Todd Jackson, MS3

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Morehouse College, B.S. Biology
From Washington D.C.

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

During the didactic years, our program does Problem-Based Learning (PBL) where we’re put into groups of 7-8 students with a faculty member. In these groups, we spend two hours, roughly three days per week discussing a particular disease or series of related diseases. During the first year, this occurs typically Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 8am. After PBL, we would typically have voluntary lectures up until 12 PM. We would either be done for the day or had lectures on physicianship in the afternoons where we would learn about the profession, practice physical exam maneuvers, etc. At the end of the day, students would go home and study for whatever material they had to cover.

During clinical years, it largely depends on the rotation but for example, internal medicine, my days start at 7am. Of my assigned patients, I look up vitals, labs, test, etc that were done the previous day after I left. I then go on my own to check on them and see how they’re doing. This is “pre-rounding” and I typically carry 2-3 patients vs the residents who may have like 8-10. Around 9am, we all come together as a team (2 medical students, 2 first year residents, a senior resident, and attending physician) and see all of our patients together. Then there’s lunch and the afternoon is open to follow up on my patients, take them to procedures, watch their procedures, etc. I leave around 5pm for the day. Interspersed throughout the days are other program activities, talks, presentations, etc.

How do your classes and lectures compare to those at your undergraduate institution?

There isn’t too much of a difference in terms of the flow of a day, the major difference is just the volume of material that I would have to digest in a particular day. It can be relatively overwhelming at times when you have other extracurricular obligations or things you’d like to do but all in all, it’s not impossible. In terms of material, it feels like a longitudinal physiology course. Instead of it being over a semester, you take two years and really dive deep into each organ system.

How has your approach to learning and/or studying changed since you were an undergrad?

My approach in time management and discipline made the major difference. Instead of waiting until the next day to review material, I was reviewing material the same day in most cases. That meant that I had to wake up early on the weekends (even after going out the night before haha) or make sure I only spent maybe an hour in the gym or watching only an hour of a show to be sure that I still left myself enough time to get back to studying.

How would you describe the student culture at your school? Are there special events or activities that you consider very representative of the culture at your institution? What influence has this culture had on your experience in medical school thus far?

I would say the overall culture at UM is laid back compared to what I’ve heard from other medical schools. Miami is an amazing place to be with decent weather year-round. There are student organizations for almost any interest and student gov’t/admin are very open and welcoming of expression so long as it’s kept professional and appropriate. One major event that we have every year is called the Dean’s Cup where the medical students compete against UM law students in various activities – flag football, soccer, track, eating contest, baking contest, and the list goes on – students get really involved and there’s a lot of school spirit.

Can you give us a brief description of the area surrounding your school and the things you do for fun? What are some things you like and dislike about the city/town you are located in as a student?

It’s Miami!! There’s so much to do depending on your interests. Concerts, plays, restaurants (Cuban, Haitian, etc), bars, nightclubs…THE BEACH. And there’s time for all of it! The only thing I dislike about Miami is the humidity that can get really uncomfortable in the summer and the potential for hurricanes that disrupt scheduling.

What would you consider strengths of your medical school?

The biggest strength is the breadth of diversity that the institution sees and also learning how to care for some of the most disadvantaged, at-risk populations in the nation. Miami is a cultural melting-pot with many, many migrants from the Caribbean and South America, among various other places. Some of these individuals do not arrive with any form of robust financial security or social support. As such many do not have insurance and have markedly decreased access to healthcare and other services. UM and its affiliates/community partners work to ensure that many of these migrants (and other economically-deprived Americans) have a place to receive care.

What resources have been most useful to you in self-learning medical school material or in expanding on material taught in class? Can you briefly describe how you have incorporated them into your learning routine?

I chiefly used First Aid, Pathoma, and YouTube haha. When trying to learn particularly difficulty concepts, YouTube was king – First Aid and Pathoma were there to help consolidate and review the information. I would definitely suggest following coursework with First Aid from the very beginning.

Oh and Anki for spaced repetition learning!

How much/well have you been able to develop clinical skills alongside your classroom work first and second year? What does your institution do to help you develop clinical skills before the clinical years?

Prior to clinical years, lectures are given by extremely knowledgeable faculty on elements of the physical exam and other clinical skills where we then transfer that learning to either experiences in the hospital with real patients or the use of standardized patients who are essentially paid actors to allow you to work through concepts. We also have opportunities to volunteer at the student-run health clinics to gain real-world exposure.

What is one thing you would do differently if you could go back to your undergraduate years or the time between undergrad and medical school?

I don’t think I would’ve done anything differently prior to medical school – I did a postbac program in between undergrad and medical school and I’m very thankful for that time in between. I even suggest that most students take a year or two to do something else in life worthwhile before starting medical school. Once you get started, that’s it.

Given the number of obstacles we face en route to a career in medicine, everyone at some point feels doubtful of themselves. How has this affected you and what has helped you persevere through these sorts of feelings?

During each step of my journey, I’ve always thought back to moments where I had to truly struggle and fight to get to where I am. If this were easy, everyone would do it but they don’t. It’s a difficult road. While in medical school, I thought back to the application process and how uncertain that period was and I also thought about my reasons at that time that drove me to pursue medicine. While in undergrad, I thought back to all of the things I’d accomplished and some of the challenges I faced backed then. When I took stock of my accomplishments and my journey, it pushed me forward knowing that I’ve persevered in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I learned to embrace the struggle and remind myself that I’m innately a fighter. How else does anyone get through the ranks of this profession, right?

Also, once in medical school always remember that the admissions committee chose you out of thousands of applicants. They. chose. you. It wasn’t a mistake.

How do you maintain your mental health while balancing school, work, family, and other social obligations?

In medical school, there is typically only one or maybe two things unrelated to medicine that you can seriously incorporate into your schedule while also maintaining school obligations. Weight training has been that escape for me. But more importantly than that, I always advocate that students take a day off (or two, although this is easier in first year haha) and do absolutely nothing but what your heart’s desire is for the day. Don’t look at any school-work. Take a beach/park/hiking/friend day or pop popcorn and binge-watch Netflix all day. Treat yourself to an appropriate guilty pleasure. The next day or two, you’ll be ready to hit the books hard again

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