their life, and do your best to live up to their vision of who you can be. And finally, don’t forget about the other aspects of your life. You are in this for the long haul and you need those around you to support you.
-Nick Harris, MD, PhD, Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

“Focus on the goal, but be flexible in your methods. See every challenge as an opportunity for personal growth.”
-Merla Hubler, MD, PhD, Pediatrics at University of Tennessee – Chattanooga

“Lean on your fellow classmates, they will be invaluable sources of guidance and lifelong friends. 1) M1s and M2s you will have the rest of your life to subspecialize so for the time being keep an open mind and think broadly. This is the last time in your lives you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the breadth in medicine and science. 2) G phase try to get out there and put your face out there in every meeting, conference, and presentation to meet new people in your community, network and present to others 3) Rising M4s – applying to residency is a crazy year so make sure to carve out time for yourself and say no to things. Carve out time to do things that are not medicine or science and make you personally happy. Take care of yourselves first because things will only get busier.”
-Jonathan Knowlton, MD, PhD, Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

“1. Celebrate every victory no matter how small. As physician-scientist trainees, we are excellent at delayed gratification, but don’t wait to just celebrate the big moments. Those moments might not come when or how you expect. Celebrate the successes of your colleagues as if they were your own. 2) Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and need. The worst someone will say is no, but if you don’t ask, no one will ever know for what you had hoped.”
-Katherine Konvinse, MD, PhD, Pediatrics, Stanford University

“You don’t know what’s going to happen during the program and each obstacle is a great opportunity to learn from that makes you stronger”
-Shan Parikh, MD, PhD, Internal Medicine, Yale

“Take advantage of senior students in the program. Their mentorship is invaluable and they are more than happy to help. This is one of the biggest strengths of Vanderbilt’s program! Enjoy every day in the program. It goes by fast!”
-Matthew Puccetti, MD, PhD, Neurology, Brigham & Women’s Hospital

“Try to find a way to make opportunities happen regardless of what your circumstances are (i.e. unexpected lab result, PI moves to another city in middle of grad school)”
-Meredith Rogers, MD, PhD, Dermatology, University of Texas Southwestern

“Define what success in this program looks like for yourself, including all professional and personal and relational goals. Then use that understanding to guide what you say yes to and devote yourself to your yes’s. Approach each day with a spirit of gratitude.”
-Alexandra Sundermann, MD, PhD, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Duke University

“In medical school be the best medical student you can be and in graduate school be the best graduate student you can be. Just focus on the next steps ahead and be passionate about those things and the rest will follow. It’s ok to say no. You will be pulled in a lot of directions so set your priorities and live by those priorities.”
-Joshua Thompson, MD, PhD, General Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center