This is the second in a three-part series highlighting Vanderbilt's graduating student-athletes. Read Monday's feature on Vanderbilt senior snapper Jacob Schultz.
By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- During her pre-med studies as a student-athlete at Vanderbilt, Georgina Sellyn spent hours shadowing doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. That experience helped Sellyn to develop an affinity for surgery: the fifth-year senior on the Commodores’ tennis team took in lessons alongside a Vanderbilt neurosurgeon, one who specializes in tumor incisions.
Sellyn's hospital visits would often begin around 7 a.m. She would watch as staffers prepped the operating room, and during surgery the doctors would dictate the step-by-step process for Sellyn’s benefit. Though the student-athlete has yet to officially decide on her eventual medical specialty, Sellyn said surgery is high on that list.
“I like surgery because of the excitement of being the one doing the work,” Sellyn said. “You’re using your hands, you’re the one fixing up the patient. I think that’s really rewarding.”
Sellyn hopes to one day find herself in charge of her own operating room. The elder stateswoman of the Commodores’ tennis roster has already graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience. This week Sellyn looks to become the first Vanderbilt women’s tennis player to have earned her graduate degree – in Social Foundations of Health: Medicine, Health and Society -- during her playing career. In the future, medical school awaits.
The journey to donning a cap and gown has been a long one for Sellyn, who hails from Glasgow, Scotland and is affectionately known as “Georgie” or “Scottie” around the tennis facility. But Sellyn says her Vanderbilt career has set her up for success in the future.
“My parents always emphasized the importance of education,” Sellyn said. “If pro tennis never worked out, it was always going to be important to have a degree. Playing college tennis at an excellent institution like Vanderbilt was really important to me, because it’s the best of both worlds. Vanderbilt has the academics and the athletics.”
Sellyn developed an interest in medicine almost by accident. She injured her ankle as a junior and was forced to redshirt. But in the thick of rehab and multiple surgeries, Sellyn experienced an up-close-and-personal look at the world of medicine. That’s when something clicked.
“I threw myself into my studies and focused on school, using my time for opportunities to work in the hospital and do research,” Sellyn said. “That’s when my passion really came through.”
Added Vanderbilt head coach Geoff Macdonald: “Georgie just ignited as a student. It was really interesting the way she handled adversity. She just channeled her passion for tennis into neuroscience and began doing research at the hospital.”
Since then, Sellyn has made the most of her newfound passion. In between shadowing stints at the hospital, Sellyn has volunteered as the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, visiting with young patients prior to their surgeries. She has also volunteered at Shade Tree, a free clinic run by Vanderbilt medical students.
Amid her accomplishments, Sellyn will leave West End as a published author. She has had papers published in the American Pediatric Surgical Association, and later this year she will have another piece published in the Clinical and Cosmetic Results of the Modified Minipterional Craniotomy for Unruptured Aneurysm Clipping. Sellyn and her 3.9 GPA became a two-time SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year this spring.
Sellyn has also been a part of a remarkably successful chapter in Vanderbilt tennis history. The Commodores have won the 2015 NCAA title and a pair of SEC tournament championships with Sellyn on the roster. This spring they are a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, which kicks off May 12 with a regional in Nashville.
“Georgie is a perfect example of someone who has managed to reach a really high level in both athletics and academics,” Macdonald said.
Sellyn won’t apply to medical schools just yet. Instead, she plans to remain in Nashville, tack on extra research at the hospital and, in her words, “hang around the tennis facility a bit.” But Sellyn said Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is one of her top choices for when the time comes.
“My college career has exceeded all expectations,” Sellyn said. “It has exceeded everything I could have hoped it would be. As a tennis program, we’ve had an incredible four or five years. Our coaches are some of the best in the country. I’ve loved Nashville. I’ve just been extremely happy and couldn’t have asked for a better place to come.”