The Commercial Appeal

AGAINST THE ODDS

For one grad, med school was es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing

- 901-529-2388 By Thomas Bai­ley Jr. bai­ley­tom@yourap­peal.com Health · Medicine · College · Higher Education · Tennessee · Bristol · Cincinnati · Memphis · University of Texas · United States of America · University of Tennessee Health Science Center · University of Tennessee · Bristol · Shannon Briggs · National Institutes of Health

A teacher asked Olivia Morin in fall 2011 when she planned to re­sume her first-year stud­ies in med­i­cal school at the Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee Health Science Cen­ter.

The ques­tion’s as­sump­tion was rea­son­able con­sid­er­ing Olivia had just been di­ag­nosed with can­cer, stage 3b Hodgkin lym­phoma. The Bris­tol, Ten­nessee, grad­u­ate would have to en­dure the fog, fa­tigue and pain of chemo­ther­apy for six months dur­ing an aca­demic year no­to­ri­ous for its rigor.

“I said, ‘I’m not leav­ing,’” Morin re­called Fri­day morn­ing, a few hours be­fore she grad­u­ated with her orig­i­nal class­mates, the Class of 2015. “I wanted to stay in school and fin­ish with that class if I could.”

Morin, now 26, was among the 149 med­i­cal stu­dents who turned into doc­tors Fri­day at the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony for the Col­lege of Medicine. Proud fam­i­lies and friends nearly filled The

Can­non Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in Down­town Mem­phis.

The med­i­cal stu­dents were among 698 new health care pro­fes­sion­als who grad­u­ated in six dif­fer­ent cer­e­monies May 15, 22 and Fri­day.

The 2015 UT Health Science Cen­ter grad­u­ates also com­prise 175 from the Col­lege of Phar­macy; 116 from the Col­lege of Den­tistry; 142 from the Col­lege of Health Pro­fes­sions; 38 from the Col­lege of Grad­u­ate Health Sciences; and 78 from the Col­lege of Nurs­ing.

They in­clude 68 black stu­dents, 12 Latino-Amer­i­cans, 145 who came from other states, 410 women and 288 men.

The med­i­cal school’s first black grad­u­ate, Dr. Al- vin H. Craw­ford, gave the key­note ad­dress. “You’ve be­come a mem­ber of one of the world’s great­est and most re­spected pro­fes­sions,” he told the class.

The 1964 Col­lege of Medicine grad­u­ate served 29 years as chief of or­tho­pe­dic surgery at Cincin­nati Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Med­i­cal Cen­ter and now holds en­dowed chairs there in pe­di­atric and or­tho­pe­dics and spinal surgery. The Craw­ford Spine Cen­ter at Cincin­nati Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal bears his name.

“You are a doc­tor, or at least you will be one once I fin­ish with this speech,” Craw­ford said to laugh­ter.

Col­lege of Medicine Dean David M. Stern im­plored the grad­u­ates to keep learn­ing through­out their ca­reers. “I’d like to sug­gest you are grad­u­at­ing to a life­long train­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said. “You need to re­mem­ber you will al­ways be a stu­dent.”

Morin was determined to re­main one in late 2011 and 2012. She had dis­missed her weight loss and fa­tigue to the stress of the first year of med­i­cal school. But when her par­ents saw her over the Thanks­giv­ing break in 2011, they told her some­thing was wrong.

Upon re­turn­ing to Mem­phis, Morin vis­ited a doc­tor. Sub­se­quent ex­am­i­na­tions re­vealed she had a large tu­mor in her chest. She spent sev­eral days in in­ten­sive care, a week in the hos­pi­tal and im­me­di­ately started six months of chemo­ther­apy.

She took chemo treat­ments once ev­ery two weeks. Morin sched­uled the ses­sions at the West Clinic for Fri­day nights. That gave her the week­ends to re­cover be­fore classes on Mon­days. “Which sounds like a great party,” she said with a laugh.

The toxic medicine made her sick. Chemo­ther­apy takes a psy­cho­log­i­cal toll, too. As the next treat­ment ap­proaches, she said, “you work your­self up about it.”

There was also “chemo­brain,” which Morin de­scribed as “a real thing.”

“You get foggy and can’t fo­cus,’’ she said. “That made school a lit­tle harder the sec­ond half” of the first year, she said.

The low­est points in­cluded a few times when, just af­ter chemo­ther­apy, she could not get out of bed or eat “and felt so ter­ri­ble and I still had to study,” Morin re­called. “It was re­ally hard.

“But I had just grown up in a fam­ily, and al­ways been the kind of per­son, that just gets through things and pushes through things ... It never re­ally crossed my mind to stop.”

Morin cred­its the sup- port of her par­ents — her mother moved in with Olivia four of the six months of treat­ment — friends, class­mates and fac­ulty.

The Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health es­ti­mates 9,050 peo­ple in the U.S. will be di­ag­nosed with Hodgkin lym­phoma this year, and 1,150 of those will die. But more than 75 per­cent of newly di­ag­nosed adult pa­tients with the can­cer can be cured.

“I am three years can­cer­free this month and am so happy to be grad­u­at­ing with my class to­day,” Morin said.

Her class­mates were happy, too. Morin was pre­sented the Charles C. Ver­standig Award dur­ing Fri­day’s cer­e­mony. The honor is given to the new grad­u­ate who sur­mounts the great­est dif­fi­culty in ob­tain­ing a med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion. Nom­i­na­tions came from the class.

 ?? PHO­TOS BY BRAN­DON DILL/SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL ?? Olivia Morin (cen­ter) vis­its cla ss­mates be­fore the Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee Health Science Cen­ter Col­lege of Medicine grad­u­a­tion Fri­day at The Can­non Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts. She was di­ag­nosed with Hodgkin lym­phoma dur­ing her first year at UT but man­aged to keep up with her class.
PHO­TOS BY BRAN­DON DILL/SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL Olivia Morin (cen­ter) vis­its cla ss­mates be­fore the Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee Health Science Cen­ter Col­lege of Medicine grad­u­a­tion Fri­day at The Can­non Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts. She was di­ag­nosed with Hodgkin lym­phoma dur­ing her first year at UT but man­aged to keep up with her class.
 ??  ?? Mem­bers of the cla ss of 2015 gather be­fore their com­mence­ment cer­e­mony, dur­ing which 149 for­mer stu­dent s be­came doc­tors while their proud fam­i­lies and friends watched.
Mem­bers of the cla ss of 2015 gather be­fore their com­mence­ment cer­e­mony, dur­ing which 149 for­mer stu­dent s be­came doc­tors while their proud fam­i­lies and friends watched.

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