It was April 15, 2005 — the deadline to decide which medical school he would attend the following fall. A few hours earlier, he had essentially decided to attend Dartmouth, near his family in New Hampshire. His father, hoping he would stay close to home for medical school, was skeptical.
“Vanderbilt will probably call and offer you a scholarship and you’ll end up Nashville,” Drolet remembers his dad saying.
Then, the phone rang. On the other end of the line were Hal Helderman, MD, then admissions chair, and then dean Steven Gabbe, MD, offering him a full-tuition scholarship to attend Vanderbilt.
“Well, that really changes things,” he told them.
A few months later, his father’s prediction came true. Drolet arrived in Nashville as a first-year medical student and quickly found comfort in Vanderbilt’s collaborative atmosphere. Contrary to the competitive nature of his previous academic experiences, his four years at Vanderbilt were characterized by a team approach to learning and high-level support from faculty and administrators. He also developed a deep gratitude for the support of the Vanderbilt University Medical Alumni Association, which helped fund critical wellness and other programming for students.
“Learning in an environment like that is inspirational,” Drolet said. “It fostered in me a valuable perspective that I still use in what I do every day.”
Following his graduation, Drolet completed a plastic surgery residency at Brown University, then a hand and upper extremity fellowship at Johns Hopkins. He remained connected to Vanderbilt, returning for the Shade Tree Trot every year and keeping in touch with faculty mentors. He always knew he wanted to return to Vanderbilt and teach and jumped at the chance to join its faculty in 2016. Drolet now serves as assistant professor of Plastic Surgery, chief of the Division of Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery and director of the Integrated Plastic Surgery residency program.
In addition to juggling his roles as clinician, educator and researcher, Drolet is also an advocate for giving back to the school. In appreciation of his scholarship, Drolet’s philanthropic priority is supporting student scholarships at Vanderbilt. He spearheaded his class’s effort to create the 2009 School of Medicine Class Scholarship in honor of their fifth Reunion, becoming the medical school’s youngest class to endow a named scholarship.
“It’s really noteworthy how many people supported our class scholarship,” he said. “We had a really robust response, and I only foresee that level of generosity growing in the years to come.”
Supporting the student-run Shade Tree Clinic, investing in innovations in medical education and helping to build a culture of philanthropy that instills in students a giving mindset while they’re on campus are also important to him. This affinity for fundraising stems from his family’s values and was bolstered by his undergraduate days as a phone-a-thon worker. But his motivation is personal, too.
“I see the immense value in what I got out of my educational experiences,” he said. “When I think about the faculty who brought me up to be a surgeon and a professional, the most impactful way to give thanks is to support that ongoing mission.”
Alumni can make a difference at the School of Medicine by endowing scholarships, supporting faculty or making an annual gift. For more information about ways to show your support, visit medschool.vanderbilt.edu/giving.