Noses lifted from notebooks and eyes rose from laptop screens as the unmistakeable aroma of bacon wafted through the halls of Pacific Northwest University. As it drifted through the gathering spaces of Butler-Haney Hall, seemingly intensifying with every passing second, osteopathic medical students began scoping the foyer around them, some audibly wondering: “where is that smell coming from?”
And then a call rang out, like the crowing of a particularly tenacious rooster: “COME AND GET IT!”
Peering toward the sound of the summoning, students could vaguely make out the smiling face of Dr. Robert Sorrells, PNWU’s Associate Dean of Pre-Clinical Education. But why was he shouting? Were his shouts intended for them? And, perhaps most perplexingly of all, why was he wearing a chef's hat?
Soon, the reasons for his calls would become clear, plates would be filled with pancakes, bacon and eggs, bowls of oatmeal would be adorned with fresh fruit, and another year of one of the health science university’s most jubilant traditions would be in the books.
Welcome to PNWU first-year breakfast. Dig in.
Originally inspired by the PNWU Office of Academic Support, the annual-event has become a staple on campus. Sponsored by the Dean’s office since 2014, the breakfast aims to offer first-year PNWU students an opportunity to pause together as they enter their final exam time, and connects those hard-working students with faculty and staff.
“It’s a reminder that we are all in this together, so let's be together,” explained Dr. Kimberly Taylor, PNWU Chief of Microbiology. Each year, Dr. Taylor schedules an email to arrive in the inboxes of first-year students the night before the breakfast, during one of the most demanding academic portions of their year. Many miss the message due to the overwhelming amount of material they’re already immersed in, but those who see it often respond with words that substantiate the power of the seemingly simple event.
“A few of the most memorable responses include: ‘I had nothing left in my cupboard and did not know what I was going to eat during my final exams’; ‘This just made my day"; ‘This just made my week 1,000 times better’; and ‘I just forwarded your email to my mom and she replied 'I knew you chose the right school,’” said Dr. Taylor.
As the students filled their plates, those same deeply-appreciative sentiments poured out.
“It’s nice to see that they recognize the work we’re doing on a daily basis, and it’s nice to have their support both inside and out of the classroom,” said Kendra Madaras-Kelly, OMS I, smiling as she bit into a piece of bacon. Not only was the breakfast a reflection of their care, but it offered students like Kendra, and fellow-first-year Krista Luntsford, a bit more time to focus on their finals.
“Honestly, it’s one less thing to worry about,” Luntsford explained. “Having food at school when you’re super stressed about exams and everything; little things like this offer us a much-needed break from the intense studying. Plus, it’s just such a sweet gesture, and I love food.”
Still donning his chef's hat and apron, Dr. Sorrells seemed to almost buzz with pride as he watched the medical students he’d helped throughout the year make their way through the breakfast line.
“Theres a tremendous amount of stress in medical school, and this is just a way to show our students that we’ve got their back,” he said. “It’s part of our family atmosphere here. By feeding them, hopefully we help to get them in a good mood and get them ready to tackle those final exams.”
“Events like this bring our faculty, staff and students together, not only in learning, but in community,” said Dr. Michael Lawler, President of PNWU. “It’s important for us to eat and talk and be with our students during this really difficult part of the semester. It’s a privilege watching everybody interact and enjoy a meal together.”
As the final pancakes were lifted from griddles and the final drops of orange juice poured into paper cups, students wandered back toward their studies, breakfast in hand. As one of those students passed, scrambled eggs overflowing from his paper plate, Dr. Lawler untied his cooking apron and encouragingly patted him on the back.
“Thanks for all of your hard work,” he said. “We appreciate you.”