Collage of UC Davis School of Medicine archival photos, celebrating 50 years

Mohammed Umer Abdul Waris

Class of 2020

It is hard to forget my first visit to UC Davis School of Medicine. There was something different here than all the other medical schools where I interviewed. Perhaps it was the enthusiastic welcome of the current medical students to the new applicants — they spoke not just of the school and its services but also of people, ideas and ideals that they were committed to. It could also have been the awe I felt in learning of the sheer number of the free student-run clinics affiliated with the school. Nowhere else could you find 11(!) clinics staffed entirely by volunteer undergraduates, medical students and physicians dedicated to providing care to the diverse underserved Sacramento communities.

Who can forget about the MMI (multiple mini interviews) experience that day?! Although long and stressful, I found myself comforted knowing that the interviews were designed to find people not only of technical expertise but also deep human sensitivity — the type of people you would welcome yourself and your loved ones having as a physician. Of course, then there was also the meeting with the dean of admissions, Dr. Mark Henderson, that quickly became a lively discussion on how our health care system needs reform and the next generation of physicians needing to play a role!

In the three years since my first visit, my initial intuition of the School of Medicine has only been confirmed by the students, colleagues, teachers, staff and patients I have worked with. I have been inspired by the long hours of selfless and often unrecognized service that my fellow students have given toward caring for patients or leading projects to better our community and country, all while juggling full medical school course-loads. I recall the examples of teachers such as the esteemed Dr. Faith Fitzgerald who remind us that medicine is fundamentally a human endeavor that uses science as a tool; that to serve you must first see the person with all their value and concerns alongside their disease and its treatment. Of course, it is our patients who remind us each day of the deep trust they have in our profession and UC Davis as an institution to serve them in their most vulnerable, distressing times, and how that trust must be reciprocated by excellence in both service and character as individuals and institutions.

That initial intuition — that UC Davis School of Medicine is a unique place on the frontiers of rediscovering medicine in its best and most humane form — has remained with me and only since grown. In the 50 years it has taken to come to this juncture, I hope we will reflect upon those unique qualities and endeavors of our institution and only build upon them in a way that will be respected and remembered at our centennial celebration and beyond.