White Coats, Bright Hopes: Incoming Students Take a Crucial Step Toward Realizing Their Medical Aspirations - from Senior Vice Dean Gail Morrison, M'71, FEL'76
New students at the Perelman School of Medicine typically arrive with a richness of experience and academic accomplishment that belies their youth. The incoming class of 2012 certainly meets that standard. With a former Olympian, a student with vast public health training on three continents, and the holder of a master's in narrative medicine among its members, this diverse and dynamic class has much to offer.
The White Coat Ceremony on August 10 was an inspiring opportunity to welcome them and hear briefly about their education and hometowns. It also marked their first exposure to just some of the wealth of experience that our alumni and faculty have to offer, which, after all, is a big part of the reason they are here and will be a critical component of their medical training.
A few statistics illustrate the excellence and varied backgrounds of our new students. We had nearly 6,000 applicants for this class; only one of every 36 prospective students was accepted. The median MCAT score was 37, a score achieved by only 1% of those who took the test. The new class comes from all across the United States, and is composed of 45% females and 23% minorities underrepresented in medicine.
When they introduced themselves during the ceremony, our students spoke of a wide array of academic majors and interests. Basic and applied sciences were well represented, while film studies, economics, engineering, anthropology, literature, bioethics, and several foreign languages were also noted. I look forward to hearing lively debate and diverse points of view in our classrooms in the year ahead.
Dean Jameson set the tone for the afternoon stating, "Medicine is a broad and deep field, and you will have ample opportunity to find your niche and make your contribution. Rest assured that at Penn you will receive outstanding training in science, professionalism, and humanism that will prepare you for whatever you may choose to pursue."
The keynote speaker, Cindy Christian, M.D., certainly exemplifies these words. Dr. Christian knew that she wanted to go into pediatrics, but her first encounter with an abused child was a poignant and career-changing moment for her. Now The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Endowed Chair in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Dr. Christian discovered a passion for advocating for children that she has pursued ever since. "I take pride in being a voice for children who have no voice," she said. She advised the incoming class, "You will find your way in medicine. It's sometimes good not to know where you are going at first."
Co-chair of the Perelman School Medical Alumni Advisory Council (MAAC) Louis Kozloff, C'65, M'69, carried on this theme, adding, "If it isn't fun and exciting, you have made the wrong career choice." MAAC co-chair Louis Matis, M'75, who made a generous gift to provide our new students with their stethoscopes this year, also acknowledged the importance of inspiration in finding a vocation and focused on technology and community. "Through all the breathtaking technological advances that we've seen in medicine over the years, the stethoscope has remained tried and true," said Dr. Matis.
The Perelman School added a literal new wrinkle to the proceedings this year. The white coats now feature pockets large enough to accommodate iPads, which were distributed to each incoming student for the first time. Each coat also had a welcome message from the Medical Alumni Society in those roomier pockets.
As we recited the Hippocratic Oath together, I had the sense that this ceremony symbolic of medicine and learning, while replete with tangible items such as white coats, stethoscopes, and iPads, also represented the start of a new phase of intellectual and ethical development. That is, for incoming students, this day marked the start of not just a new course of study, but of a new connection to one another and to the strong Penn Medicine community who are dedicated to helping one another live up to the ideals of medicine.
Anatomy of a Prize Fund
Penn Residency, a Flair for Hosting, and a Simple Question All Helped Inspire the Kimmelman Family Prize Fund
In March 2012, Charles, RES'79, and Michelle Kimmelman created the Kimmelman Family Prize Fund to recognize an outstanding graduating medical student in the field of Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT). Their gift certainly originated in Charlie's decade as a resident and faculty member in ENT at Penn. But it also represented the culmination of the unique experiences and warm connections Charlie and Mikey created as members of the Penn Medicine alumni community over the past 10 years.
"It's become a family type of involvement," said Mikey Kimmelman.
The Kimmelmans' alumni participation began in 2003 when Charlie attended a medical alumni event in New York City. "I was impressed," he said, "and I kept in contact with Penn."
Dr. Kimmelman joined the Medical Alumni Advisory Council that year, and has been a member ever since. "It's a great way to get involved," he says. "You know what's happening and meet people you haven't seen in years - students, faculty, and other alumni. You feel great."
After Penn, Dr. Kimmelman directed the training program for New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, the first hospital in the U.S. dedicated to ENT and ophthalmology. He has appreciated seeing through the alumni council how the crossdisciplinary focus, particularly including business, creates medical leaders.
And then came the question: "Would you like to do something for the Penn Medicine Alumni Office?"
Mikey's answer was, "Yes, I'd like to host an event, but I'd like it to be something a little different."
Mehmet Oz had been a student of Dr. Kimmelman. At the time, Dr. Oz was about to launch his own show, and he agreed to headline a gathering for the Kimmelmans and Penn Medicine.
Mikey secured an out-of-the-ordinary venue - the wood-paneled library at the Spence School, and the 2-hour talk turned into a 4-hour chance to get to know a wide range of Penn graduates - many of whom had not previously been involved with their alma mater.
This year, Mikey once again put her mind to hosting a stand-out event. This time the Kimmelmans hosted a salon dinner that featured small plates to encourage guests to mingle. Attendees also had the chance to talk with Penn Medicine guests Senior Vice Dean Gail Morrison and Hayley Goldbach, M'14, about advances at the School. Guests lingered long at this event as well, thanks to the delicious food, beautiful setting, and welcoming atmosphere the Kimmelmans provided.
Charles also took on a new role, spearheading Penn Medicine's program to talk to residents and fellows about the importance of supporting the Perelman School. "My experience at Penn prepared me for everything I did in my career," he said. "This can only continue if we are generous and support the School and its honorable legacy of patient care, research, and most of all teaching."
Together the Kimmelmans agreed that the time was right to create the Kimmelman Family Prize Fund. "What's really nice is that it's happened in stages," said Mikey. "One event leads to another and the relationship evolves and grows along with you. Penn Medicine makes you feel like you've done the greatest thing in the world."
Parents and Partners: A Meaningful Day with Record Turnout
Penn Medicine welcomed more than 600 Parents and Partners of our incoming class - including many who traveled far and wide to connect with their new community.
With sessions on simulation training, standardized patient care, and team-based learning, the Parents and Partners program gave family members an insider's view of medical education at Penn Medicine.
Rebekah Lucien and her family were among those who traveled the farthest to attend Parents and Partners. Hailing from Sacramento, CA, Ms. Lucien is one of seven incoming first-year medical students who attended Stanford University. Ms. Lucien also comes from a medical family. Her father, Dr. Michael Lucien, is a pediatrician at UC Davis and her mother, Darreis Lucien, is a professor of nursing.
"This is the ultimate," said Mrs. Lucien, "Rebekah has worked so hard, and we are so excited that she is finally on the path to becoming a doctor. We are also looking forward to embracing our changing role as parents now that she is in medical school."
For the Kamouns family, the trip to Parents and Partners was short - they have been members of the Penn Medicine community for decades. First-year student Kamilia Kamoun's mother, Layla Kamoun, M.D., is an ophthalmologist and a member of the Class of 1993. Her father, Malek Kamoun, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the director of the Clinical Immunology and Histocompatibility Laboratory at Penn Medicine.
Ms. Kamoun graduated from Swarthmore College with majors in pre-medicine and Islamic studies. While she didn't have to travel far to come to Penn Medicine, she did some exploring after college when she completed a Fullbright Scholarship - an anthropological project on pre-natal care in Morocco. The Drs. Kamoun marveled about how the medical curriculum has evolved since their time in medical school. They were very pleased to be getting a taste of the life Kamilia will have as a medical student in the 21st century.
Though Harrison Kalodimos had no previous ties to Penn Medicine, he wasted no time in making himself at home. Mr. Kalodimos connected with Kenneth R. Ginsburg, M.D., M.S. Ed., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Ginsburg is also medical director for Covenant House, a care system that serves homeless and marginalized youth in Philadelphia.
Mr. Kalodimos' mom Lori always knew her son would excel in the sciences. "It all started with his meticulous approach to playing with Legos. As he grew up and his compassion and humor began to show, I knew he would be a doctor," she said. It seems that mom did know best as Mr. Kalodimos is planning on applying a lifelong interest in science to community medicine.
For Dr. Ira Dosovitz, Parents and Partners was an informative and emotionally meaningful day - his son Simon Dosovitz is entering Penn Medicine 42 years after he began his own medical training at Penn. "The day's program was very stimulating and helpful for parents of new medical students, but it was also warm and very moving," said Dr. Dosovitz. "One of the greatest aspects of Penn Medicine is that it is a first-rate school that maintains its accessibility."
We are so proud of our newest class of medical students - and for the enthusiasm exhibited by their families.
Back to School
Fourth-year Christopher Sha Adds Experience from the Front Lines of Community Health
"Doctors have an extraordinary position. By seeing patients that come from everywhere, they can get a pulse for what is happening in a community - see what is going wrong and what is going well," said Mr. Sha. "You can treat patients, but if they don't have a strong foundation to support themselves - a house, a job, an income, family and friends, access to healthy food and exercise - they are going to come back with the same issues."
Mr. Sha's interest in community health drew him to Penn - and most recently led him to take a year out from school to work at West Philadelphia's Dr. Bernett L. Johnson, Jr. Sayre Health Center. There, he served as community medicine fellow and education programs director.
The path to a medical vocation was years in the making. A neuroscience major at Brown University, Mr. Sha was attracted to medicine by interning with a primary care physician. He discovered his organizing ability by forming an art collaborative in an underserved section of Providence. After college, he taught science at an Austin, TX, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Public Charter School - a school network providing low-income, high-needs students with a structured learning environment that promotes academic success.
But he wanted to do more. At Penn Medicine, Mr. Sha has been able to fully integrate his medical education with his interest in community organizing. He became co-coordinator of Health Education through Adolescent Leadership (HEAL), a student organization that empowers Philadelphia youth to be agents for their health as well as that of their peers, their families, and their communities.
HEAL introduced him to the Sayre Health Center, where he began to think more broadly about patients, the environment they live in, and the importance of social capital. He decided to spend a year there to immerse himself in community health and education.
Located at Sayre High School, Sayre Health Center is a unique organization. Staffed by physicians in Penn's Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and medical students, it provides quality medical care to underserved individuals. At the same time, the Center offers an educational and mentoring program that encourages Sayre students to pursue health care careers.
Students gain hands-on clinical experiences by doing health screenings at local health fairs, and shadowing doctors and nurses at the Center, and they are mentored by Perelman School students. As educational programs director, Mr. Sha coordinated mentors and provided guidance, advice, and knowledge to prepare Sayre students for future training.
Mr. Sha also helped to develop a two-year curriculum leading to medical assistant certification. This academic year, Sayre will offer its first anatomy/physiology class as well as dual enrollment at Sayre and JOBCORPS, a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career.
Mr. Sha's experiences were made possible by the Perelman School's Program Extension, which provides students the opportunity to extend their education beyond the traditional curriculum. Through master's degrees, fellowships, and research positions, students can take a year away from medical school to explore their interests and supplement their medical education with passion projects. About 25% of Penn Medicine students take advantage of these options.
Mr. Sha believes his year away gave him invaluable experiences, providing the tools he needs to become the physician he wants to be. "I want to help create a supportive ecosystem where people can navigate the resources within their community to get medical care, services, and opportunities. When you have support, life isn't as hard."