Record Participation in UConn Health Coast to Coast Ride

The 2018 Coast to Coast team includes, from left, John Sullivan, Curtis Xu, Christine Donat, Taylor Larese, Josh Goodman, Ghali Lemtiri-Chlieh, Rohan Joshi, Brian Leland, Zach Giaccone, and Patrick Lau. Goodman, Joshi, Leland and Giaccone are first-year dental students, the rest are first-year medical students. (Photo provided by Ghali Lemtiri-Chlieh)

The summertime cross-country bicycle fundraising tour that has become a UConn School of Medicine tradition features by far the largest group in the ride’s 13-year history.

Six medical students and four dental students, all from the Class of 2021, make up this year’s UConn Coast to Coast team.

“I have always loved traveling and being in the outdoors,” says medical student Ghali Lemtiri-Chlieh. “Knowing this is my last free summer in medical school, I wanted to do something that would be memorable and give me an opportunity to grow and develop. The bike trip allows me to do all that and simultaneously raise money for a fantastic cause that is important to us as future providers and serves our local community.”

Because of the rigors of the academic program and its rotations, medical students generally regard the break between their first and second years as their final summer. The UConn School of Dental Medicine’s curriculum also includes the first two years of the medical school’s curriculum.

The first three members of the Coast to Coast 2018 team are already on their way back to Connecticut from Washington state. From left, Josh Goodman, Zach Giaccone, and Brian Leland landed in Seattle Monday and started pedaling home Wednesday. (instagram.com/coasttocoast2018)

Proceeds from this year’s ride go to the statewide nonprofit Mental Health Connecticut.

“I grew up in Southington, Connecticut, and couldn’t be happier to raise funds to improve mental health services for the residents of my home state,” says medical student Taylor Larese. “I enjoy exercising, specifically weight-lifting, and like pushing my physical limits. I look forward to the challenges and rewards that will come with cycling across the country with my classmates.”

The training regimen has included weekly team bike trips, adding weight to the bikes to simulate the loads they’ll be carrying, and practicing communication to stay safe on the roads.

“Mental health is truly a topic close to our hearts because of its disproportionate impact on medical professionals,” says classmate Pat Lau. “We hope through this trip that we can raise awareness and funds for mental health.”

The students are almost 60 percent of the way to their goal of raising $20,000, in part because of events like the faculty auction held May 4.

The team is splitting into three groups and will stagger their start dates. The first three students left June 4, the next four leave Saturday, and the final three leave Tuesday. All are flying to Seattle and will start pedaling east from Anacortes, Washington, which is about 80 miles north of Seattle. They’ll follow what’s known as the Northern Tier Route, a path along the northern border states, and aim for a mid-August homecoming.

“I am eager to exchange stories and learn from the different people I will encounter during my trip,” says dental student Rohan Joshi. “I can’t wait to see the different parts of the United States. Cycling is a great way to experience a terrain, to really immerse yourself in the environment and I’m sure I will witness some breathtaking parts of America.”

This year’s group also will continue the tradition of keeping a blog during the trip. Follow the riders’ progress and learn how to support them at https://uconnc2c.blogspot.com/.

“I have gone through phases of excitement and anxiety leading up to our departure,” Lemtiri-Chlieh says. “I am incredibly excited for this trip and looking forward to the challenge!”