Kent Lewis, MDiv, arrived to this year’s Bowling Green Campus Match Day event with a megaphone. He learned his lesson during the campus’ inaugural celebration – with all of the excitement, the event can get loud. He nearly lost his voice last year presenting the countdown to open envelopes.
“It’s like nothing I have experienced in 19 years working in higher education,” Lewis said. “The energy that Match Day brings is awesome. I find myself running around from student to student, asking where they matched, hugging students, family members, laughing with them, crying happy tears.”
On days like Match Day, Lewis can be found on stage emceeing or talking with students and families. However, behind the scenes as a student affairs officer, he joins colleagues across four campuses to ensure a supportive, holistic experience for medical students through all four years of medical school. This role includes planning events like Match Day, white coat ceremony, and graduation, but it encompasses much more.
Associate Dean Michelle Lineberry, EdD, leads the college’s well-rounded student affairs team of faculty and staff: Lewis in Bowling Green; Ashlee Hamilton, EdD, in Lexington; Bodie Stevens in Morehead; and Shannon Schumacher in Northern Kentucky. These four are responsible for student affairs operations at their campuses. Jessica Chandler, administrative coordinator, helps bring all campuses together for one mission.
Medical school can be challenging, but the student affairs team is with the students every step of the way. In addition to event planning, the team’s responsibilities include promoting academic success, managing learning communities and student organizations, and connecting students to wellness and career planning resources. They also include student compliance and providing access to training sites, proper identification, scrubs, parking, and more.
A crucial part of the team’s success is consistent communication, according to Dr. Hamilton, who has been in her student affairs role for 10 years at the Lexington Campus. “We have a standing weekly appointment to touch base on all things student services,” she said. “Also, we have a biweekly student affairs meeting across departments and campuses to touch base.”
Dr. Hamilton’s favorite part of her job is getting to know the students and helping them however she can to ensure a successful medical school journey. Schumacher feels the same way at the Northern Kentucky Campus.
“Of course, receiving a top-notch education is of utmost importance,” Schumacher said. “But I also hope the students feel the sense of community that we strive to create. I hope they feel supported and comfortable seeking assistance and that we care about them as both a person and a student.”
Claire and Dylan Sanford, 2023 Bowling Green Campus graduates, said they owe a lot to the student affairs team for getting them to where they are today. The couple matched into Med Center Health in Bowling Green for residency. Particularly, Claire remembers studying for the Step 1 exam during the switch to online lectures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid a stressful time, Lewis helped her refocus and build a study plan.
“They’re a big part of the reason that we wanted to come to this campus,” Dylan said of the student affairs team. “We got to meet them before starting medical school and could establish a relationship before we even started, and then continued it for years.”
To Lewis, students like Claire and Dylan are the “lifeblood” of his campus and the college itself. They make his job worth it.
“Without them, we would not have a campus,” Lewis said. “When students arrive as M1s, they are excited, nervous, but driven. At some point in the clinical phase of their training, they begin to find their footing, and their passion for specific areas really begin to shine. The best part of my job is to watch the maturation take place.”
After four years of medical school, everything comes together at that moment on Match Day: when students learn what their residency program will be. The student affairs team caps their hard work with a special send-off. The party includes food, time with family, and a special moment for each student to pin a U.S. map showing their classmates where their next journey will take them.
“This group of graduates has been an absolute pleasure to work with,” Stevens said of the RPLP Class of 2023. “They are all such amazing people and are going to serve their patients as outstanding doctors in the future.” Watching them open their Match Day letters, he said, is similar to watching his own children in their successes over the years.
Schumacher held a quick debrief with the fourth-year student representatives following her Northern Kentucky Campus’ first-ever Match Day ceremony this year. She said they were “smiling from ear-to-ear.”
Now, the planning for next year’s Match Day begins.
This story was featured in the summer 2023 edition of UK Medicine magazine. Click here to read the full magazine.