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Lydia Lutz

Class of 2019
Major: Neuroscience

Lydia and members of PIH Engage meeting with Senator Lamar AlexanderLydia Lutz always knew that she wanted to be a physician. Her time at Vanderbilt shaped that goal in unexpected ways. Lutz came to VU because of the unique combination of academic rigor ensconced within a collaborative environment. Once on campus, Lutz also found herself drawn to a variety of service opportunities spanning public health advocacy, alternative breaks, and direct, community-based service.

Lutz’s involvement at Vanderbilt quickly took off. Shortly after the start of her first year, she joined with nine other first-year students to form the Vanderbilt chapter of Partners in Health Engage, a grassroots organization for college students that builds the right to health movement through advocacy, fundraising, and education. Through her involvement with Partners in Health Engage, Lutz was able to participate in meetings with Congressional leaders including Representative Jim Cooper, Senator Lamar Alexander, and Senator Bob Corker to advocate for public health programs and issues including SNAP, PEPFAR, and the Global Fund.

Lydia protesting for rights for the homeless with Open Table NashvilleLutz says that her opportunities to advocate for global health also inspired her to get involved in local public health service opportunities. She spent three years volunteering at Open Table Nashville, a local non-profit organization that provides services for the homeless. Lutz participated biweekly in Open Table’s foot clinic where she washed feet and provided basic hygiene and first aid care. She got to hear amazing stories and washed some of the individuals’ feet for years. Lutz described her experience with the foot clinics as her “favorite thing” in her life and she is “really proud that in [her] time at Vanderbilt, [she] was able to connect with the greater Nashville community in this way."  Volunteering at Open Table also helped Lutz to learn when to listen and when to lead, “In my work with Open Table, I tried to listen to individuals there because they have lived experience that I don’t have.” Her volunteer position with Open Table Nashville has motivated Lutz to continue to explore the intersection of medicine and social justice and has helped her to define what medicine is to her and what the field’s priorities should be. Lutz hopes one day to work as a physician with people Lydia and other members of PIH Engage meet with lawmakers to advocate for public healthexperiencing poverty and homelessness.

In addition to her work with PIH Engage and Open Table Nashville, Lutz served as the Education Chair for Alternative Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks. Though she is aware of the potential barriers to meaningful short-term service, Lutz is passionate about this opportunity that may spark an individual’s lifetime engagement with service. She also encourages students to remain involved in service opportunities past their alternative break experience, and connected participants with resources for how to get involved with service in the larger Nashville community.

When asked to share advice for first-year students starting to imagine and plan their Immersion experiences, Lutz offered that, “The idea of Immersion is important because effective service is long-term. You take an idea and delve into a community where your main focus and role is to listen to community members and work with them over a sustained period of time.” Lutz also hopes that students will design individual, meaningful experiences that go beyond one-time trips. She shared, “traveling service experiences have felt more significant when I returned from the trip and went back to my usual work on campus.” Lutz’s alternative break trip focused on poverty and medicine and upon return to her work at the Open Table foot clinic, she realized that this could inform a career for her. Being able to build long-term relationships with the people at Open Table furthered her interest in serving that community as a physician one day. Lutz encourages students to get involved with service opportunities both on- and off-campus.