On Friday, March 18, 2022, UVM Larner College of Medicine Class of 2022 medical students celebrated Match Day in the UVM Davis Center’s Grand Maple Ballroom.
As is customary at Larner, the class’s Student Council President, Patrick Clarke, spoke in front of classmates, family, and friends before envelopes containing students’ residency match information were handed out. His speech can be read below.
Additional information about Match Day including a celebratory recap video, map showing where students are heading next, match list, link to a recording of the full celebration, and more can be found at https://go.uvm.edu/matchday2022-recap.
The Meaning of Life: To Live & Be With Other People
Here’s a quote from a book I read recently by Sally Rooney, the Irish writer:
“What if the meaning of life on earth is not eternal progress toward some unspecified goal—the engineering and production of more and more powerful technologies, the development of more and more complex and abstruse cultural forms? What if these things just rise and recede naturally, like tides, while the meaning of life remains the same always—just to live and be with other people?”
I was told about Sally Rooney and her books by Cara, a classmate of ours. I picked this quote because I believe it speaks to a lot of what we’ve been through these past few years.
At times medical school and the process of applying to and remaining in medical school has consistently felt like we’re preparing to do the next hardest thing.
In case anyone has not heard it a million times already, we first had to submit applications to 30 or so schools, fly all around the country for interviews, choose the Larner College of Medicine (obviously), and move to Vermont. Then, there’s that first exam where you’re sure you fail and they’re going to kick you out; all of the other 100-some odd tests; Step 1; all the shelf exams and Clinical Skills Exams; and now the last part of applying—interviewing and matching to a residency.
Each part of medical school has challenged us in new and different ways, but what I’ve gathered, and what I hope you have all gathered from this experience, is that we’ve completed each step while also focusing on bettering ourselves and making our community stronger.
Medical School in the Time of COVID
The COVID pandemic took members of our community and our families and threatened how our medical school experience was supposed to exist. Throughout this beast of a global shift, we focused our efforts on each other.
I want to highlight some of the amazing initiatives we’ve seen from our class throughout our time in school:
- Carolyn Geraci and Madeline Fritz started a task force to accept masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) from the community at the beginning of the pandemic when medical professionals were in short supply;
- Isaac De La Bruere created the UVM Minority Association of Premedical Students;
- Matt Brandt worked so hard on the LCME survey and helped the school secure re-accreditation;
- Sylvia Lane and Gia Eapen worked with Frontline Foods to help get meals to frontline workers at the beginning of the pandemic;
- Everyone involved in the LCOM ServiceCorps which made extra pushes for community service and support during the pandemic;
- Adam Ross worked with ODEI (the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) on a 5-year plan to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at the College of Medicine;
- We all developed family medicine and public health projects to individually tackle deficits in public health, education, and more;
- Sheridan Finnie, Rich Brach, and Luke Higgins worked on integrating the social determinants of health into our pre-clinical curriculum and Nikki Turgeon developed a social emergency medicine component for the Emergency Medicine rotation;
- Two different clerkship guides and the Specialty Sibs and Step Sibs programs were created to help the classes that came after us so that we can leave the path a little easier and less steep than how we found it;
- Ashleigh Peterson and Claudia Russell worked with isolated elderly Vermonters at the beginning of the pandemic and learned how to virtually Zoom-Zumba from a chair; and
- Elena Martel, Ally Miller, and Prasanna Kumar worked to distribute COVID vaccinations to migrant farm workers in Vermont.
These are just a few examples, but there are so, so many more.
We created mental health panels and ran events on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We spent time, effort, energy, and money on making our community and ourselves better. We worked tirelessly for four years, even when we thought we couldn’t keep going.
We did something seemingly insurmountable—we finished medical school and completed every step of our clinical curriculum, during a worldwide pandemic.
Amidst this we asked each other difficult questions, learned from each other, and tried our best to cultivate a better atmosphere for ourselves, our predecessors, and our community as a whole.
I want to say, “Thank you, all,” for letting me learn from you as we develop into physicians. This is truly something I never thought possible and after a ton of hard work, mixed with a bunch of fun, a bunch of learning, and the hardest, most beautiful thing I’ve been a part of, we’re here.
I do want to take a moment to honor a beautiful friend, a part of our class who should be with us here today, Collins Oguejiofor.
I didn’t want to impose my own thoughts on what I thought Collins would be comfortable with me sharing, so I had Isi Beach and Adam Fakhri, as well as a few of his other friends, share their thoughts on how best to honor him.
Collins was a wonderful classmate, friend, and person whose memory goes with us on to the next step. We could talk at length about his kind, caring, and gentle nature, which his patients and anyone who knew him can attest to. His friends will remember how he always prioritized them and cared for them even when things in his own life were not easy.
On this day of celebration, I think what Collins would want for us to share in his honor, is the same joy that he brought to us by constantly being absolutely hilarious. It is hard to picture him biking from his far away house to the Bayberry Condos, showing up at Adam Fakhri’s house three hours late and completely drenched in sweat, without having a laugh. Even after such an effort to show up at his friends’ house to study, one person, in particular, will remember how he spent that entire evening with her on the phone (walking around shirtless), missing a nice dinner and study session because he would do anything to help a friend.
We will also remember how much he loved the enormous poster of his close friend hanging in the lobby of the Medical Education Building and would always say “Bruh, I should be up there;” how he always seized the chance for a trip to New York for a “different kind of escape;” and how he loved his salads with a topping of low-sodium ketchup.
Thank you Collins for the joy and laughter you brought us. We share our joy with you today and will carry it with us in the next steps of our journeys. Wherever we land, may we all remember to make room for and bring laughter to others even when our own lives are not perfect, as Collins did for us.
We miss you Collins, but you are with us always.
To my classmates, thank you, all. Thank you for teaching me and allowing me to grow into this next phase of my life.
We’ve made it. We’re almost at the point where we are the physicians we’ve always wanted to become.
When I was applying to medical school I remember watching the UVM Match Day speeches and videos, and although I was inconsolably sobbing through every one, I remember thinking “This is the person I want to become”—someone so inspired and ignited by my community that I feel nothing but enormous gratitude and thanks for being allowed to be a part of it. You have all fulfilled this ask and I want to just scream “Thank you!”
And lastly, to our parents, friends, siblings, partners, Larner staff and faculty, and everyone that made this day possible, thank you.
Thank you for being here today and allowing us to celebrate the culmination of our medical school experience.
We could not have completed this strange, difficult, beautiful, terrifying, and all-together wonderful and inspiring journey without you.