Austin Dopp, MS2

Medical College of Wisconsin
Utah State University, B.S. Family Consumer and Human Development
From Idaho Falls, Idaho
Age 26

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

My typical day is probably a little different than most medical students because I am married and have 3 children. I wake up around 7-ish and walk to school. Most days I spend the first 4 hours in lecture and then have lunch. After that I spend the next 4 hours either studying from lectures or working on the different research projects that I am trying to complete. At 5PM I usually head home to have dinner with my family. I try to spend from 5-7PM with them at which time I help put my kids to bed. I may or may not spend another hour with my wife depending on if I have tests coming up. Then I try to study from 8PM till about 10:30PM when I go to bed. That of course is the ideal schedule. The degree to which it is followed varies somewhat day to day depending on what’s going on at that time.

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

My lectures are all recorded which is awesome. That way if I need to do something other than sitting in class I can watch it later at twice the speed if I need to. Classes in medical school are pretty much only based on exams. There are very few graded assignments and the ones that may be there are a tiny portion of your grade normally.

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

My approach to learning has become more based on trying to understand why things happen rather than rote memorization of facts. The more I understand why things happen and the implications of them not happening the better I do.

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?

The culture at my school is very supportive. I am in a class of around 200 and so while you think you may get forgotten or left out, I have never felt that way. Other students are always posting tips and study aids to help others. We try to remind each other of upcoming deadlines and what not as well.

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?

The area surrounding my school is what you would expect the outskirts of a city to be. The things I do for fun are usually spending time with my wife and children. Some things I like about the part of town I am located in is that it feels safe. I have never had to worry about my family when I am at school till midnight. Some things I don’t like is just the fact it is a city. I don’t necessarily like cities. I’d much prefer a rural landscape.

What would you consider strengths of your medical school?

I think one of the strengths that my medical school has is that it is always trying to find ways to improve. No school is perfect but I have gotten a sense that my school has a desire to find the imperfections and fix them. Another thing that I think is a big strength for my school is it’s relationship with the Kern Institute. The Kern Institute is a organization among 6 or 7 well known medical schools that is trying to change medical education across the country. Being associated with Kern has given me lots of opportunities.

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?

Some resources that have been useful to me are mainly Pathoma, and First Aid my M2 year. My M1 year, I didn’t use much more than the slides given by the lecturers.

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?

All medical schools try to draw students in by saying things like “We get you to have patient contact on day one.” My personal belief is that’s just a bunch of baloney. Yes we need to learn those skills but until you are done with the first 2 years of school you don’t have the knowledge base to make those interactions meaningful. My school does try to let you “dip your toes in the water” however by giving us a class called Clinical Apprenticeship. In this class we are assigned to a doctor and we go into their clinic once a week and try to be helpful. It’s good for students because that’s what we want to do and it gives us some experience for when we are actually ready to learn.

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?

Usually when I have doubts or things like that I try to remember my wife and kids and how I need to keep going so that I can provide for them. Also my own sense of achievement won’t let me not persevere so that helps to.

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

It’s difficult but you just have to make time for the things that are the most important to you and tell yourself that the other things need to matter a little bit less. If you are having a mental breakdown or a family crisis then it’s ok to get a pass in your class rather than a high pass. Choose your big rocks, then your pebbles, then fill the rest up with sand. You can fit a lot more in that way.

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