College welcomes first-year medical students with Fun Day

The College welcomed its new first-year medical students to campus with a day of service late last month. The First Year Fun Day, as it is called, was a part of the students’ medical school orientation.
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For the medical education of students, the College serves as a regional campus to the University of Alabama School of Medicine, headquartered in Birmingham. The students complete their first two years of medical school in Birmingham, then a portion of students move to Tuscaloosa in their third and forth years of medical school for their clinical training.

“We are working to identify more ways to become involved with the students during those first two years, so as to make them feel more a part of our family and to help them gain a greater appreciation for what we do and how it differs from the Birmingham campus,” said Richard Streiffer, MD, dean of the College.

The students began the day with a tour of the College before going to the Arc of Tuscaloosa for a community service project. The Arc is a non-profit organization that provides services to Tuscaloosa County adults with intellectual disabilities.

At the Arc, the students built garden boxes, cleared brush in the landscaping and worked with Arc consumers at the facility, while other students participated in the Meals on Wheels program by delivering meals to those in need.

Ryan Delfin, executive director of the Arc, said Arc consumers are people with likes, dislikes, quirks and skills just like everyone else. He said, “I hope that the medical students will take away the fact that individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities should not be treated differently.” Delfin asked that the medical students treat the Arc consumers as they would a friend when encountering them in the community.

Following the service project, several speakers addressed the students in an effort to prepare them for their time with the College. Eddie Sherwood, vice president at BBVA Compass, president of the Arc of Tuscaloosa board as well as vice president of the College’s Board of Visitors, spent his time getting to know the students. “Because many of the students do not know each other, he helped make connections and, overall, was a welcoming presence,” said Brook Hubner, administrative specialist for the College’s Medical Student Affairs.

Samory Pruitt, PhD, vice president of Community Affairs for The University of Alabama, also addressed the students, stressing the importance of community engagement and giving back while learning. “Volunteerism is often as beneficial to the volunteer as to the organization the volunteer is helping,” Pruitt said, encouraging the students to think about how much they learned and gained from their experience at the Arc or with other volunteer organizations.   

With Thad Ulzen, MD, the College’s associate dean of Academic Affairs and professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, the students explored why they want to be doctors. Most cited wanting to serve and help the community as their reasons for attending medical school.

Streiffer spoke to the students about the rigors of the first two years of medical school. He said the freshness, eagerness and openness students feel when first starting medical school is often worn away by the medical school curriculum. He encouraged the students to remain focused on what drew them to medical school to begin with: the opportunity to serve the community.

First Year Fun Day was concluded with a performance by Sounds of Joy, the Arc of Tuscaloosa choir.