Clemson alumnus and retired oncologist Dr. Tripp Jones was one of several Clemson alumni medical professionals who gave their perspective on the rewards and rigors of the medical field during the recent Tigers On Call event.

Clemson alumnus and retired oncologist Dr. Tripp Jones was one of several Clemson alumni medical professionals who gave their perspective on the rewards and rigors of the medical field during the recent Tigers On Call event.
Image Credit: Clemson University

CLEMSON — The inaugural event “Tigers on Call – Making Connections in Medicine” brought more than 100 Clemson students interested in medical careers together with 23 Clemson alumni physicians in an open forum for dialogue, support, networking and information-sharing at the Clemson University Life Sciences Facility.

Molly Merrill, director of development for the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, works with alumni physicians and noticed many wanted to engage with Clemson students interested in medical careers.

“The field of medicine is somewhat unique in that it lends itself to be a ‘mentoring’ field. Through early shadowing, med school and residency, the field relies heavily on more experienced physicians guiding those who are newer,” said Merrill.

“We wanted to bring this element of mentoring to Clemson’s campus. This and future ‘Tigers on Call’ events will allow our medical alumni to connect with our pre-med students in an environment of teaching and learning.”

Dr. Mark Ziats, Clemson ’07, was the catalyst who brought the idea to connect Clemson students with alumni physicians in the spring of 2015. Ziats said that students were “thirsty for advice from someone who has been through it,” and he worked with Merrill to bring to life the first “Tigers on Call” event in just a few months.

Their goal was to provide students with “an easy way to make connections and understand what they are getting themselves into,” Ziats said.

On the day of the event, Dr. Oscar Lovelace Jr., Clemson ’81, and the AAFP National 2015 Family Physician of the Year, spoke to students realistically and with encouragement about the challenges they will face.

Tigers on Call, Alumni

Clemson alumni medical professionals imparted their wisdom to pre-med students.
Image Credit: Clemson University

“Tigers have passion and are enthusiastic. They have a sense of purpose, dedication, discipline and they are committed. These virtues that you will breathe here at Clemson will serve you well in the field of medicine,” Lovelace said.

Multiple afternoon sessions allowed students to attend presentations based on their interest in specific medical disciplines. Following these sessions, students and alumni gathered for a networking session.

Stephen Patrick is a senior honors student majoring in biochemistry “whose planning and leadership played an integral role in the event’s success,” said Jessica Owens, health care professions adviser in the Bookhart Student Services Center.

“Through helping plan the event, I learned that perhaps our greatest asset in pre-medicine are our alumni physicians — men and women who’ve walked the same campus and have had impressive medical careers. These alumni transformed the way I thought about medicine and even revitalized my passion to become a doctor,” said Patrick.

Robert Hutchinson, a senior bioengineering student from Missouri, referred to the alumni network at Clemson as “rather exceptional” and appreciated the opportunity to hear physicians reflect on how they chose their specialties and what drives them in their work.

“We hope this event is the beginning of a movement that connects these two groups year after year to create a sense of camaraderie, a place to guide and be guided, and a place for our alumni to give back to Clemson and mentor the next generation of Clemson medical professionals,” said Merrill.

The Bookhart Student Services Center; the Clemson Alumni Association; and Alpha Epsilon Delta, Pre-Professional Health Society; sponsor Tigers on Call — Making Connections in Medicine, and plans for the second annual gathering are already under way.

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