February 7, 2012

Shifting Gears: Next Steps at Vanderbilt program prepares young adults for the road ahead

Medical student Jessi Solomon and Next Steps program graduate Jeanne Gavigan. Photo by Daniel Dubois

Medical student Jessi Solomon and Next Steps program graduate Jeanne Gavigan. Photo by Daniel Dubois

Jeanne Gavigan embarked on her first bike ride at the age of 22. Like any beginner, she fell a few times before getting the hang of it, but unlike a novice, she already had the ambitious goal of a 20-mile race. A mere three weeks later, her mission was accomplished as she and Vanderbilt medical student Jessi Solomon crossed the finish line on a tandem bike at the 12th Annual Audi Best Buddies Challenge in Hyannis Port, Mass.


“I won! I rode 20 miles!” Jeanne told Solomon at the completion of the race.

As a young adult with Down syndrome, Jeanne has tackled many obstacles, including this bike ride, proving an intellectual disability doesn’t define a person.

Her cycling companion Solomon says her race with Jeanne was one of her most memorable life experiences.

“We flew down the hills of Cape Cod singing songs from “Aladdin” at the top of our lungs because [Jeanne] loves Disney movies,” Solomon said. “We are so much alike; Jeanne is so enthusiastic and acts the way I want to act all the time.”

Solomon’s passion for individuals with special needs ignited as an undergraduate student in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, where she joined the Best Buddies chapter, an organization that fosters friendships among Vanderbilt students and individuals with intellectual disabilities. Now in her second year of medical school, Solomon plans to use her training to specialize in the care of adults with disabilities.

Read the whole story by Jennifer Wetzel here.