Is There a Doctor in the House? Profiles of Medicine’s Future at the University of Vermont
- By Jennifer Nachbur
In 2006, the projected U.S. future physician shortage prompted the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to recommend a whopping 30 percent increase in enrollment at the nation’s medical schools. Fast forward to 2014 and recent reports from the AAMC estimating a shortfall of 45,000 primary care physicians and 46,000 surgeons and medical specialists in less than six years. The University of Vermont College of Medicine’s newest students – the Class of 2018 – launched their medical school careers on Monday, August 11, 2014, with the goal of joining the nation’s physician workforce and helping alleviate this deficit.
The incoming class members bring a diverse and rich range of backgrounds to the College. Among those ready and eager to foray into the field are the following individuals:
- Australian Alexandra Miller is a 32-year-old Bethel, Vt., resident married to an American and mother of a nine-year-old daughter. Less than two months ago, she returned to her home country to deliver the baby she carried as a surrogate for her sister, who was born without a uterus. “Surrogacy had always been on my mind since I was a teenager,” says Miller, who moved to the U.S. in 2003 to serve as a private chef and then ran a raw foods production business before her passion for health and nutrition led her to earn a UVM degree in plant molecular biology in 2013, followed by applying to medical school. While pregnant, she worked as a research laboratory animal technician at Dartmouth College. “Being able to empathize with my sister on a deeper level coincided with my decision to pursue medicine,” she says.
- Curtis Gwilliam, a 20-year career Marine and married father of two, flew with the presidential helicopter squadron, served as a military attaché, and worked on policy in the Pentagon before retiring and setting his sights on a career in medicine. Profoundly influenced by his mother’s remarkable 33-year survival with metastatic breast cancer, he wondered “how do sheer will and the mind drive the body and health?” Gwilliam completed a post baccalaureate premedical program and earned a master’s degree in biology at American University where he conducted and published research on skin cancer before enrolling in medical school.
- A ninth-generation Vermonter from Woodbury, Anthony Sassi wanted to be a doctor from the age of 11, when he watched his grandfather’s health decline as a result of silicosis from working in the granite industry. At age 18, he was the victim of a head-on car accident that left him internally decapitated – his cervical-1 vertebra kicked out of place and unable to support his skull –and miraculously survived without surgical intervention. The Norwich University graduate volunteered with the Red Cross from the age of 14, became a first responder at 16 and has been an EMT since age 18. His non-life-threatening injuries, including “dashboard knees,” left him unable to walk for more than a month. “To be a patient – someone caught completely helpless – while doctors try to figure out how to help you played a big part in reinforcing my desire to be a physician,” he says.
Coordinated by the UVM College of Medicine's Office of Medical Student Education, the Class of 2018's week-long Orientation program took place from Monday, August 11 at 8 a.m. through August 15, 2014, with most sessions taking place in the Medical Education Center's Sullivan Classroom. UVM's newest medical students engaged in a wide variety of sessions and activities to ensure they would not only become acquainted with fellow medical students, faculty and staff, but also learn about the Vermont Integrated Curriculum, available campus facilities and resources, financial services, and the technological tools they will use daily. Among the highlights of the week’s activities were sessions on professionalism and team-based learning, students’ first patient interview, technology training, the Student Interest Group Fair, and the final end-of-week barbeque at Burlington’s North Beach on Friday, August 15 at 4 p.m.
Visit the Class of 2018 Orientation website for additional information.