Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine welcomed 92 first-year medical students to the Upper Valley as they began their medical education. Observing safety protocols because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new students got to know each other during a variety of virtual orientation sessions that included a Scrabble® orienteering activity. All first-year medical students will complete a required 14-day quarantine and will be on campus beginning August 17 for small group sessions—which have been thoughtfully structured to allow for physical distancing and with appropriate personal protective equipment, while many courses will continue to be taught remotely.
In his welcoming address, Duane Compton, PhD, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine, acknowledged challenges presented by the pandemic and expressed regret about being unable to meet the students individually, and said he is looking forward to doing so throughout the academic year.
“I am sorry we could not meet in person … but on behalf of the faculty and staff, I want to give you the most enthusiastic welcome. I can think of no more exciting time to be entering medical school than now because of the unprecedented convergence of science, technology, and medicine,” Compton said. He also talked about the staggering pace of discovery in clinical medicine as a result of the pandemic and how, through Geisel’s curriculum, medical students will be immersed in those discoveries.
Thinking about how to virtually convey “the human touch” that is a hallmark of the medical school’s community was achance to try something new, said Taryn Weinstein, Geisel’s director of student affairs. “We are a community that looksforward to personally welcoming our new students—normally, this is when we get to know them individually, but students are tech-savvy and interacting virtually is not new to them.”
Weinstein and her team orchestrated a variety of prerecorded presentations, including a welcome from Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 that were shared with matriculating medical students as a component of their late-July orientation. “This new format gave us an opportunity to include presentations by groups who we otherwise would not be able to accommodate,” she said. “Our goal was to start engaging students early and to make them aware that even though we aren’t on campus we are excited that they are part of the Geisel community.”
In place of the traditional ropes course, a team-building activity that enhances effective communication and builds trust, first-year students participated in a virtual orienteering team activity designed and facilitated by Dartmouth’s outdoor programs staff. Live streaming to medical students via Zoom, the teams, specific to their On Doctoring course small groups, learned basic map and compass skills before playing virtual Scrabble® (with a twist) that combined aspects of an orienteering course, a campus tour, and a scavenger hunt. Working together to create a strategy, each student teamreceived a letter when they successfully guided a facilitator to one of 40 mapped campus locations where they were then prompted with a group challenge that included either trivia questions, riddles, math equations, or a team game. Teams alsoreceived clues to their next destination. As with the board game, the goal was to collect as many letters as possible to build the most words with the largest word scores on their Scrabble® worksheet.
Photos by Robert Gill
With 60 percent women and 40 percent men, the class is as diverse in backgrounds and experiences, as in academic achievement and service. The 92 members of the Class of ’24 represent a small percentage of the 7,151 applicants to Geisel via the American Medical College Application Service.
“We are so delighted that you are finally with us today embarking on what we hope is your dream journey into the profession of medicine,” said Roshini Pinto-Powell, MD, associate dean and chair of admissions, and professor of medicine and medical education.
“You are entering medical school at a truly interesting time … medical education has had to rapidly innovate the process of teaching and training medical students and residents … and at Geisel, we are going to be at the forefront of moving these areas of innovation forward.
“In every single one of you we saw humanistic qualities we hope to foster and help you develop, and we envisioned your unique contribution to our school, to our community, and ultimately to the field of medicine,” Pinto-Powell said.
“Each class at Geisel has always formed a tight knit group. Your class will be no different, but you will need to make a special effort to truly get to know each other and form this special bond. We have full confidence that you will.”