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August 16, 2013 - COM Class of 2017 Introduced to Medical School During Orientation
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The University of South Alabama College of Medicine welcomed 74 of the nation’s brightest students last week for the Class of 2017’s freshman orientation.

Tung Vu, who received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from USA, explained that orientation was going well, but that he is ready to get started with the application aspect of practicing medicine. “I’m excited because this is what I’ve always wanted to do.”

During freshman orientation, the students’ schedules were packed with information sessions, icebreakers, policy briefings, study strategies, campus tours, and fittings for their white coat -- the traditional dress of physicians for more than 100 years.

Throughout the week, the new medical students were provided with an overview of what they should expect during the upcoming years as they study medicine. On Wednesday, a team of specialists was brought in to discuss adapting to and handling the stress of medical school. The students were also given valuable insight of effective study strategies by Dr. Jeffrey Sosnowski, assistant professor of pathology at the USA College of Medicine.

This year’s class is composed of scholars from around the nation, with diverse backgrounds. “I’m just ready to get started,” said first-year medical student Jay White. “My story is probably a little different than most of the others,” he continued. White, a native of Baton Rouge, La., practiced as an attorney for five years before experiencing a change of heart. Not long after, he began the pursuit of a career in the medical field.

Many students enter medical school with a clear and direct idea of which branch of medicine they want to pursue. Others come in with an open mind, willing to change. For Joy Underwood, a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in biology, she finds interest in neurology and emergency medicine, but is keeping her options open. Underwood said that she is excited to see where her career will take her.

Underwood explained that she is the most eager to begin clinical work; however, she foresees that component of the program to be the most challenging element of her studies.

When asked if there were any doctors in her family, she relaxed, nodded her head, and with a smile said, “Oh yes.” Her father’s family is full of physicians and her mother’s family is rich with nurses. “You could say we’re a medical family,” she explained.

For some first-year students, it has been a lifelong dream to become a practicing physician. “During my undergraduate career at USA I had the chance to shadow physicians at the USA Medical Center. I also spent a year doing cancer research at the Mitchell Cancer Institute,” Vu said. “Those experiences were great learning opportunities and played huge roles in helping me to decide that medicine is the field that I can see myself enjoying and succeeding in.”

Vu is proud to be the first doctor in his family and can hardly wait to begin learning complex medical concepts. Vu said that he is most enthusiastic to begin applying what he has studied to real life situations.

When searching for the right professional school, there are many factors to consider. The comfort and quality of the local area is a key element. “When I came for my interview, I fell in love with the atmosphere,” said Jacob Sexton, a first-generation medical student. “It’s in a great location, too, near the beach. There are lots of interesting things nearby that we can do during the few holidays we will have.”

“The most exciting part of medical school, for me, is the experience to continue to learn new and innovative things every day,” Sexton explained. “Medicine is always changing, and I am looking forward to learning and working in a profession in which no two days will ever be the same.”

Sexton is from Luverne, Ala., and attended Troy University, where he received his bachelor of science degree in athletic training. He said he would like to work along the Florida panhandle, practicing as an orthopedic surgeon or working in emergency medicine.

All of the first-year students agree that they are excited to get started. “I think the biggest challenge will be establishing a schedule and getting used to the pace of a medical student’s life,” Sexton said.

“The process of adapting and making the change from undergraduate school to a professional school will be difficult,” said Vu, “but I guess you could say this has always been my dream.”

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