Breaking Ground

The lunch hour was coming to a close, so I reluctantly turned my back on the crisp sunshine and 70 degree air (just another beautiful autumn day in Greenville) to head inside.  “Assisting in my first delivery, this should be a fun afternoon,” I thought, a slight consolation for having to part with the outdoors. Flashing my student badge across the scanner, I noticed the state of my hands. Dirt caked beneath my fingernails, rivulets of water forming miniature mud puddles in the creases of my palm. Not the best way to enter a sterile procedure, however. 

 So why is this first year medical student headed to labor and delivery with the hands of a post-recess preschooler? Well the dirt (completely washed away before any babies arrived) came from the groundbreaking of our USC School of Medicine Greenville garden. We planted swiss chard, broccoli, strawberries, lettuce, rosemary and parsley, with kale, onions, and some other herbs waiting in the wings. Not only was it a chance to learn outside the lecture hall, it is another piece of our school’s growing commitment to wellness. The garden is a place of union, bringing together the biomedical science of nutrition with the benefits of exercise and the opportunity for community outreach. The complexities of physiology and exercise become real in a bended knee and the scrape of a trowel against wet earth; intricacies of biochemistry and nutrition come alive in the sight of a seedling’s first sprout reaching into the sky. And that was just before lunch.

Speaking of learning outside the lecture hall, that delivery I was heading to took place in the Greenville Healthcare Simulation Center, right on the second floor of our medical school’s main building. It was afternoon “obstetrics emergencies” lab for our Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course and the majority of it took place with an adult simulator that could give birth. It was a place to practice important clinical skills and gain experience with the potential complications of childbirth in the field so that if we are ever called upon to assist in a delivery in the real world (as one of my second-year classmates very recently was during her EMT shift), we’ll be prepared. 

That small piece of random midweek afternoon surprised me in how appropriately it encapsulated my experience at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.  The refreshing experience of delving into the earth to begin a garden buttressed with the innovative technology of the simulation center speaks to the depth and breadth of our school’s commitment to prepare physicians both articulate in a robust notion of health and practiced in the techniques of clinical medicine. When Dr. Jennifer Trilk presented to the Bipartisan Policy Center on the importance of nutrition and exercise in medical school curricula or Dean Jerry Youkey speaks to donors about “training the physicians of the future,” they aren’t just blowing smoke. It’s here and it’s happening, all the way from grand events like the Lifestyle Medicine Think Tank to small happenings like ground broken and (sim)babies delivered.   


Ben DeMarco


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