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The Path Not Taken: How a COSAM Grad is Changing the Perceptions of Medical School

Published: 02/19/2019

By: Hannah Williams

The typical path to medical school often appears straight and certain, leading everyone along a similar journey. This path is increasingly being challenged as pioneers on the medical school front search for a path less taken.

Lauren Barr, a 2015 College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) alumni who is in her third year of medical school at Vanderbilt, is one of these pioneers. She graduated from Auburn with degrees in Biomedical Sciences and Spanish and was accepted to Vanderbilt for medical school. Instead of going straight into medical school though, she took a different path and put this on hold to take a gap year.

Often times, gap years are surrounded with several misconceptions, but Barr explained just how far-off these misconceptions are and how her gap year changed her life and even illuminated her desired career field. During her gap year, Barr completed a yearlong service program in Chicago at Amate House, where she lived in a community with other volunteers, participated in a service and social justice education program, and volunteered full-time at a nonprofit.

“This experience exposed me to numerous disparities and social issues, and it has strongly motivated me to work with under resourced and often overlooked populations,” Barr said.

During this time, she provided companionship to Spanish-speaking senior citizens living in social isolation through regular visits and planned social events.

“I hope to be a primary care provider for underserved populations,” Barr explained. “This experience has confirmed and strengthened my desire to do exactly this sort of work for the rest of my life.”

Often times, students are worried about how a gap year will affect their planned paths but breaking away from tradition can provide numerous benefits. Barr strongly encouraged other COSAM students to look into taking a gap year.

“Find out what you are excited about because during interviews, it’s clear when you are talking about something you are excited about, and people tend to enjoy seeing that,” she said.

 

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