Jay Patel, MS1

University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, B.S., Biochemistry, B.A. Psychology
From Crossville, TN
Age 22

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

On most days, my alarm clock goes off at 6:00 AM, I hit snooze about 5 times, and then I finally wake up around 7 AM. I normally do some quick yoga, shower, eat breakfast and am out the door by 7:45 AM. Most days follow a pattern of classes from 8 AM-Noon/1PM with some mandatory afternoon stuff such as doing Ultrasound (U/S) on people or attending a Principles of Medicine class (basically the basics of how to become a doc). I normally stay on campus still about 8/9PM and then head home to decompress, eat some dinner, and catch up on whatever I missed on YouTube.

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

I would definitely say that undergrad felt more scattered class wise since some classes were more difficult than others, and you always had to adjust to different professors teaching styles. Med school classes certainly are harder but being able to podcast classes, not having mandatory attendance, and knowing that what you’re learning will be important (minus the PhD minutiae) in your medical practice one day.

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

I felt that for most classes in undergrad, I could cram the week of the exam and do fine. I tried doing that for our first exam in med school, and, even though I did decently well, pulling 3 all nighters and not retaining any of the info after the exam made me realize that I needed to change my study style and really put effort into figuring out my study style. I still don’t know if I have a solid study style, but nowadays, I do a significant amount of spaced repetition + using my amazing classmate’s quizlet/anki sets to help quiz myself and learn important details I may have missed in my first few passes of the material.

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?

Overall, I am truly amazed at how amazing and friendly all my classmates are! I never imagined being able to attend medical school with such a wide variety of individuals with such a plethora of life experiences/thoughts/motivations/etc. Everyone is supportive of each other before and after exams from the outset, making medical school feel more manageable and less daunting. Our school has an amazing student resource center called SASSI which truly is a gemstone since they put on various events (such as time management, reflection, taking care of yourself, free coffee!!, etc.) to help students adjust and succeed in whatever program they may be in. First week of med school felt very difficult since we jumped straight in to anatomy lab and dissection, but the positive culture of the new and older students made adjusting thereafter so much easier. There is a lot of studying, but with time management and a solid group of friends, I am have a lot of fun.

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 school is in a part of Memphis considered to be the “Memphis Medical District” as our medical school has other health professions attached to it such as Dentistry, Pharmacy, and PA. There is beautiful park right next to the campus, but, aside from that, the med school feels like its part of the city. Memphis is such a big city, yet it doesn’t have the traffic and nuisances of a traditional big city like NYC or LA, so I’ve grown to like that aspect of Memphis. I love that Memphis has so many unique cultural things, Beale Street (party central), and so many amazing restaurants. I’m still new to this city, but about 1/3 of my class is from this area, and they always have recommendations for things to do around here as there is always something going on. I was hesitant to initially come to Memphis because of all the rumors of the city being dangerous; however, I realized that Memphis is very beautiful and vibrant city. Just like any big city, as long as you are smart about where you are, you will be fine!

What would you consider strengths of your medical school?

UTHSC-COM is unique in that the rotations we do during third and fourth year (from what I hear) prepare you very well for shelves and expose you to things that you wouldn’t see in many other cities. Memphis, while being big, also has its fair share of poverty/crime in lower income neighborhoods. This allows us to observe things  that we wouldn’t think we’d get a chance to see during rotations. In addition to the strong clinical exposure, we have a strong preclinical curriculum that enables to learn Ultrasound and have early patient exposure via being assigned preceptors.

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?

Certain PhD professors will occasionally delve into material a bit too deep. Watching Boards and Beyond + using First Aid before the lectures helps me understand a baseline of what I need to know for Step 1. I then watch the professors’ lectures on 2x speed to see what I’ll need to know for the in-house exams. For some stuff, just googling helps out a ton…especially for anatomy. For anatomy, I additionally use Michigan’s Cadaver Atlas + Rohen’s Color Atlas.

How 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?

I am very glad that we’re learning both Ultrasound and the techniques of becoming an excellent physician via honing our interviewing skills. I believe in our M2 year, we start learning how to do physical exams. The Ultrasound aspect is very exciting and clinically useful, but I just wish we had more time to do this clinical skill as it is somewhat time limited.

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 would definitely say take at least one gap year. I personally went straight into medical school because I didn’t know what I’d do during a gap year, but hearing some of my friends’ stories about their adventures during their gap year(s) made me wish I would’ve taken one too, just to explore. In undergrad, seriously enjoy it as much as you can. You’ll still have fun in medical school, but nowhere near as much fun (or time to have fun) as you will in undergrad. I felt like I spent my first two years with my only goal of getting in to medical school since it feels like such a daunting task. I started relaxing a bit more after sophomore year in undergrad, and I had SOOOOO much more fun and was able to work hard as well. ”Work hard, play hard”.

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?

Growing in a fairly strict Asian household, there was always pressure to do well. When I saw someone else excelling and doing amazing, I got frustrated at myself for not working harder to achieve similar feats, and this caused a lot of self-doubt for me in undergrad about whether I should even bother pursuing medicine. During my sophomore year, an incredible senior (now a third year medical student) told me about her process and helped me realize that the thoughts of doubt only persist for as long as you let them. This helped me changed my perspective of comparing myself to others to only comparing myself to me and doing the things I want to do. This was definitely easier said than done, but, overtime, I became more and more natural at thinking like this, and this helped me intrinsically believe that I will put my 100% effort into the things I am passionate about and whatever happens happens. For the 5% of the time that doesn’t work, having some truly astounding friends listen to me vent helps me get over whatever feelings of doubt I have and continue on.

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

I think it is important to realize no one (not me anyways) will ever know everything that we are taught in medical school. Holding myself to a high standard AND giving myself breaks and time off are the ways I am able to balance the workloads that I put upon myself.

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