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Shannon Cramm

M.D. Candidate, University of Michigan, 2016

What was your route to medical school?

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I’ve wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember, but what really confirmed the path for me were a few key experiences that showed me the transformative nature of medicine. Before my freshman year, I spent a month traveling in West Africa teaching HIV/AIDS Prevention, which taught me how empowering information about health and disease can be to patients and communities. Another integral experience was the first time I saw a kidney transplant. A deceased donor at the hospital was a match for one of the dialysis patients I had met a few weeks prior, and the surgeon asked if I would be interested in staying late to watch the whole process. Later that night, I stood next to the surgeon as he removed the clamps off the vessels and watched the kidney “pink up.” I knew then I would never be satisfied in another profession.

What has your experience been like as a Michigan medical student?
I have absolutely loved my experience as a medical student at Michigan thus far. My degree in Human Biology definitely prepared me for the material, and I really enjoy the 'adult learning' mindset of UMMS. Michigan’s lecture streaming and flex-time quizzing lets me study at my own pace, while having time for research and other extra-curriculars. Above all, I would say the best part of Michigan is the people. From my amazingly talented classmates to engaging and supportive faculty, Michigan truly brings together an amazing academic community.

What have been some difficulties/challenges of medical school?
Medical school is an adjustment, I think, for most people. My biggest challenge has been to find balance. There’s a wealth of opportunities available to be involved in organizations and research, that at times I may have been a bit over-committed. By engaging only in activities that I am really passionate about, I have been able to balance my schedule and feel fulfilled.

Extra-curricular involvement:

  • Director – University of Michigan Student Run Free Clinic
  • Director – Doctors of Tomorrow
  • Academic Surgeon Development Program / SCRUBS (Surgery Interest Group)
  • M1 Orientation Committee 2013
  • Galens Medical Society (including The Smoker)
  • Undergraduate Pre-Med Mentor
  • Undergraduate Anatomy Teaching Assistant
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Talk about your research in surgery.
I was awarded the Presidential Student Mentor Grant from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) to do a project on failure to rescue following pediatric liver transplantation with Drs. Magee, Englesbe, and Waits in the summer of 2013. Our work characterized the relationship between failure to rescue (death following a major complication) and complication rates as predictors of survival variation between transplant centers in the United States and Canada, using the Studies of Pediatric Liver Transplantation (SPLIT) dataset. I was able to present our findings at both the SPLIT annual meeting in September 2013 and at the ASTS winter meeting in January 2014. We are working on the final revisions of a manuscript that we hope to submit this winter.

In addition, I worked as part of an ASDP Summer Paper group with medical students led by M4 Kyle Sheetz to characterize the rates of utilization of outpatient (vs. inpatient) surgery across hospitals in Michigan. We investigated what factors might underlie the variation and if there was an association between increased outpatient surgery and complications. I’ll be presenting our work at the Academic Surgical Congress in February 2014, and we hope to have a manuscript published soon.

My research experience in the department of surgery taught me a great deal about the research process as a whole— from writing grant proposals, to presenting results. Through excellent mentorship from faculty, residents, and other students, I believe these projects have helped me develop important skills I will use for the rest of my career.

Experience working with faculty/residents:
One of the best parts of ASDP is having the chance to interact more with faculty and residents as a pre-clinical student. From one-on-one instruction in the simulation center to lectures about surgical sub-specialties, it is great to get to know some of the people we’ll be working with in our clinical years.

Future goals
I am strongly interested in pursuing a career in academic surgery. However, from the vantage of a pre-clinical student, I am a little wary to pigeonhole a specific sub-specialty without having a lot of first hand experience. Regardless of the field I end up in, I absolutely want to be in academics. I enjoy the challenge of research and am excited by the prospect to innovate in my field. In addition, I believe teaching future physicians is incredibly important and valuable work. A career in academic surgery would provide me with the opportunity to pursue all of these interests.

What do you like to do when you’re not studying?
I really like to travel. I’ve been to over thirteen countries in four continents!