It’s Saturday morning, I have some ‘down time’ before my mandatory Basic Life Support course, so I thought I’d update my blog about my first week of medical school. If you haven’t started medical school yet, I imagine your week of orientation will be somewhat similar to mine (plus or minus pomp and circumstance).
The first day of school I met my classmates, faculty and staff. This was also the same day of my white coat ceremony and my undertaking of the Hippocratic Oath. There are several renditions of the oath, we took a modern version that was customized for our institution. In the same day, we went on organized scavenger hunts to receive a few course syllabi, pins for our white coat, lockers, medical student ID badges etc. The syllabus in medical school is a cast iron contract of exactly what you need to know (and also implies what you may not need to know by lack of mention). In general, the big difference between undergrad and the medical school syllabus is that some syllabi and slides may constitute all of the reading material for the course (besides supplemental reading) — this is hard to understand until you have the syllabus in your possession, this is also why ‘pre-studying’ before medical school starts is more or less a waste of time because you really need the syllabus to get started. The first day ended with our ceremony and the oath, plus plenty of photo opportunities for proud parents and spouses. Most of us then optionally gave our white coats back so that they could be embroidered, we’ll start seeing patients in two weeks, so we want to make ourselves identifiable.
The rest of the week was really a blur of orientation, talks from top doctors about the state of health care, and team building experiences (these were actually really fun). On the second day of school we had Introduction to Clinical Medicine. They invited a patient to do an interview with our instructor, we were all on the edge of our seats because the patient was real and rather amazing. We started medical histology using virtual microscopy (i.e. digitized images that allow for zooming and can be viewed from any computer with the software), we also had our first group discussion (these are mandatory). Interestingly, a lot of courses do not have mandatory attendance, so some students decide to sleep in every now and then (or perpetually). I’m sure I’ll consider staying home when there’s several feet of snow outside, but for now, I like my classmates so much that one of my main drivers is to hang out with them. I may be able to survive medical school alone, but in order to thrive I’m learning how to tackle this challenge as a group; after all, we’re all going to be doctors, and doctors work in teams. The school uses pass/fail grades to make us less likely to slit each others’ throats like people tend to do in undergrad.
Our class system for MS1 is traditional, i.e. we do the fundamentals first. So my class schedule for the semester boils down to:
- Human Anatomy (starts next week, just picked up scrubs for it)
- Biochemistry/Molecular Biology
- Human Behavior in Medicine (psychology course for physicians seeing patients)
- Introduction to Clinical Medicine (we’ll start doing rounds in a few weeks to interview patients in the hospital and present cases to upper classmates)
Lastly, there’s a lot of opportunity for extracurricular, service, and medical exposure. I just signed to shadow a trauma surgeon in a few weeks, and one student advisory position. Others are already trying to create their own clubs or create their own opportunity by starting programs they think our institution is missing. The wonderful thing about my medical school is that they encourage you to be the same person you were, with the same interests that you had, before you matriculated. This should make sense, because most medical schools want to know what you’ll “add to their program” if you were accepted. My class is composed of 166 members (out of 11,700~ applicants), from 22 countries, some are married, some have children, some identify as LGBT, almost everyone has research experience, and the majority of us are bilingual — we have a lot of things in common, but enough differences among us to make every person an individual.
So far, it looks like they didn’t make a mistake, and I won’t get a letter saying “Sorry, we made a mistake with you”. Thus, this week was a good week!