By Hadley Montgomery
The Hippocrates Fellowship welcomed its first group of fellows to the Sewanee campus this year. The fellows are members of the class of 2020 and serve as ambassadors for the pre-health program at Sewanee: Brianne Holsomback, Hannah Cable, John McNeill, Ellie Herron, and Gil Horner.
Dr. Alyssa Summers, the Director of the Office of Medical and Health Programs, facilitates the fellowship. In the past two years, the pre-health program moved beyond simply helping medical students write committee letters to engaging and supporting the broad aspect of pre-health. This process of further aiding students began with the reestablishment of pre-health societies like Sewanee Health Professions Society (SHPS) and Sewanee Multicultural Health Society (SMHS).
Just two years ago, students revamped SHPS with the hope of the culture of pre-health programs on campus starting with students. There are now two student organizations to help pre-health students with tutoring, mentorship, community engagement, fellowship, and service. The student-centered programs provide “a culture, starting with the societies, and the Hippocrates… they are the ones taking organic coursework, [doing] varsity athletics, and thus leading the support at ground level.”
Incoming freshman apply for the Hippocrates Fellowship and serve as fellows throughout their Sewanee career. This semester, the fellows participate in a weekly meeting with Dr. Summers learning about themselves and how to best apply their strengths. Gil Horner (C’20) says the Hippocrates participate in “things that are introspective but are facilitated by external conversation but in turn lend an understanding of efficiency and interest.” The fellows learn fundamental leadership skills and cohort building: what are the stresses of daily life when taking chemistry, biology, and physics all at the same time.
When envisioning the program, Summers wanted “a place where they learn different skills they may apply but that they could also support each other. That this is a good cohort group, that they knew each other, and could support each other going through the same things.” The fellows partipated in common readings each week to discuss as a group and delve deeper into their paths as pre-health students.
After the fellows’ first year at Sewanee, they stay in Sewanee for the summer and work in clinics like Beersheba Springs, Partners for Healing, and Volunteers in Medicine, as well as visit Vanderbilt and Erlanger Hospitals for a broad view of healthcare.
“It’s nice to have the alumni physician network who is there to really help you through that process and can share true insight regarding the intricacies of medical school and what it’s like to be a doctor. It’s nice to have that mentorship, which is interesting because the goal of the program is for us to eventually become mentors for other pre-health students,” said Horner.
The students also participate in summer school while in Sewanee, taking medical humanities and biochemistry. This further alleviates the stress of doubling up on labs and overloading in future semesters. The second summer during their Sewanee career, fellows can apply to other internships like the Vanderbilt-Sewanee Undergraduate Research Experience, Yale Internships, and many others.
Summers hopes the current fellows lead the fellows in the class of 2021, applying the tools learned throughout their freshman year. “If you come in here wanting to be a pre-health student, I want to make sure you are going to reach your goals to do that, that if you get off track, it’s because of your choice, not because you didn’t have the support,” said Summers.