Harvard Medical School Student Takes a Fulbright Break

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Publication Date: 7/1/2008

Stanley Vance takes very little for granted. Even after a stellar career at Rhodes, three very successful years at Harvard Medical School and many impressive grants and awards he says, “It’s always a pleasant surprise when I receive an honor, and I feel such gratitude for  the amazing mentors, friends and family who helped me get to where I am today.”

Where he is today is home in Houston, Miss., preparing to leave in September for the Netherlands. Recently he received a Fulbright and a Sheldon Fellowship from Harvard to study children with gender identity disorder in Amsterdam. “The clinic there has the largest population of transgendered children in the world,” Vance explains. “It’s a huge referral center and the perfect place to learn more about a subject that fascinates me and an area relevant to GBLT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) community.”

The 2005 Rhodes graduate explains that his classes, labs and volunteer efforts at Rhodes precluded a study abroad experience as an undergraduate and consequently he has never been abroad. “I went straight from graduation to medical school while a lot of my classmates took some time to do other things before entering graduate study. They tell me that their ‘real world experiences’ help them relate to patients and shapes what kind of physicians they want to be. I find that I kind of need an alternative year to learn more about issues of sexuality and gender, which have been underemphasized in my medical education.   Plus, I’m looking forward to a year of eight-to-five work at a real job.”

Actually, the “eight-to-five real job” is a clinical research project fueled by several of Vance’s passions. He discovered his love for research and teaching at Rhodes where he worked in the laboratories of his three mentors, Professors Loretta Jackson-Hayes, Darlene Loprete, and Terry Hill.  He tutored other students in chemistry and developed a book club for high-risk youth in the surrounding neighborhood.

At Harvard he became involved with the Kinsey 2 to 6’ers, an organization of students in the medical school organized to educate others about GLBT healthcare issues. One of the speakers the group brought to campus is a pediatric endocrinologist who treats children with gender disorders. “A light bulb went off in my head,” says Vance. “I’m interested in biochemistry and how hormones affect the body. I’m also interested in GBLT healthcare advocacy.  I thought, ‘I want to go to the Netherlands and study this.’  It is surreal to think that three years later, I am actually going to do it.”

The third year of medical school at Harvard gives students the opportunity to rotate through the various specialties to home in on their interests. Vance decided pretty quickly that pediatrics would be his area but is still working on narrowing it further, perhaps via endocrinology or psychiatry.   “Growing up as a gay kid in the South I didn’t feel like I had anyone to go to, and I want to be a doctor with whom GBLT youth feel comfortable being themselves. ”

Stanley Vance is already doing everything in his power to ensure that other children have more resources. He was approached by a faculty mentor at Harvard who had read his personal statement for the Fulbright application. “She asked me to put together a session on gender and sexuality to be used in a course for third-year medical students, and I was very honored to do so. It will be part of a class that all Harvard Medical School third-year students take in the future.”

The experience also helped bolster his own sense of self-worth as did receiving a Point Foundation Scholarship.  “Be sure to put this in your article because GLBT students and advocates at Rhodes can apply,” he says. “It’s not just a monetary award for undergraduate and graduate school tuition. It also provides mentors who are leaders in their professions. That was a profound experience because it’s always been hard to imagine my future as a gay man. Growing up in Mississippi, I didn’t see that many GLBT role models.  I now have GBLT mentors who are married, have kids, and have successful careers.  Now I’m beginning to imagine a pretty good future in several domains of my life.”