As a first-year student at the Larner College of Medicine, I found comfort in knowing that I could reach out to someone in the class above me with questions about anything, even small things, thanks to a program called Big Sib/Little Sib. I had been living in Burlington for the previous four years, but the transition to medical school came with challenges that I did not expect. During the first week of classes, I sat down with my big sibling, Sravana Paladugu, who had kindly accepted two little siblings because our incoming class had grown in numbers. She inspired me to be an active member of student council, and shared tips about note taking early in our relationship. In my undergrad experience at UVM, I had never had to learn such a large quantity in such a small amount of time, and she explained her own shortfalls from her first few weeks. She helped me understand how to study smarter, and provided resources and notes from her first year as well as social support.
Big siblings also often provide connections with other upper class students, creating more great relationships. At one point, we had all four generations of our siblingship at a social event, which gave me the opportunity to hear about the experience of the third- and fourth-year students. I feel as if my big sibling provided a level of support that the faculty cannot necessarily provide. They give a student perspective of what is to come, good and bad, and all the emotions that we might face. Even as a second-year, I connect with Sravana as she goes through clerkship. I have gained useful information on how to go about studying for the upcoming Step 1 exam, a feat that sometimes seem insurmountable, but she has provided academic and emotional support that is necessary. I seek her advice because I know that our big siblings care about the success of their “littles,” and can provide information on the experience of their whole class. Every “big” is different in their method of support, but having a big sibling and knowing the importance of this relationship has inspired my class to provide mentorship to the new class that is second to none.
Because I loved the program so much, I took on the role of matching my classmates to students in the Class of 2021. This year we added a level of connection by matching students within their PCR (Professionalism, Communication and Reflection course) groups, meaning that sibling pairs share a PCR preceptor. The students were also matched based on backgrounds and interests, so that the partnerships can help foster the pursuit of similar hobbies. We announced matches a couple of weeks before school started to make move-in easier, and new students had the opportunity to meet with their big sibling during a lunch in the very first week. Second-year students recently checked in about first-year orientation, and offered resources and advice for starting the academic year. This year, we have already seen great relationships form between the two socially inclined classes, and we cannot wait to develop more camaraderie throughout the year. We encouraged second-years to invite their little sibling, as well as their own big sibling, to meet over coffee or lunch, increasing connections between third- and first-years. We are also working on creating family trees, so that the first-year students will recognize more medical students in the hallways and hospitals.
My second-year peers are looking forward to celebrating with the first-years after the completion of their first exam, a tradition that has been going on for years now. I believe that relationships like this increase the chance of success for the first-year medical students, leading to happy medical professionals!