The Journey: Medical students need commitment to service

2012-09-19T17:00:00Z The Journey: Medical students need commitment to serviceA column by Mark Sah Lebanon Express
September 19, 2012 5:00 pm  • 

The fact that the inaugural class of COMP-Northwest was, at 28, the oldest average age of all entering medical school classes nationwide last year may not seem particularly remarkable.

But it is.

I spoke to Dean Paula Crone, D.O., about that factoid and she had an interesting response.

In a nutshell Dean Crone said that because only about 5 percent of the 2,054 applicants, most of whom were academically well qualified, would enter our class, she had little doubt that we could learn the sciences necessary to become competent physicians.

It was her next comment to me that resonated deeply. Dean Crone said that it was easier to teach sciences than a spirit of service, and she thought great doctors required not only a solid understanding of the sciences, but also excellent bedside manners and a desire to serve others.

She told me if she had two applicants, the first with a GPA or MCAT score a touch higher than the second, who had an application filled with examples of service, she would probably take the second applicant.

Serving others does not happen in a hurry. Starting a Non-Government Organization, working in an orphanage or serving in the military or Peace Corps takes time. As a result, our class is just a bit older than others.

Having now lived in Lebanon for a year, I paused to consider how our spirit of service demonstrated itself here in the community and below are just some of the places students, staff and faculty have volunteered:

• Kindergarten University

• Partners for Progress

• Literacy Day

• High school mentoring

• FISH

• Mini-Medical School

• Lebanon Downtown Farmers Market

• Mennonite Village

• Lebanon Health Career Ladder

• Mighty Oaks Children Therapy Center

• Various 5k and 10k runs

• Filling sand bags with the fire department

• Relay For Life

• ABC House

• Lebanon Strawberrians

• Health screenings at local schools and at the Lebanon Soup Kitchen

• Boys & Girls Club

• Albany Helping Hands Homeless Shelter

• Planting Seeds of Change

• Lebanon Community Clinic

I could write an entire article about any of these service activities, but to expand on just one the Lebanon Health Career Ladder brings sixth grade students onto our campus six times per year to learn more about the health care field.

Students have the opportunity to look in microscopes, examine X-rays and learn about how to apply to college.

Assistant Dean Louise Muscato, PhD, commented the program is remarkable because it truly is a ladder, and students are encouraged to stay involved throughout middle school and high school.

In the future, many Lebanon students will graduate from high school with substantial education, exposure and experience to various health care professions they obtained while visiting our school over the course of seven years.

Those students will be well equipped to pursue careers ranging from medical assistant to nurse to physician.

I think the depth and width of COMP-Northwest students’ service is remarkable for a couple of reasons.

First, sometimes people say or do the “right” things to begin a relationship or land a particular job, but once they are in, they revert to who they really are.

My classmates did not simply serve in the past to improve their chances of getting into medical school, they served because it was and continues to be a part of who they are.

Second, it is easier to serve when we possess disposable resources, but medical students have very little extra time, money or energy, yet my classmates continue to serve.

Any relationship is a two-way street, and the Lebanon community undeniably reached out to the students at COMP-Northwest.

Enjoying the hindsight of our first year, I am proud that the students chose to reach back.

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