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The Larner Stories Project is a video series that features candid, one-on-one conversations with University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine alumni, upper-level medical students (M3’s and M4’s), and faculty that faced personal challenges during their time in medical school and training, but nevertheless overcame these challenges or grew stronger because of them.

This is a project for medical students, by medical students (current or former). These stories are meant to serve as a living testament to the coping skills and resources that worked for the storyteller, while reminding those viewing the videos (i.e. medical students) that they are not alone.


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Pilot Episode  - Chris Veal

Pilot Episode ScreenshotFrom the beginning Chris Veal (LCOM 21') felt as if a black cloud hung over him as he embarked on his medical education. After the death by suicide of his best friend just 5 months prior to his first day of class, the rejection of him by his family after he disclosed he was gay, and a growing depression that became more omnipresent with each passing day, he knew that one day, something was going to give. That day came on a cold and snowy day in early January 2018 after failing a course remediation and being asked by a dean "Are you sure you really want to become a doctor?" Breathless from years of suffocating depression and weak from a year and a half of fighting his own inner demons and insecurities Chris had, had enough.

Sometimes it is at the moments we are most hopeless that we discover who we truly are. In our pilot episode of The Larner Stories Project, the project's founder (Chris) candidly discusses how he overcame remarkable challenges and used these experiences to rediscover himself, and accept the help that had been waiting for him since he walked through the doors of the Larner College of Medicine.

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Episode 2 - Elizabeth Lynch

Elizabeth Lynch 2

As the saying goes, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” For Elizabeth Lynch (LCOM 21’), this sentiment encapsulated the torment she felt as she worked her way through her early years of medical school. While she may have always looked and acted the part, deep down she fought every day to keep it all together. But as every medical student knows, medical school and specifically USMLE Step 1, has a way of penetrating our deepest insecurities and opening up a version of ourselves that we sometimes fail to recognize. For Elizabeth this manifested itself as an eating disorder. But it was through the love and support of her friends and family, the expertise of a competent therapist, and the testimony of a fellow classmate that reminded her that she was not alone. While she emphasizes her journey is far from over, she shares with us the importance of honesty and authenticity with ourselves and our friends and colleagues. 

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Episode 3 - Lauren Struck

mq2Nobody has proven that “age ain’t nothing but a number” quite like Lauren Struck. At the age of 45, she took the audacious step of starting medical school and leaving an established career in education with the hope for something more. Moreover, she knew she would not be taking this step alone, her journey though medical school would be shared by her husband and two adolescent children. Certainly, she understood the risk that a change like this would have on her and her family, but in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “With great risk often comes great reward.” Despite life’s twists and turns, Lauren’s courageous step has propelled her towards a present and future worthy of admiration. But it is the culmination of her experiences prior to entering the medical profession that has distinguished her from the rest. She encourages those of “a certain age” to enter the medical profession as she has; Noting, “The life experience that anyone my age brings is going to serve you really well, because you have things that you’ve learned that can’t be taught”

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Episode 4 - Deena Chanowitz

mq1 (1)The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Resilience” as “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” For a personified example of this, one needs to look no further than Deena Chanowitz (LCOM Class of 2022). From her troubled and at times chaotic upbringing in Israel, to her successful career in New York’s fast-paced culinary world as Chef Deena; her persistence against all odds has defined her life of resilience. Though despite her success, she yearned for something greater- that “something” would direct her to the Larner College of Medicine. While the first year of medical school is hard enough, Deena continued to lead her business in New York and adjusted to life as a medical student as best she could- until she learned she was pregnant. Understanding that something had to give, Deena took the time she needed to deliver her child and sell her business for a fresh start. Two years later, she was back in the classroom. Deena has never given up when faced with a challenge, instead she’s used these opportunities for innovation and personal growth. As a non-traditional medical student, she’s used her experiences outside the world of medicine to give her an advantage both in the clinical setting and at home with her husband and children. She encourages others to “not stress about being the best” and to focus on “being a balanced person and compassionate”. These are just some of the traits that continue to build on the foundation of resilience that has defined Deena’s life.