There are a lot of numbers that can define the 157 members of the matriculating University of Colorado School of Medicine Class of 2016:
- Colorado residents: 91
- Non-residents: 66
- Number from a rural area: 35
- Male: 81
- Female: 76
- Presidential Scholars: 16
- Ethnic or racial group that is underrepresented in medicine: 61
Christine Cliatt Brown (left) with Rebecca Reyes
But for Rebecca Reyes, there was just one number that concerned her Friday at the Matriculation Ceremony in Boettcher Commons. That was Student No. 28 - a slightly pale young woman sipping from a bottle of ginger ale, sitting toward the middle of the second row of first-year students.
Christine Cliatt Brown had had a bad stomach on the car ride to the ceremony. Now Reyes was worried she wouldn't make it through an occasion that the mother and daughter had been anticipating since Cliatt Brown was a little girl, looking at a real human brain a visitor had brought to her elementary school classroom.
"She was fascinated," Reyes remembers. "She knew then she wanted to be a neurosurgeon."
But in high school she began to question that decision, wondering if it was the right path for her.
That kind of questioning is common for many students going into medicine. Each year Dean Richard Krugman, MD, asks students at the ceremony how many were cautioned by medical professionals not
to enter the field. As always, most students raise their hands - though fewer this time, Krugman said, than in previous years.
Krugman and keynote speaker Anthony Oliva, MD/PhD, assured students that they'd made the right decision. Oliva predicted that the students' next four years will be a lot like some of the rides at Disneyland, where he recently took his two young sons.
"Frightful and exhilarating," he said, encouraging them to embrace it all. Motivating the incoming class was the induction of several fourth-year students into the Gold Humanism Honor Society in recognition of their work helping people locally and internationally.
And what of Cliatt Brown's doubts about entering the field while still in high school?
"She prayed about it; she prayed for a sign," says Reyes. "Then I got a brain tumor.
"That was a sign."
A diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia followed along with a lot of time with a neurosurgeon.
"Christine asked him so many questions. She respected him so much because he answered all her questions and showed so much compassion," Reyes says, tearing up at the memory. "Of course that's what Christine wants to do - she wants to help people like us because she knows what it's like to be on the other side."
Cliatt Brown, still a little pale but smiling broadly, emerged from the ceremony like her 156 classmates, dressed in her new short white coat with a stethoscope, donated by alumni, draped across her neck.
Class of 2016 Student Profiles
The childhood dream of becoming a super hero is still alive for Jim Do, who took up cage fighting just in case medical school didn't work out.
Certain he wanted to be a physician from a young age, Andrew Eitel knew he had a musical path to follow first.
It took a long stretch of Canadian highway to help world traveler Laura Kahn realize that medical school was her future.