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Aspiring physician focuses on compassion and desire to serve rural communities

December 15, 2017

Lindsey Dove
Lindsey Dove, member of the Class of 2020 at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, outside the school. Dove is a recipient of the Sam and Priscilla McCall Scholarship.

In the fourth grade, Lindsey Dove was asked to draw of photo of what she wanted to be when she grew up. She drew a doctor, and in particular, a plastic surgeon.

While plastic surgery may not be her future specialty, Dove is on a path to her childhood dream of becoming a physician as a second-year student at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

Knowing early on her desire to become a doctor, Dove took steps to acclimate herself to the field and make herself a competitive applicant to medical school. In ninth grade, she started volunteering at her hometown hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, a small town about 45 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

For a couple of years, she volunteered at the hospital’s front desk, but once 16, she was able to move into the emergency room. “Just being in the medical environment reinforced for me that this was the path I wanted to go into. I was always so excited to go,” Dove said. “It is a small hospital with about eight emergency room beds, so nothing really serious ever came in there, but the experience was still invaluable.”

When she went to school at Washington and Jefferson College, Dove went into a premed curriculum and volunteered at the hospital there, which was a little larger than the one in her hometown, exposing her to more serious cases. “I got to interact with a woman whose husband had just died. I never saw that in my hospital at home,” Dove said. “I’m interested in the science and medicine, but also being able to talk with patients and try to help them deal and cope with whatever had just happened. That’s the other side of medicine that I’m really interested in.”

When Dove began applying to medical schools, she cast a wide net and received a big response, with interviews at about 10 medical schools. “Virginia Tech Carilion was my very first interview. It wowed me from the first time I saw campus,” Dove said. “Every other school I went to, I was comparing it and seeing if it lived up to the VTC standards. To me, nothing was quite as awesome as this place, so that’s why I chose to come here.”

Now, a year-and-a-half into school, Dove is still pleased with her choice to come to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. In the first two years of the curriculum, students learn basic science concepts through the lens of real patient experiences, picking apart a new case each week. At the end of the week, students meet the patient, doctors, and loved ones. It’s a highlight for Dove.

“Actually getting to meet the patient — that human contact — and see the person and not just the disease is really important,” Dove said. “Hearing their story is something you can’t write down in a case. You’d never get that just reading a case. Listening to their stories and emotions helps us remember the humanity of medicine, I think.”

Dove has also valued her Longitudinal Ambulatory Care Experience (LACE). The program pairs up a Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine student with a faculty member in a local outpatient care center. They visit the clinic each month through the first two years of the curriculum to practice their clinical skills with real patients, guided by a faculty mentor.

“My faculty mentor allows me a lot of time to go into the patient room on my own, which at first really puts you out of your comfort zone. Especially as a first-year student to go into a room alone with a real live patient with a real live problem; it’s scary at first,” Dove said. “I always learn so much when I’m there. It’s a great real-world, real-medicine experience.”

Now, years have passed since her childhood dream of becoming a plastic surgeon. While Dove is on the way to becoming a physician, she believes she will go a different route, such as primary care in an underserved area.

“I’m from a rural area in Southwest Pennsylvania, so I’ve grown up with that, and that is what I’m used to. It’s the kind of people I’m used to and enjoy working with,” Dove said.

Dove also believes her desire to work in underserved areas reflects on her experience as an undergraduate when she lived on the Zuni Reservation in New Mexico for a month. “Staying for that amount of time instead of a quick tourist stop, I got to see the ins and outs of their lives — from what their houses looked like to some of their terrible battles with addiction. There’s nowhere to escape it — there is nowhere for them to go,” Dove said. “It is the type of population where I’d like to be able to make a difference.”

Dove is one of two recent recipients of the Sam and Priscilla McCall VTC School of Medicine Scholarship.

The late Sam McCall was raised in Richlands, Virginia, and studied for a year in business administration at Virginia Tech with the Class of 1958. He moved away from the area to Texas, but his family that remained in rural Southwest Virginia faced limited access to health care. Sam and his wife Priscilla, who now serves on the VTCSOM Dean’s Council on Advancement, created the scholarship with the hopes that some graduates would stay to practice in the area or other underserved communities.

“I would like for whatever field of medicine I go into, I would like to live in more of a rural area and serve that population,” Dove said.

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