Many students learn best by visualizing the material; others need to hear it to grasp it.
Gabriel Daniels, president and academic chair for the UF College of Medicine class of 2019, prefers to learn through hands-on experience. That’s why the recent College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame inductee has racked up more than 700 hours of service at UF Health Shands Hospital. He said being exposed to patients directly is preparing him for his future career in medicine.
“I’ve never been a bookwork type person,” he said. “I have to experience it. Volunteering is the way I learn and stay interested. Being able to apply what I’ve learned and see it in action is much more worthwhile for me.”
This past summer, Daniels, 22, volunteered at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital through the Child Life program. He assisted specialists in creating a positive environment, preparing and supporting children undergoing medical tests. He recalls motivating a young patient who didn’t want to leave his room by challenging him to a Lego Star Wars video game on the extra-large TV in the playroom.
“It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve sat by patients’ sides as they receive news about their treatment or prognosis. It’s a way to be part of the health care team without being a doctor. Who doesn’t like to be keeper of the toys?”
Daniels, a native of Lutz, Florida, also serves as operations coordinator for the Equal Access Clinic Network, a group of student-run free health care clinics established by the UF College of Medicine. Here he practices patient care as well as administrative duties.
In coordination with the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program, he plays piano in the UF Health Shands Atrium. He said music is a form of alternative medicine that can be just as healing as any allopathic practice.
“Patients and family members are sitting there, waiting. Music calms and relaxes them,” he says.
As a member of the Medical Honors Program, Daniels began his studies at the UF College of Medicine in the fall of 2015 and received his bachelor’s degree in biology this spring. He said the university’s accelerated, seven-year combined program accepts only 16 applicants a year. As far as his future goes, he’s keeping an open mind.
“I’m letting the field call me instead of picking a field,” he said. “As I do the rotations and experience the field, I’ll start to make some decisions.”
In his free time, Daniels enjoys playing basketball, catching up with friends, and physically crossing items off his to-do lists. As president of the class of 2019, he is tasked with many duties and attends many meetings. He doesn’t think of his jam-packed schedule as taxing, however.
“This is something I’m passionate about, so it’s easy,” he said. “When people ask me questions about my class, I enjoy giving the answers. It’s like I have 135-plus best friends. They’re family.”