By Glenn N. Cummings, Ph.D., Director of Health Professions Advising
Earlier this week I had the honor of welcoming the seventeen new members of the Benjamin Rush Honor Society at a simple but powerful induction ceremony in Ware College House. I said a few words at the top of the hour before turning the spotlight over to officers Dylan Smith ‘13 and Jennifer Gay ‘13, who spoke eloquently about the role the Society plays on campus, encouraging academic excellence while fostering community among F&M’s population of pre-health students. It was great to see the parents of several inductees there in the audience. One mom said she’d driven an hour-and-a-half to see her daughter join Ben Rush, while another mom and dad shared with me how much F&M has meant to their son. I always love meeting students’ families—the mutual respect between child and parent, the nervous laughter surrounding “inside” family jokes, the “aw shucks” looks on students’ faces as enthusiastic parents do what they do best—boast of their child’s accomplishments . . . The inductees were dressed as if they were going on semi-formal dates; this, too, was fun to see, since in my office they’re usually wearing sweats. There was cake. There was coffee and lemonade, and little cookies that looked like they came from a Paris patisserie. Our guest speaker, Dr. Jeffrey Cope ‘87, a cardio-thoracic surgeon at Lancaster General Hospital, grew up not far from Lancaster. He described all the ways in which F&M gave his life meaning, and reminded the Ben Rush members to appreciate every moment of their college experience. An English minor, Dr. Cope acquired a love for reading while a student here, and a central theme to his remarks was the need to read a little bit every day. Medicine is a dynamic profession, the knowledge needed for providing the best care is always expanding, and Dr. Cope recounted a time when outside reading in his field—done purely out of his own curiosity—ultimately helped one of his critical patients, giving Dr. Cope the know-how and confidence to perform a complicated 8-hour surgery for the first time, and save the man’s life.
What impressed me most about Tuesday night, however, was the pride I saw throughout the room. The parents were proud, of course, but what struck me more was the esteem one pre-med student had for another, and had for him/herself. Maybe that’s what an honor society can do—fire up one’s confidence, particularly after emerging from a pre-health science curriculum that tests the abilities and gumption of even our best science students. As the new director of Health Professions Advising, I saw F&M dressed up for the first time, supporting its students with cookies and tea, yes, but more importantly with the chance to come together and acknowledge one another outside of the often-competitive atmosphere of “being pre-med.” Medical students, after all, are not overly grade conscious or interested in rivalries with their peers. The med students I’ve met on my visits to medical schools across the country have been focused on learning how to make themselves useful, like Dr. Cope read about a surgical technique that empowered him to help a fellow human in an emergency. Med students support one another because the most immediate common goal is no longer “get into med school”—they’ve done that. No longer are they focused on their own success as much as the informed, compassionate care of their future patients. On Tuesday night, the Ben Rush group had that look about them. They seemed like med students to me, and it made me smile. Welcome, new members!