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Class of 2016: Lauren Martin

Community garden taught soon-to-be physician valuable lessons in patient care

by Kristina SauerweinMay 9, 2016

Courtesy of Lauren Martin

At first, Lauren Martin just wanted fresh tomatoes and lettuce – and a nature-inspired break from her rigorous studies at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where she will earn her medical degree in May.

But soon after joining a community garden near campus last year, Martin realized she was learning a valuable lesson in patient care: “It seems like every time I was in the garden, I would strike up a conversation with someone, whether a wealthy community member or a homeless man talking about how much he loved fried green tomatoes. This made me realize that you have to place yourself in a position to be accessible if you want to get to know others.

“Sometimes as a physician, patients and their loved ones view you as authoritarian and aloof,” Martin said. “This can hinder patients from feeling empowered in their own health care. To help people, you have to meet them where they are physically and mentally, and that involves being accessible.”

Empowering patients has inspired her medical career path. In the fall, Martin plans to pursue obstetrics and gynecology during her residency at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. “I would like to focus on reducing health-care disparities and OB-GYN education in international settings.”

Originally from St. Louis, Martin spent most of her childhood in Antigua, her mother’s homeland, where she was surrounded by natural beauty and a large religious family that emphasized the importance of helping those in need. Her father is a pediatric cardiologist who completed his residency and fellowship at St. Louis Children’s Hospital while her mother studied at the university’s Brown School of Social Work.

“My decision to pursue medicine was heavily influenced by my family and religious background,” Martin said. “I noticed the joy and satisfaction my parents received from helping others. I am drawn to serving the most vulnerable populations across the world.”

After earning degrees in biology and French studies from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich., and living abroad for a year in Collonges-sous-Saleve, France, Martin followed her Christian tradition by participating in medical mission trips. She went to Peru and Kenya. And through the School of Medicine, Martin gained global experience helping the disadvantaged in Malawi and Ethiopia receive basic medical care.

At Washington University, Martin volunteered as a coordinator for the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) and, in her second year, served as co-president for the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), which focuses on minority medical and premedical students. She also coordinated various volunteering projects through AMWA and SNMA for at-risk youth and helped create a club aimed at mentoring girls ages 11 to 16 years old.

“In medicine – just like in gardening – the best outcomes tend to occur when you connect to people in the community.”

Class Acts is a series that recognizes Washington University students who are changing the world through research, service and innovation.
See all Class Acts »

Washington University School of Medicine‘s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Kristina covers pediatrics, surgery, medical education and student life. In 2020, she received a gold Robert G. Fenley Writing Award for general staff writing from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and in 2019, she received the silver award. Kristina is an author and former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times, where she was part of a team of journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for breaking news. Additionally, she covered the 2014 Ferguson unrest for TIME magazine and, for eight years, wrote a popular parenting column for