An enthusiastic welcome on behalf of faculty and staff by Duane Compton, PhD, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine, set a tone of congenial kinship for the four-day orientation designed to familiarize the MD Class of 2027 with each other and the medical school community.
“Thank you for committing yourself to a career where you will make people’s lives better,” Compton said.
“Everyone who you meet today, and each day hereafter, shares a common purpose—and that is to support your success. Medicine is about teamwork, and you are meeting the members of our team who are committed to your learning and to your success. None of you should ever feel alone. We are here by your side to support you.”
He encouraged the class to embrace their new lives as medical students. “Take every opportunity you have during medical school to make something positive happen. Be active. Be engaged. Ask questions. Don’t be a spectator. Make the most of the next four years because they will go by quickly.”
Geisel’s commitment to medical student wellbeing, an important element of its rich collegial academic community, was reiterated throughout orientation.
Photos by Rob Strong
Dartmouth President Sian Leah Beilock, a cognitive scientist who studies performance anxiety, shared her thoughts on being new to a community, and shaking-off the effects of self-doubt.
“As most of you know, I’m new to Dartmouth and to the Upper Valley, and I suspect we’re experiencing many of the same feelings. Excitement. More than a little nervousness. A lot of uncertainty about what’s in store for us in the months and years ahead,” she said. “If you’re anything like me, you’re also probably experiencing a certain degree of self-doubt, wondering if you belong here. You may even feel like a fraud.
“I can tell you it’s perfectly natural. And whenever I take on a new role in a new place, I feel it, too.”
Reassuring the medical students that everyone has self-doubts, Beilock said it is ok to have worries, to question yourself, and to feel uncomfortable, because these are significant aspects of learning. She encouraged them to remember and celebrate that they are doing exactly what they came to Dartmouth to do—to potentially become leaders in the field of medicine, to initiate advances that will lead to breakthrough discoveries, and to improve the human condition.
“You’re in luck and frankly, so am I because there’s no better place than Dartmouth to do it! Your journey here will be challenging, rewarding and, at times, downright difficult, as any worthwhile journey should be,” Beilock said. “Know that as a community, we’re excited to see where it takes you and we are here to support you every step of the way.”
Roshini Pinto-Powell MD, associate dean of admissions, and a professor of medicine and medical education, also sought to assuage students’ anxieties about what lies ahead.
“I know that you are excited. This is your big day—a day many if not all of you have long waited for. We at Geisel look forward to this day too,” Pinto-Powell said.
“In each of you we see qualities we hope to nurture … your unique contribution to our school, to our community, and to the field of medicine. Your individual strengths are likely very different from the person beside you. Try not to compare yourself to each other—instead, share your strengths and be honest about your challenges.
“Get to know and value every classmate no matter how similar or different from you they seem to be,” she said. “There should be no competition now, just the joy of successfully getting to graduation day together.”
Pinto-Powell then invited everyone to embark on a mission of inclusiveness to foster a true sense of belonging as an antidote to the stressors of the study and practice of medicine.
“Medicine needs one’s full attention, and struggles or stumbles are part of this journey,” she said. On a final note, she encouraged the new medical students to be kind to themselves and to reach out to Geisel peers, faculty, coaches, and staff early in their struggles.
In addition to overviews of the curriculum, including the Race and Health Equity longitudinal curriculum, and Geisel’s signature preclinical On Doctoring course, of which Pinto-Powell is co-director, students were introduced to campus resources, including counseling, wellness, and mental health resources, the coaching program, and a presentation on cultivating a respectful and inclusive community.
Inspired by a quote from Hippocrates on how learning about medicine is comparable to plants in the earth that grow strong with time, Kate Adams, Geisel’s advising and wellness coordinator, hosted a relaxing outdoor activity where students repotted succulents for themselves then decorated the pots. As a metaphor for wellness, Adams told the class that caring for plants will not only beautify their environment but contribute to tranquility by reducing stress.
And on sunny and warm Thursday afternoon after spending several days indoors, Dartmouth Outdoors led the medical students in a fun and lively team building activity at Storrs Pond in Hanover where teams were given rudimentary materials to build rafts to race across a section of the pond and back in friendly competition.
Photos by Rob Strong