Gaining perspective through support of others

Published: March 15th, 2017

Category: Home Feature, Scholarships

Michelle Zeidan and Jean Smith

Michelle Zeidan and Jean Smith. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

By Tyler Francischine

Michelle Zeidan, a member of the UF College of Medicine class of 2017, has undergone a transformation over the last four years.

When Zeidan first entered medical school, she focused solely on achieving good grades. After two years of perfect test scores, she noticed something was missing from her medical school experience.

“I was losing sight of the bigger picture,” she says. “I was putting everything else on the back burner. I lost a sense of who I was before I entered medical school.”

During her third year, in which she was awarded the UF College of Medicine Alumni Scholarship for Academic Excellence for maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, she realized that collaboration and teamwork can lead to more rewarding experiences.

“Success in the classroom is important, but maintaining relationships with your classmates and family is what really matters,” she says.

Zeidan has always had a passion for medicine, especially studying the anatomy and physiology of the human musculoskeletal system. Her father, a native of Lebanon, is an orthopaedic surgeon, and he encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

“Watching my dad come to the United States and succeed set a good example, and I developed a solid work ethic from him,” she says. “I think I’m also intrinsically motivated. I like to make the most out of all the opportunities I’ve been given.”

Michelle Zeidan

Michelle Zeidan, MS4

She considers receiving the Smith Family Scholarship in 2015 an important opportunity to further her skills and training. The scholarship, established by former pediatrics department chair Dr. Richard T. Smith and his wife, Jean Smith, provides $35,000 annually to one student upon the completion of his or her second year. Zeidan was selected based on her Step 1 exam scores, research achievements, leadership skills and community service, according to the selection committee.

“Everyone knows how expensive medical school is, especially in the fourth year,” she says. “Receiving The Smith Family Scholarship has helped alleviate the stress and extra burdens medical school involves.”

Zeidan’s activities with College of Medicine outside the classroom tend to focus on underserved populations. As a trip leader for Project HEAL, she traveled to Ecuador the past three years on medical outreach trips. She recalls meeting a young patient who was diagnosed with a heart murmur by her team.

“That would’ve had catastrophic results in the future. We were able to diagnose his condition and make sure he got the medical care he would need later on,” she says. “It’s a very rewarding experience to go to a place where you’ve never been and put what you’ve been learning into practice.”

She also donates her time to volunteering at the Equal Access Clinic Network, a system of student-run, free health care clinics for the underserved populations in Gainesville.

“It’s important to understand the underserved population,” she says. “When you’re put in a position where you don’t have all the resources you need, you see that not everyone has good access to medical services. It taught me how to be innovative and how to work within those parameters.”

After Zeidan graduates in May, she will pursue an orthopaedic surgery residency.

“You can really change someone’s life and get them back to their everyday functioning,” she says. “To take something you’re interested in and enjoy learning and make a career out of it is great. To be able to give back to others is a passion of mine.”