Dartmouth Medicine HomeCurrent IssueAbout UsContact UsSearchPodcasts

Vital Signs:
New students bring wealth of experiences as they begin at DMS

With interests encompassing alpine skiing, hiking, rock-climbing, swimming, logging, and kayaking, Dartmouth's 84 first-year M.D. students would surely do well in an episode of Survivor.

What they've survived, however, is a rigorous medical school application process. The new students, who were selected from about 5,000 applicants, have a mean undergraduate grade point average of 3.7 in nonscience courses and 3.6 in the sciences. They represent 60 undergraduate institutions and 31 states, and 13 were born outside the U.S.; 58% are women, 42% are men, and over 25% are of color or international students.

But the numbers tell only part of the story. The brief autobiographies the '08s wrote to introduce themselves to each other reveal a wide range of experiences. The class includes a rural engineer who worked in the Himalayas, an oceanography instructor, a military police officer who served in Bosnia and Croatia, a registered Maine guide, and 11 EMTs. One student was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal and another was the in-country coordinator of NASA's Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia.

Photo by Medora Hebert
Below, team-building exercises like this are part of the orientation-week activities for the first-year M.D. students.

Many, like Laura Shiveley, have research experience, too. She majored in biology at the University of California at Davis and after her graduation was "a postgraduate researcher . . . investigating the effects of Ginkgo biloba in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia in elderly participants."

Others wrote humorously of their roundabout journeys to DMS. Irvin Sanchez was born in rural Puerto Rico, and, "after a three-year stop at Fort Buchanan in San Juan, where I learned to speak English, I moved with my mother and brother to Dallas, where I ran into the first cowboy store I could find—yee-haw!" Sanchez later moved to the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, "land of golf carts and Delta pilots," and earned a degree in microbiology from the University of Georgia. "My personal interest for learning about new cultures, people, and ways of life," he said, "is matched only by my love for all things baked, especially bread —Atkins Schmatkins."

Rigors: For some students, the path to medical school involved rigors far beyond those of the application process. Deogratias Niyizonkiza, who grew up in Burundi and started medical school there, wrote, "I was doing a clinical clerkship in a hospital with 750 beds, where 70% of the patients were infected with HIV/AIDS, TB, and other opportunistic infections." But Niyizonkiza had to flee Burundi during a period of political genocide and made his way to the U.S., "homeless, speaking not a word of English," but still hoping to complete medical school. After volunteering at a hospice and a nursing home, learning English, and working to support the rest of his family while they were still in refugee camps, he eventually earned a bachelor's degree from Columbia University.

Four of the '08s are enrolled in the M.D.-Ph.D. program— two in microbiology and two in pharmacology-toxicology.

Other programs: The doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences welcomed 45 other new candidates—35 in microbiology, six in pharmacology and toxicology, and four in physiology.

And 61 new students entered the programs of DMS's Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences— 18 M.S. students, 40 M.P.H. students, and three Ph.D. candidates.

Yet regardless of which program they are entering, the new students, like Jessica Walls, seem to be enthusiastic about being at DMS. "My combined experiences," she wrote, "leave me inspired and excited for the wonderful years that lie ahead."

Matthew C. Wiencke

If you would like to offer any feedback about this article, we would welcome getting your comments at DartMed@Dartmouth.edu.

Back to Table of Contents

Dartmouth Medical SchoolDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College