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Nailing the Art of Medicine: First Year Medical Student’s Healing Hands Draw National Acclaim

Faith Baxter standing in front of VCOM Carolinas entrance
By Lily Collins -

Faith Baxter is the first person in the VCOM-Carolinas Class of 2027 to be published, but her appearance in the national SOMA Research publication, The Future DO, is not your typical research project.

So close to the end of her grueling first year, you might expect her to be sleep-deprived, and possibly caffeine-riddled, but she is surprisingly relaxed. “[Med school] is a little hectic, but I’m not at the point of burn out, thank goodness. I developed a lot of mental resilience growing up,” she explains. “I was a Division I track and field athlete, and there's just no stopping. I think that really has taught me well to just keep going, no matter what. I also find joy in studying. It's like, okay, we have an exam tomorrow. If I grind out 12 hours of studying tonight, I'll reward myself a coffee. Little things to look forward to make studying not so bad.”

Faith’s family includes one older sister, one younger sister and her identical twin sister, and her family shaped her competitive spirit. “It is competitive growing up in a family of sisters, especially when you have a twin,” she says. “You're trying to find ways to distinguish yourself as your own person while you're in middle school and high school, and it's very difficult. People will be like, ‘Faith, Hope, it's the same person.’ No, we're not the same person. I have my passions. She has hers. We're Momo [Monoamniotic] twins. Less than 1% of the twin population are Momo twins because it's such a high risk. Hope and I weren't supposed to survive, which is why our names are Hope and Faith. Usually with those types of twins, only one of them survives.” Clearly, Faith has been a determined person since before she was born, and she retains that drive to this day, which is helpful during these long days of med school.

But Faith has interests beyond school, too. She has been doing nails since sixth grade and is completely self-taught. For years, it was more of a hobby than a business, but it took on a new shape during the pandemic. At the time, Faith was pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in chemistry and pre-med at Miami University-Oxford. “I didn't want people coming to me in person during COVID, so I decided to start my mail order press-on nail business. Now I ship press-on nails to wherever people order them from, and I do in-person appointments. Doing the in-person appointments is a way for me to connect and network with my peers.”

Like many careers, Faith’s developed when she needed a solution to her own dilemma. “I knew that I wanted to go into medicine, and you can't have long nails in the medical field. But we want to have what we want on our nails and not be limited by our career,” she says. “I found a product that is temporary. I can be confident and beautiful, then remove them if needed. This is a part of my life, and I would never give this up.”

As a medical school student and amateur nail tech, Faith’s talent is greatly appreciated by her classmates. She finds time to provide at least one in-person appointment a week to first- and second-year students at VCOM-Carolinas. Her manicures last over a month, so many students get their nails done before summer, making the end of the academic year a busy time for her.

Surprisingly, Faith’s passion for doing nails is good preparation for her future career as a surgeon, because the hand-eye coordination of an artist is applicable in surgery. 

I want to get my nail license and one day open my own nail salon after becoming a doctor which may seem like a step down, but it's what I'm passionate about.

Faith Baxter , VCOM-Carolinas Class of 2027

She acknowledges that it may seem like a stretch to be a surgeon and a nail tech, but for her, it isn’t. “I'm super good at those fine details because of nails,” she explains. “Though that's the only training I have, I’ve developed dexterity that other people don't have. When I do my own nails, I have to practice working with my left hand, so I have a lot of practice being ambidextrous. A lot of [attending physicians] will tell resident surgeons to incorporate non-dominant hand training in aspects of daily life. For example, brush your teeth with your left hand, just so you can get used to it. When you do surgery, you have to be able to use both hands. An informal part of training for surgery is developing an ability that's directly related to my nail passion right now.”

When SOMA Research put out a call for art projects encapsuling what compassion means in medicine, Faith jumped at the opportunity to share her work. She designed a set of nails featuring finely detailed, intricate paintings. “One hand illustrates the side of healthcare that everyone else sees and the other hand illustrates the side of medicine that we as osteopathic physicians embody. The first thing I had was the name Healing Hands because it tied directly into medicine and nails.”

Through the designs on these opposing hands, Faith brings attention to the holistic side of healthcare and the ways that osteopathic physicians offer compassion in each encounter. One hand shows healthcare through physical objects and symbols: x-rays, stethoscopes, the heart, a lumbar puncture and prescription pills. The opposing hand represents the underlying compassion in healthcare—a smile, physical touch, love, a DO approach (represented with the DO badge) and listening skills. Each of these are essential for being a compassionate osteopathic physician.

“One thing that I wish to do in the future with this is to make little press-on nail sets with the adhesive tabs for children in hospitals,” she says. “That would be really meaningful to me. Some people are self-conscious of their hands when they don't have anything on them. That's ultimately why I want to extend this to children in hospitals who have cancer or something who maybe feel less beautiful about themselves. You're treating someone the same way you would in medicine. You're healing them. You're making them feel better. And that's what I'm doing when I do nails.”

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