Personal stories of growth at Eckerd College

Aliye Runyan '05

A Solid Foundation

A mere three years removed from my college degree, I realize daily how far I've actually come in my personal and professional development, and how the Eckerd education has been integral in taking me there.

After taking a year off from my studies (a very "liberal arts" dual degree in Biology and Literature) to work as a medical assistant in St. Petersburg; and then to a unique and eye-opening year in post-Katrina New Orleans to obtain my Masters degree in Cell and Molecular Biology; I've arrived at my destination, so to speak, as a second-year medical student at the University of Miami. However, the story of progress is never that simple.

On paper, I've made strides, surely, but the real growth is the mental journey which began from the first day of Autumn Term, August of 2001. From that day on, I was taught, in the classroom and outside of it, by my professors and my peers, to think "outside the box", to challenge the status quo, to ask "why" like it was my job. Now, it is my job.

I was pushed to new levels by my mentors -- I remember a personal call by Julie Empric, telling me to think seriously about applying for the Ford Scholars program, when I hadn't considered it relevant to my future. Turns out, it was -- I am pursuing a career in academic medicine, no doubt in part because of the love of teaching that the Ford program helped spur on.

At Eckerd, my scientific and literary pursuits found a happy marriage, overseen by the amazingly gifted Joanne Banks, to whom I will forever be grateful for introducing me to the field of medical humanities. I am now at the forefront of a movement at UM to start an Ethics/Humanities in Medicine pathway program for humanistically inclined medical students.

At Eckerd, through the guidance of Peter Meylan and David Hastings, I was able to discover the joys of scientific research, and from that was able to both write and publish my first journal article.
At Eckerd, I became a student leader, a teammate, an activist - qualities I carry with me to this day -- I am active on a national level in the American Medical Student Association and serve as my class's student body president. These accomplishments simply wouldn't be possible without the foundation I gained at Eckerd College.

More so, the intellectual pursuits, the philosophical struggling, the metaphorical interpretations, the experimental field work that I experienced while a student at Eckerd are now the experiences I fall back on while in the constant and overwhelming process of memorizing an unbelievably vast cadre of knowledge, and trying, sometimes desperately, to tie it all together. Amidst all the stress, lack of sleep, feeling remarkably stupid for no good reason, and realizing that medical school is not how I imagined it, I often find myself thinking back to the classes I took at Eckerd that challenged my thought processes rather than my ability to be a mental sponge. I wait for the day that the critical thinking process is more utilized (the last two years -- soon!). And after talking to my peers about their undergraduate experiences, I appreciate Eckerd more and more.

I appreciate the mentorship, the emphasis on community and community service, on international pursuits, on seeing the world in new and different ways. I treasure the importance of leadership, of scholarship, of striving for what you believe in. To Eckerd I owe most of my growth as an individual over the past seven years, because it is my background as an Eckerdian which I always look back on, as a measure of who I am today.

Aliye Runyan, M.S.
President, 2011 class council
Nat'l HuMed Coord./Chapter VP, AMSA
UMiami-Miller SOM '11