Photo of students participating in sack race Medical students enjoyed activities like a potato-sack race at their first-annual Olympics.

Cotton-candy machine? Check. Water balloons? Check. Bounce house? Good to go. Sounds like preparations for the State Fair, but these are just a few of the fun details from the UC Davis School of Medicine's first annual Medical Student Olympics, held April 6 at the new Education Building.

First-year medical student Ryan Spielvogel, who spearheaded the Olympics, planned the event to help bond students from each of the school's four colleges, which were created to give medical students more peer interaction.

"We get together as colleges a few times per block, for example at information sessions on how to apply for residency and sometimes for dinners," Spielvogel said. But after an initial fall retreat during which students in colleges get to know one another through games and activities, Spielvogel said that the students tend to get involved in their classes and busy schedules, making the college groups less cohesive. "After the retreat, there are few activities, so people lose the bonded feeling over time."

Photo of Ryan Ryan Spielvogel, who spearheaded the Student Olympics, gears up for a potato-sack race.

Spielvogel got the idea of the Olympics after speaking with Dan West – head of West College, assistant professor of pediatric hematology/oncology and director of the Residency Training Program – about ways to boost the students' interest and involvement in the college system.

"I asked Dr. West how he would feel about a friendly competition between the colleges as a way to revitalize people's interest and college pride," Spielvogel said. "He thought it was a great idea, but said it would be hard to organize and gather people to do something like that the first time."

As if medical school, with its heavy load and hectic pace, weren't hard enough, Spielvogel took on the event planning himself. He had to create a budget, get approval and funding from all four colleges, work with administration and faculty to get classes moved around for the day of the event and assign volunteers to assist with the activities. "It was really intense at times… but it was well worth it," Spielvogel said.

Dozens of students participated in the event, which, as luck would have it, fell on a particularly sunny and warm April day.

Teams from each college competed in friendly games of volleyball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee and ping-pong. Traditional carnival games like a water balloon toss, a potato sack race, tug-of-war and a three-legged race rounded out the event. For some, the inflatable bounce platform, on which students "jousted" with huge inflatable barbells, was the biggest hit. Set up on the Shriners Hospital east lawn, the giant, bright-red platform turned more than a few heads of passersby.

The smell of fresh cotton candy and a barbeque filled the quad area of the Education Building, where burgers and hot dogs were expertly flipped and grilled by volunteer students and a few faculty. Popular music, blasted from a sound system, kept the event loud and lively.

At the end of the day, West college came in first place in the overall competition; Bera came in second, with Fancher-Garcia college taking third place and Bowe taking fourth.

Thanks to its huge success, the School of Medicine plans to make the student Olympics an annual event.

"The Olympics provided a much-needed break for students, faculty and staff, allowing them to come together in camaraderie and companionship," said Amerish Bera, head of Bera College and associate dean for admissions and outreach. "It was a hit."