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School of Medicine students, from left, Nick Burjek, Scott Zuckerman and Jacob Ark. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Graduation 2012: School of Medicine graduates leave legacy of caring, service

BY: CAROLE BARTOO

5/17/2012 - The 99 members of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s class of 2012 may be remembered for their great depth of caring. They also have the distinction of including the greatest proportion of underrepresented minority students in the school’s history — 16 percent of the class.

School of Medicine graduate Rachel Apple, left, gets a kiss from her mother,  Ann Price, M.D., VUSMs associate dean for Alumni Affairs. (photo by Anne Rayner)

School of Medicine graduate Rachel Apple, left, gets a kiss from her mother, Ann Price, M.D., VUSMs associate dean for Alumni Affairs. (photo by Anne Rayner)

School of Medicine Founders Medalist Daniel Koehler and his wife, Susan. (photo by Anne Rayner)

School of Medicine Founders Medalist Daniel Koehler and his wife, Susan. (photo by Anne Rayner)

From left, School of Medicine students Sarah Deery, Gabriela Andrade, Katie Ayers and Alia Durrani start the celebration following graduation.

From left, School of Medicine students Sarah Deery, Gabriela Andrade, Katie Ayers and Alia Durrani start the celebration following graduation.

School of Medicine graduate Blake Hooper, right, celebrates with his brother, Peabody graduate Brock. (photo by Anne Rayner)

School of Medicine graduate Blake Hooper, right, celebrates with his brother, Peabody graduate Brock. (photo by Anne Rayner)

School of Medicine graduate Emily Cooperstein, left, shows off the money necklace made by fellow VUSM student Rachel Ruiz. (photo by Anne Rayner)

School of Medicine graduate Emily Cooperstein, left, shows off the money necklace made by fellow VUSM student Rachel Ruiz. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., congratulates Owoicho Adogwa at the School of Medicine ceremony in Langford Auditorium. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., congratulates Owoicho Adogwa at the School of Medicine ceremony in Langford Auditorium. (photo by Anne Rayner)

In the Langford Hall ceremony, Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D. (’90), vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, said in the coming years, efforts to control the cost of health care will place much more pressure on graduates to make care decisions based on resource constraints.

While counseling patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle is good medicine, Balser cautioned graduates not to make care decisions on the basis of one's own biases about the lifestyle choices patients inevitably make. He added that numerous causal factors, from genetics to social and economic conditions, influence those choices.

“Remember you are not only treating the patient who was, but the patient who will be. Follow one simple rule — treat every single patient like a member of your own family,” Balser said.

For Rachel Apple, M.D., it was seeing her older brother, who has spina bifida, receiving the highest quality of care from Vanderbilt doctors that convinced her to pursue medicine. Because her mother, Ann Price, M.D., is a faculty member, Apple said she also had the opportunity to observe faculty who were warm toward students and residents and eager to mentor them.

“I still remember where I was when I got the call from the dean saying that I had been accepted. I am not exaggerating when I say it was a dream come true. The experience at Vanderbilt has taught me this is my calling,” Apple said.

Apple received two class awards for qualities of dedication, warmth and unselfish service. She will begin a combined Medicine/Pediatrics residency at Vanderbilt in July. Her husband, Rick, will be busy as well. He graduated this year with dual law and business degrees from Vanderbilt.

Daniel Koehler, M.D., this year’s Founders medalist, served on the School of Medicine honor council all four years, chairing the organization this year. But he still found time to co-found a local non-profit with his wife, Susan, a pediatric physical therapist at Vanderbilt. The Nashvegas Rollers, a local chapter of a group called AMBUCS, raises money for, and assembles, specially adapted tricycles for children with developmental and neuromuscular disabilities.

“The bikes come in and the kids really want them right way. I can remember staying up to 2 a.m. putting together three bikes, and I really enjoyed that,” Koehler said. “I chose Vanderbilt because they encourage students to look at the bigger picture through extra curricular and leadership pursuits.”

The Koehlers now head to Iowa, where Daniel will begin his Orthopaedics residency in July.

Classmate Alon Peltz, who received both his M.D. and MBA, said Vanderbilt’s boundless encouragement of community involvement left him with intriguing options about what his medical career will look like. He received numerous awards, including the Dean’s Award, for his service to the community and leadership.

“One thing I learned is that interests guide your career direction. It’s difficult to leave an environment that is so supportive of students who are driven to try many different projects. The medical directors at the Shade Tree Clinic, Drs. Mike Fowler and Bob Miller, define advocacy for me. These opportunities have, and will continue to, shape my career,” Peltz said.

This summer Peltz begins a combined residency in Pediatrics through both Boston Medical Center and Boston’s Children’s Hospital in Children’s Urban Health and Advocacy.

Class president Scott Zuckerman, M.D., said he hopes when people see the monument the class of 2012 was able to leave — the official seal of the School of Medicine at the entrance to Light Hall — they will remember his classmates’ spirit of giving.

“These are the most down-to-earth, hardworking, humble people I have ever known. They have made the last four years amazing,” Zuckerman said.

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