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Sept. 16, 2010 Volume 32, No. 4

Med students feed off families’ support


FAMS has grown from snacks to meals

Medical school is hard. And during those nerve-racking exam weeks, many med students who hit the books until the early hours of the morning often forget something vital to their own health and well being: to eat. 

That’s the reality witnessed by Pam Holliday, assistant manager for surgery services at University Hospital. But while Holliday was used to seeing students struggle to take care of themselves while meeting the demands of medical school, the reality hit a little closer to home when her son, Zachary, entered the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

So she decided to join Families Assisting Medical Students, or FAMS, a volunteer organization that provides food and support to medical students. Holliday, who is co- president of the program, says that since it was founded in 1990, FAMS has grown from providing snacks to full meals to students during exam weeks.

“We’re there at 5 a.m. putting out food and there are kids already waiting,” Holliday says.

And while the med students technically aren’t kids anymore, Holliday says she feels like a “room mom” again.

“Even though these students are embarking on their journey of being great doctors who help people for a living, it’s kind of nice to know that they’re still human — that we can help them,” she says.

About 150 families have ponied up the $50 membership fee this year to support FAMS and the 391 students currently enrolled in the School of Medicine. The money helps pay for meals and to supply a break room with personal care supplies, such as deodorant and toothpaste, so students can freshen up during long work shifts at University Hospital. 

Zachary Holliday, who just began his third year in the School of Medicine, says FAMS has made the difficult journey toward becoming a physician a lot easier.

“FAMS was a lifesaver when it came time for exam weeks,” Zachary says. “It’s already stressful enough, so it was a great relief to not have to think about what to have for breakfast — or to skip breakfast altogether.”

Like Zachary, many medical students come from families with backgrounds in health care. For those who are new to the day-to-day demands of medical school, FAMS hosts a “day in the life” event for moms, dads, siblings and other relatives eager to learn about the challenges of med school.

“Some families just don’t know,” Holliday says. “But that’s why we’re here.”

To join FAMS or for more information, call Suzanne Neff at 882-2923.

— David Wietlispach