MD Student Leaders: Q&A - Fourth year medical students, Jasmina Ehab and Robert Dieu, MCOM Student Council president and vice president, share their team approach to student body leadership, perspectives on the impact of COVID-19, and the importance of alumni involvement.
Jasmina, a New York native, fell in love with the sense of community that USF offered and matriculated into the medical program after earning her master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Sciences in 2017. Robert grew up in Cocoa Beach, and found his way to USF after a brief career as an engineer with NASA. Robert credits his father for his interest in chemistry and engineering but his passion for people ultimately influenced his medicine career.
This year, these two student council leaders set out to strengthen ties with alumni and worked with Valerie Riddle, MD ‘89 to begin developing the
Alumni in Support of Student Success and Transition (ASSiST) Program, a new initiative that connects medical students to USF Health MD alumni.
When fully developed and launched, this program will help students navigate a successful transition from medical school to the next chapter in their journey.
Q: What are the priorities for the MCOM Student Council and how are you working together to implement them?
A: Every year, there’s a new goal set by the president of the Council. Student safety and student mental health and wellness are the top priorities for this year. This year has been a turning point for our class. It’s important that we check in on students from all classes to make sure they feel safe being at school and in their apartments. We make sure they have enough masks and PPE. We learned about students who lost their grandparents from COVID-19 and have suffered financially because of this. So we offer our support and make sure students are prioritizing their health and safety.
Q: In what ways did students in your class give back to the local community?
A: A lot of students in our class picked up Bridge shifts doing virtual clinics and preparing test kits with Dr. Summer Decker and the Department of Radiology. When we had a shortage of nasal swabs, students were involved in putting the kits together. Some students helped with the design, and some helped facilitate 3D printing.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your student experience?
A: Given the severity of the pandemic, clinical rotations were initially canceled. We immediately had to pivot and meet the demands of a community under quarantine. For many of us, that meant learning to do virtual appointments and participating in remote residency interviews.
Q: What inspired you to seek out alumni connections?
A: COVID has been the biggest catalyst for students, faculty, and alumni to really bond. As fourth years, we learned we would not be doing in-person interviews, would not be doing audition rotations at other institutions. And we understood, of course. But we were disappointed. A lot of what these in-person interviews provide for us and what these audition rotations do is give you the face-to-face opportunity to network. Once Robert and I realized this, we immediately approached Dr. Riddle with the hopes that alumni would be willing to network with us remotely.
Q: When is the best time for alumni to connect with students?
A: Alumni can make an immediate impact on students at any point in their medical journey. As a first year, having my first white coat sponsored by a graduate and reading their note made me feel very proud to follow in their footsteps. As a fourth year, I feel a stronger need to connect with alumni and learn more from the people who have moved on and been there, done that and are now in these really great positions. I’m thankful for all the alumni relationships I’ve made so far!
Q: How has your alumni connection made an impact on you?
A: It’s very meaningful to us when we know someone who was actually in our shoes, just a couple years ago, who understands the education process at USF and is willing to get to know us and advocate for us. Some of the best advice I’ve received about this application cycle has been from our USF alumni and I can’t thank them enough. It means the world to me that an alum would take an hour out of their day to sit down and talk to me about my personal application.
Q: What insight have you gained during these unprecedented times?
A: Coming off of family medicine, I think this is the first time I really felt the impact of what I was doing. At the COVID clinic, we were fielding calls for the Department of Health with people who were recently diagnosed with the virus. This was a really good reminder of why we’re doing this and what we can do for people. So many people in the community - friends, family, neighbors etc. -they’re scared and they’re worried. I’ve been able to sit down with people and say “This is what we can expect...” It’s been so rewarding to provide this level of care to people.
Jasmina and Rob have both received scholarship support from alumni and donors throughout their medical school journey. Scholarships give students some reprieve from the constant stress of mounting debt, affording the ability to focus on meaningful work inside and outside the classroom. To help support our future alumni, click here to make an investment in student scholarship or give directly to your MD Class Scholarship Fund.