Class of 2019
Lydia Lutz always knew that she wanted to be a physician. Her time at Vanderbilt has shaped that goal in unexpected ways. A senior Neuroscience major from Glenville, IL, Lydia came to VU because of the unique combination of academic rigor ensconced within a collaborative environment. Once on campus, Lydia also found herself drawn to a variety of service opportunities spanning public health advocacy, alternative breaks, and direct, community-based service.
Lydia’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, Lydia 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 says that her opportunities to advocate for global health also inspired her to get involved in local public health service opportunities. She has spent the last three years volunteering at Open Table Nashville, a local non-profit organization that provides services for the homeless. Lydia participates biweekly in Open Table’s foot clinic where she washes feet and provides basic hygiene and first aid care. She gets to hear amazing stories and has washed some of the individuals’ feet for years now. Lydia 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] is able to connect with the greater Nashville community in this way”. Volunteering at Open Table has also helped Lydia to learn when to listen and when to lead, “In my work with Open Table, I try to listen to individuals there because they have lived experience that I don’t have.” Her volunteer position with Open Table Nashville has motivated Lydia 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. Lydia hopes one day to work as a physician with people experiencing poverty and homelessness.
In addition to her work with PIH Engage and Open Table Nashville, Lydia serves as the Education Chair for Alternative Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks. Though she is aware of the potential barriers to meaningful short-term service, Lydia is passionate about contributing to 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 connects 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, Lydia 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.” Lydia 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.” Lydia’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. Lydia encourages students to get involved with service opportunities both on- and off-campus.