For the first time in its history the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine has welcomed a female majority of students to its freshman class. The Class of 2021 features 22 females and 20 men. They began classes on July 31st after a week of orientation.
After a picture taking session on the steps of the medical school last week, freshman Lauren Cashman, who hails from Yorktown, VA, reflected on that. She attended Virginia Tech for her undergraduate and master’s degrees first (biological assistance engineering, then mechanical engineering), and was one of those selected for the medical school from the initial list of applicants that numbered 4403.
Cashman was “nervous” about the application process in general and getting that acceptance call was a big relief. “It was honor to be deemed ready.” As for being part of the first female-majority class, Cashman said she “didn’t know that was something they were aiming for, but it’s nice to feel like there’s a balance, depending on who you get along with better, guys or girls, you have lots of people to choose from to be friends with. It seems like a really great group of people to be going through this with [over the next four years].”
Cashman may focus on surgery but added that “so much is going to change over the next four years. We’ll see.” She said she is drawn to unknowns and problem solving, one reason she switched to an engineering track at Virginia Tech early on. Founded as a joint effort with the regional health care giant, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will become a Virginia Tech school (its 9th) as of next summer. It’s a long haul to 2021, but at an early orientation session the new students were told to “take it one step at a time.”
Barbara Parshall is the senior director of admissions for the medical school. There’s an “emotional attachment” formed to those applicants that make it past the early cuts and come to campus for interviews (307 for this most recent class). “It’s a little bit like speed dating. We kind of become cheerleaders for them.” Those that don’t get in will often call and ask what they can do better to improve their application.
Students applying to med schools often apply to multiple institutions and receive several offers; Parshall said those that are focused on getting into VTC as their first choice sometimes have a leg up. “It becomes a balancing act. We want them to choose us as much as we choose them. When they don’t choose us we want to [know why]. What did we do wrong? But with the people that do come there’s a real strong connection.” A sense of community is also formed “and that’s when we know they should be here,” added Parshall.
The female majority freshman class may be reflecting a nationwide trend where more women than men are going to medical schools, said Parshall. “We have probably given more emphasis on looking for females that are interested in continuing to do [medical] research. We are now looking for people that are so passionate about it that they will come here where it’s part of the curriculum. It may not necessarily be so at another school.”
The smaller class size at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine is definitely a drawing card for some students. “They want to be more than just a number,” noted Parshall.