The best medicine? Paying it forward

Through their volunteer work, Brown medical alumni are giving back to where it all began and supporting the next generation of Brown physicians.

Over the past two years, Brown’s medical alumni have taken advantage of the many ways to connect – from the tried, true, and traditional in-person paths (when they can safely do so) to new technological avenues. And their efforts are making a real difference in the lives of current medical students and aspiring physicians.

“Volunteering for The Warren Alpert Medical School and Brown is a valuable experience for all involved,” says Patricia A. Buss ’78 MD’81 RES’87, president of the Brown Medical Alumni Association (BMAA), who has served on the Board of Directors for eight years. “Medicine, in particular, is a field in which we learn and grow from each other throughout our careers and our lives. I’m proud to be part of a community where we see the value in giving back.”

Pairing up

One of the newest opportunities offered by the BMAA is a mentoring program in which the Office of Biomedical Advancement facilitates a relationship between students and alumni who are matched based on common specialty, residency experience, or geographic location.

“I couldn’t be happier with the pairing from this program,” says student Tsikata Apenyo MD’23 of his connection to Sutchin Patel ’00 MD’04 RES’09, a urologist in the Chicago area and also a member of the BMAA Board of Directors. “Dr. Patel has been extremely responsive whenever I reach out and very open to giving me advice for things even outside of medicine. We have been in touch several times over text and Zoom, and, fortunately, once in person. It’s reassuring to know that I can text him just to check in and that is really helpful to me.”

Patel also served as a host at an in-person networking event in Providence this past fall. In his brief remarks to students, he emphasized the importance of making connections through student-centered events like this and initiatives such as the mentoring program. 

“I thought the networking event was a great success. It was a relaxed and fun atmosphere. The students were able to ask a wide range of questions and I know our alumni enjoyed sharing their experiences and advice,” says Patel, who went on to share a memory about being matched as Apenyo’s mentor. “He actually got my alumni note in the pocket of his white coat during his white coat ceremony in 2019. I was there to give the Charles O. Cooke Distinguished Visiting Lecture to the future physicians in his class and we had the chance to meet. So, it was apparently meant to be that we were then matched together two years later for the mentoring program.”

“ I feel grateful to Brown for the wonderful education I received, so I am glad to help today’s students any way I can. ”

Julie Krop ’90 MD’93

Sharing insights and expertise

Beyond the growing mentoring program, other opportunities for medical alumni to volunteer  include presenting webinars for the wider medical community, becoming a board member, and serving as a panelist for student-focused events. 

During a recent virtual panel offered by the BMAA in partnership with the Office of Student Affairs, fourth-year students had the chance to ask alumni residency program directors questions and gain insights to help them navigate the little-known territory of virtual residency interviews. 

One panelist, Ravi Gupta RES’08, reflected on the experience: “I always enjoy working with Brown students and to know I could provide worthwhile guidance to these future doctors is very gratifying. I hope to participate again in the future.” Matthew Klein MD’14 seconded Gupta’s sentiments—and those of many medical alumni—about their willingness to be there for students: “I was excited to be invited and I really enjoyed speaking with students … sharing my experiences and hearing about theirs. I'd be happy to take part in an event like this anytime."

“Dropping-in” on medical students

Another opportunity to connect students with alumni is the BMAA’s alumni “drop-in” program, during which alumni are invited to talk to and answer questions from students at The Warren Alpert Medical School, often about topics outside the core curriculum.

Franklin Iheanacho MD’24 jumped at the chance to moderate a biotechnology discussion with Julie Krop ’90 MD’93 and Eric Sievers '85 MD'88. “It was so engaging. I loved the opportunity to lead the discussion and talk directly to the alumni,” said Iheanacho of the experience. “It’s such a great skill to learn and build upon.” And Krop reflected on her participation: “I loved it and would love to do it again! I feel grateful to Brown for the wonderful education I received, so I am glad to help today’s students any way I can. It was a great experience for me, too, because I was making connections to current students and learning about what is relevant and important to them.”

Leaving a lasting impact

By building new relationships with students, the BMAA’s events and programs give returning alumni the chance to contribute to the success of the next generation of physicians—and also an opportunity to reflect on their own paths and expand their own perspectives.

“Being engaged goes beyond the Brown University campus or The Warren Alpert Medical School building,” adds Buss. “You are not only further developing your own career and life skills or influencing the direction of your alma mater or these students. It’s so much bigger than that—you are helping shape the future of medicine.”

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