Peer Emotional and Educational Resilience Support (PEERS)
The Peer Emotional and Educational Resilience Support (PEERS) is composed of carefully chosen volunteer College of Medicine students referred to as PEER Supporters who are eager to serve their comrades. PEERS strives to forge bonds between students in an effort to build a supportive, connected community. They are admired as leaders, looked up to as mentors, and most importantly, treasured as good friends, by their classmates. They embody the qualities of empathy, compassion, and dedication, and they have a passion for helping other medical students that are facing oftentimes- unseen dilemmas and challenges during their time in medical school (academic, interpersonal conflicts, mental/physical health, financial, etc.). They are passionate about providing a non-judgmental listening ear, offering advice based on similar experiences, and increasing awareness of the campus resources that are available to students. PEER Supporters are dedicated to fostering a safe and inclusive learning and work environment for all students centered around wellness, support, and accessibility. Because of this, PEER Supporters are key facets in ensuring that the principles of trust, acceptance, and support are embedded within the campus culture of Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama.
Going through a difficult time and want to talk to a PEER Supporter?
Struggling academically? Feeling overwhelmed and isolated? Needing someone to talk to who understands the stress of medical school? PEER Supporters are ready to offer support and provide information to on-campus resources that may be useful for you. Fill out the form below and one of our PEERS team members will get back to you soon (no later than the next business day). Remember everything you tell us is respected as private to the extent possible of putting health and safety of students first. See the list of biographies for the PEER Supporters below.
Connect to a PEER Supporter
Many students are overwhelmed with the resources available on campus. On the other hand, some students are intimidated by the idea of reaching out to members of the medical administration, although faculty and staff at the College of Medicine are readily available to support them. PEERS is a valuable asset to both students and the administration. PEERS help enhance the overall well-being of medical students going through difficult times and play a role in ensuring that the principles of trust, acceptance, and support are embedded within campus culture.
Meet your PEERS Team
Alana Andrew Fortune
Hello All! My name is Alana Andrew-Fortune. I'm an M4 from Missouri City, Texas, and I graduated from Dillard University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. I personally understand how hard the transition to medical school can be and how isolating it is when you feel as though no one else is feeling how you do. I wouldn't be where I am today without a multitude of people supporting me through my roughest periods and I have become a PEER supporter with the hope that I can be a part of someone else's support network. I am passionate about removing the stigma surrounding mental health and I truly believe that PEERS is a step in the right direction!
I am Luke, a fourth-year medical student from Huntsville, AL. I attended UAB for undergrad and majored in Exercise Science. I took a few gap years before coming back to medical school, during this time I focused on working in various areas of healthcare and spent some time managing a small business. Being out of school for an extended period meant a little extra stress during my M1 year, dealing with that is what has motivated me to become a PEER Supporter. I am here to listen and offer any advice I can to help others navigate the challenges they face. We are all in this together.
Hi everyone, my name is Yulong Huang, and I’m an M3. I’m from Dickson, TN, but have lived in Mobile for the past six years as an undergraduate (and medical student) at South! I decided to become a PEER Supporter because mental health is something that is often overlooked, and students may not know who to talk to or what resources are available. I’m always happy to chat or listen, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you see me around.
Class of 2024
Hi! I am Tiara Dean, a fourth-year medical student from Monroeville, AL. I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Tuskegee University. During my time there, I experienced first hand how a sense of community amongst students greatly improves both morale and academic achievement. After all, nothing feels better than being with those who can relate to what you’re going through. As a PEER Supporter, my strategy is to be a judgment free listening ear that is able to connect you with the resources that you need. So, in the words of J. Cole, “If you need a friend to pick you up, I’ll be around.”
Hi! My name is Rainer Jones and I am from Tuscaloosa. I graduated from Rhodes College with a degree in Biomathematics in 2019 and took a gap year before starting medical school. I know first-hand and have seen how difficult medical school can be, as well as how important it can be to have peers to talk to who understand what you are going through. I became a PEER Supporter to be able to offer just that to my classmates through this program.
Hi! My name is Brenna Katz! I went to Rhodes College where I graduated with a B.S. in Biology and was part of the soccer team all four years. I wanted to join PEERs because I felt what medical school can do to you mentally. I want to have the skills to know how to be there fully for other medical school students during their time of need.
My name is Jonathan Lee, and I am an M4 pursuing a career in emergency medicine. I am from Clarke County, Alabama, but I graduated high school from Daphne High School in Daphne, AL. I completed my bachelors and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering at UAB prior to medical school and will always be a "tinkerer" whether it is with my car, motorcycle, or firing up the 3D printer. In terms of psychiatry, it is one of the leading areas I am passionate about with emergency medicine, as the ED receives the acute presentation of severe illness, and I hope to be a firm patient advocate with competent care for those patients who are all-too-often submitted to a more traumatizing experience upon presentation to the ED.
Hi! I’m Lameace. I’m from Auburn, AL, and graduated from USA in 2019. I am now a fourth year here at South’s COM. Medical school is a very strenuous time and having a strong support system is invaluable. Although it can feel this way, our lives don’t revolve around school. While academics are very real struggles that we will encounter in these years, outside obligations such as family and friends can also be difficult to navigate. I am here to help through any situation. I am honored to serve as a PEER Supporter and offer a listening ear, advice, and guidance to my fellow classmates.
Hello! My name is Alex, and I’m currently an M4 at USACOM. I am originally from Prattville, AL, and I went to Jacksonville State University for undergrad! I’m interested in pursuing Psychiatry, as I have a huge interest in mental health and reducing the stigma surrounding it. I want to be here for any medical student who may be dealing with something that they need support getting through, whether that be school stresses, family or home issues, or external problems; I have experience working with other local organizations responding to crisis calls, so I’m not unfamiliar with how it may be difficult reaching out for help, but I really encourage you to reach out if you need any support!
Class of 2025
My name is Danner Butler, and I am currently an M3 at South Alabama. I am from Mobile, but I attended undergrad at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where I studied Biochemistry and Mathematics. When I am not in the classroom, I enjoy being in the outdoors and running. I have always relied upon community throughout my scholastic career, and I would love nothing more than to share my experiences and offer an ear to anyone who needs it!
Hi! My name is Virginia Farley, and I am a third-year medical student at South Alabama! I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, but moved to Tennessee for college. There I attended Sewanee: The University of the South and majored in Biochemistry and minored in Psychology. My hobbies include weightlifting in the gym, going to the beach, pool, or lake (any body of water!), and playing with my cat Sylvester. I wanted to become a PEER Supporter because I know how hard it can be to open up about struggling, whether it’s from what life throws your way or from medical school. Having someone to listen and talk to can truly make a difference, and I would love to be that positive and caring person for anyone who may need it.
My name is Em, and I’m an M3 from Huntsville. I enjoy yoga, the great outdoors, hitting the climbing wall, and time spent with good friends. I’m also a huge nerd for sci-fi novels and board games. Medical school is really tough and can quickly become overwhelming, but it’s easier to overcome the challenges with a little help from our friends. I’m volunteering to be a PEER Supporter so that I’ll have the training and resources to be the best support system I can be.
Hey y’all! I’m Natalie, a current M3 at USACOM. I’m originally from Opelika, AL, and went to UAB for my undergrad (c/o 2021), where I majored in Neuroscience and minored in Sociology. In my spare time, I love playing sports (catch me on all the intramurals), fangirling over Star Wars, shopping at TJ Maxx and DSW, and hanging out with my favorite people (and my cat, Winx). Transitioning into medical school is one of the most challenging things I’ve done. Socially, mentally, physically, and even medically, it was a feat to stay afloat. It was then when I realized just how important having a strong support system and taking care of yourself first is. I joined the PEERS program to help be an aid for medical students who are transitioning into and who have been in medical school for some time in their mental health journey. I made it through to the other side, and it’s an absolute honor to be a resource and a friend in tough times.
Hey! I’m Peter, an M3 here at South. I’m from Dothan, Alabama, and went to the University of Alabama to major in Biology and minor in Environmental Studies. I love being outside and playing sports and am currently one of the intramural sports chairs for my class. I am incredibly excited to be a PEER Supporter because these past couple of years I have become more aware of my own and others’ mental health and the impact it has on our ability to succeed. Medical school is extremely challenging, but I believe in the community and culture we have here at South and I would love to do anything I can to help all of us achieve our dreams of becoming physicians.
Class of 2026
Lauren Kate Dodd
My name is Lauren Kate, and I am graduating in 2026. I am passionate about maintaining good mental health both for myself and others, and I got my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience. I am very happy to be a resource for my fellow students and anyone else as a part of the PEERS program.
Hello! My name is Hannah Hill, and I’m one of the PEERS for the Class of 2026. I’m originally from Opelika, AL, and I went to Auburn University for my undergraduate degree. I’ve lived in Mobile for a year now, and I love it down here! For hobbies, I like to go on walks, play pickle ball, and hang out with my friends. I’m super excited to serve my fellow classmates this year being part of the PEERS program and look forward to the year ahead!
Hey everyone! My name is Macy McCollister. I am originally from Muscle Shoals, AL, and then went to The University of Alabama for undergrad. I love to cook and bake, my cat Mindy, and to spend time with friends and family. I have loved my time at USACOM so far and have personally experienced the value that South places on both community and faculty/student-led support. This environment has helped me to both grow and now serve as a PEER supporter. I really look forward to extending that same support I needed coming into medical school to other classmates through this program.
Hey! My name is Sam, and I am an M2 at South. I was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, and I went to Auburn for undergrad. I got my degree in Biomedical Science and then took several gap years prior to starting medical school. I love aviation, playing board games, watching legitimately all the TV shows I can manage, and hanging out with my friends. Medical school is a really challenging experience and I feel like we all need help sometimes. Whether it is life, school, or both that is overwhelming I have learned that having a true friend to talk to is invaluable. This is the role I hope to fill, to whomever needs it, while volunteering as a PEER Supporter.
Hi all! I come from Dothan, AL, but have been living in Mobile for the last 10 years. I’m currently a M2, but prior to starting at the COM I was a Physician Assistant for 7 years in psychiatry. I loved working as part of the mental health team and plan to ultimately become a psychiatrist following med school. I wanted to join PEERS because I wanted to utilize my years of working in mental health and my desire to see us all thrive in a challenging part of all our lives.
My name is Mohammad, and I’m currently an M2. I joined PEERS because I’ve seen first-hand the impact that mental health can have, and I want to help my classmates get through them and flourish. I’m excited to be part of a supportive, enthusiastic group of like-minded people who are committed to improving their comrades’ well-being. Outside of school, I enjoy walking, cycling, and reading Russian literature—my favorite novel is Alexander Kazbegi’s The Patricide!
My name is Matthew Westerfield. I am a member of the class of 2026. My main hobby is going to the gym. I live with my dog Sherlock. I wanted to be a PEER Supporter because every time I've gone through something trying, I've had people there for me. I want to be there for anyone who needs it. I want you guys to always feel like y’all can reach out to me and we can set up a time to talk.
Health and Wellness Counselor
Dr. Becky Smith
Dr. Smith offers confidential counseling for individuals, couples and groups. Medical students do not need to have an identified mental health problem to be seen by the counselor, although these clinical mental health services are offered. Students come to counseling for a variety of reasons, including improving their health and wellness and increasing resiliency.
Scope of Services
Currently registered, full or part-time USA Whiddon College of Medicine students (MD and PhD programs) are eligible for services with the COM Health & Wellness Counselor. As needed, all COM students may receive crisis intervention, consultation, and/or referral.
The following considerations are in place as well:
- Students who have been admitted but have not yet begun classes are not eligible for services until the first week of classes.
- Community clients are limited to those who are the partner of a currently registered student and are participating in couples counseling.
COM students who are not eligible for services include:
- Students who have taken an extended leave of absence (Personal or Medical leave that
has been granted up to one calendar year).
- Students currently receiving services from the Health & Wellness Counselor may receive services for the remainder of the semester in which the leave of absence was granted or for the following one semester if the leave of absence was approved at the end of a semester.
- If clinically indicated, students already receiving services from the Health & Wellness Counselor on an extended leave may receive a monthly check-in with the Health & Wellness Counselor to help transition the student back into the academic environment.
Considerations for extended services include the student’s needs, financial resources, provider and client relationship, and other factors when determining the number of sessions needed for a client.
Additional Resources include:
- Lunch & Learns: These sessions are a collaboration between The Offices of Student Affairs and Academic Success and cover a variety of topics such as managing the transition to medical school, emotional well-being, career planning, and growth mindset. For more information contact Dr. Smith.
- Monthly wellness forums: Forums cover topics such as managing the transition to medical school, emotional well-being, healthy relationships, and mindfulness. For more information contact Dr. Smith.
- Mental Health First Aid training: Available for medical students to enhance their ability to identify and respond to mental health concerns and emergencies. For more information contact Dr. Smith.
- USA Recreation Center
- USA Outdoor Adventures
- Campus Outdoor Trails
- Office of Diversity and Inclusion