Med Student-Designed "Look at Larner" Program Holds First Event

September 21, 2021 by Michelle Bookless

On September 10 and 11, the Larner College of Medicine welcomed 27 individuals from across the country as participants in the first-ever “Look at Larner” program. Candidates in the program were aspiring medical students, from rising college juniors to postgraduates and career changers.

Mialovena Exume (left) and Warrick Sahene (right) address Look at Larner participants during a lunchtime session in Hoehl Gallery

On September 10 and 11, the Larner College of Medicine welcomed 27 individuals from across the country as participants in the first-ever “Look at Larner” program. Candidates in the program were aspiring medical students, from rising college juniors to postgraduates and career changers.

Created by Class of 2024 medical students Mialovena Exume and Warrick Sahene and supported by the Offices of Admissions, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Medical Communications, the program is intended to act as an outreach program – providing an opportunity for students from backgrounds typically underrepresented in medicine (URiM) who have a strong interest in pursuing a medical degree to gain first-hand experience about what it’s like to be a medical student at Larner. Although participants had to fund their own travel costs, once they arrived, food and housing were provided for them.

As students of color at Larner, Exume and Sahene felt a program like this was particularly important for the College because “Larner has the capacity to really diversify the student population and attract more students of color to apply and matriculate,” says, Exume. “Obviously, with a more diverse group of people, you have the opportunity to learn in even greater ways,” she adds. 

Paired with Larner medical student hosts who housed them for the weekend and gave them a tour of Burlington and the surrounding area, participants attended active learning classes and PCR sessions, took tours of the College and University facilities, and attended an admissions forum and medical student Q&A panel.

They also gained hands-on experience through rotations in the UVM Simulation Laboratory ­­– completing a virtual colonoscopy, practicing ultrasound techniques, listening to heart and breath sounds, working with Standardized Patients on interview and patient history skills, and even learning how to intubate.

During lunch on their first day, participants heard from Dean Richard Page, M.D., who spoke about the importance of professionalism.

“Professionalism isn’t about what you look like or where you’re from; it’s about who you are and who you aspire to be,” said Dean Page, who thanked Exume and Sahene for their vision and execution of the program and encouraged participants to “Think positive and be positive. You can make an impact on the world by being the best physicians you can be,” he added. He concluded by saying “Our home is your home.”

Later in the day, several faculty members discussed their medical specialties and their journeys into medicine. Presenters included Katie Wells, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of surgery and Margaret Tandoh, M.D., F.A.C.S., associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion and associate professor of surgery, who spoke about their experiences as an emergency medicine physician and surgeon, respectively; Claude Nichols III, M.D., chair and professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation, who spoke about sports medicine; Molly Rideout, M.D., professor pediatrics; Elizabeth Bonney, M.D., M.P.H., professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences and director of reproductive science research, who spoke about being a scientist and clinician; Amara Heard, M.D., a neonatologist fellow in the Department of Pediatrics; Rebecca Wilcox, M.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and vice chair for pathology education; Siddique Akram, M.D., an internal medicine resident in the Department of Medicine; Anthony Williams, M.D., F.A.C.P., assistant professor of family medicine; Jason Browne, M.D., an internal medicine resident in the Department of Medicine.    

An evening medical school mixer provided an opportunity for Look at Larner participants to interact with Larner medical students from all four years, faculty, and staff, after which many students took a trip down the hill to try their first maple creemee at Burlington Bay.

Class of 2024 medical student Sydney Cardozo said that her favorite part of being a student host was getting to know her participant, Briana Remache. She believes the program was successful in expanding participants’ networks and allowing them to “get some of their more complicated and in-depth questions about the application process and journey through medical school answered.”

Cardozo’s classmate Shubhankar Joshi agreed, adding that he believes the program will help Larner attract a more diverse student body. “If I was able to participate in a program like Look at Larner as a pre-medical student,” he said, “I would have been the first to sign up.”

A post-experience survey revealed early signs of program success with one participant reporting that the program “solidified my belief that I am more than capable of succeeding in medical school.”  Another wrote, “The people at Larner were also so compassionate and culturally aware,” and added, “The active learning was highly effective for my style of learning and the facilities were top notch. I can now see myself at Larner.”

Exume and Sahene are working to ensure the Look at Larner program not only continues but grows quickly. “We really envision this being an annual student-run program supported by Admissions,” says Exume. Sahene adds, “We hope to grow the number of participants yearly and create an alumni network as well.”

Orientation 2022 Infographic

Voices of the College

“After the bloating, mood changes, and countless injections, the only thing that truly kept me dedicated to continuation of the process was the thought that a recipient was relying on me to help them create a family. That was enough to motivate me through and ultimately is the only reason I would consider donating again.”

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