University of Florida College of Medicine
What does your typical day of medical school look like?
Depends…but traditional 50 minute lectures are split between morning and afternoon and spread out during the week. Many are recorded and hence optional. “Labs” are required whereby we can work with classmates to answer questions from a slide deck pertaining to topics we recently went over, these help reinforce the concepts. During this time at least one faculty member is available to clarify anything. Occasionally we have mandatory presentations where patients come in and talk about the condition they have or previously dealt with which offers perspective. Other times group sessions (e.g. EBM, ethics, problem-based learning) are incorporated.
There are small group meetings (called Collaborative Learning Groups, or CLG) every Tuesday-Wednesday facilitated by a faculty leader. During these weekly 3 hours we take part in wellness and ethics discussions, talk about issues pertaining to medicine, practice interviewing, receive feedback on our H&P write-ups, go over radiology/clinical cases, and various other activities to promote our development into physicians. Additionally there is LAC (Learning Assessment Center) where we practice our history-taking and physical exam skills with each other and with standardized patients and every now and then look at ultrasounds.
Anatomy is throughout the first two years. During the first semester, structures are prosected for us. Starting second semester, we perform the dissections, four students per body, and this continues into 2nd year. Once we begin systems, anatomy aligns with the block we are studying and combines both cadavers and cross-sections.
How do your classes and lectures compare to those at your undergraduate institution?
In undergrad I attended every lecture since none were recorded whereas now I am afforded some flexibility and like to mix it up between going and watching from home. In undergrad we had discussion sections led by a TA and professors were accessible via office hours, whereas in medical school there are review sessions run by older students and professors can be reached by email. I have had a positive experience interacting with faculty here and everyone seems willing to help. The class size is around 140 and I see the same people most days so it is similar to high school in that sense. Obviously medical school moves at a much more blistering pace and dives into deeper detail and one cannot afford to fall behind as it is difficult to cram due to the sheer amount of content. For the most part we take two main classes at a given time (a core/foundational or systems class) and an Introduction to Clinical Medicine course that encompasses anatomy (which feels like its own class). There are also research and population health courses interweaved into the curriculum and moreover nutrition, health policy, and pain/addiction 1-week intensives.
How has your approach to learning and/or studying changed since you were an undergrad?
I have had to develop a consistent routine of studying. Because of recorded lectures I tend to go at my own pace and there is a lot of independent self-study. It is easy to become sidetracked/distracted so I am forced to be efficient with my time. We have quizzes each weekend that force us to keep up with the material which is a good thing. Discipline and organization are essential. I have adjusted/refined my study methods over time and found what works for me although it definitely took some experimentation especially at the beginning of medical school. Anki/spaced repetition is quite useful to retain facts longer-term.
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?
There is a decent balance of academics and life outside of school. Football games/tailgating and sports are a big part of the culture here and there is a good amount of school spirit. Activities such as White Coat Company (a play put on by the class), Grad Cup (intramural sports competition between the professional schools), MedProm, and others help facilitate camaraderie and bonding between students and additionally there are social events interspersed throughout the year with the other professional schools as well as community service events. Furthermore there are numerous interest groups for most specialties and possibility for involvement in student leadership and with the AMA and local medical chapters/organizations for instance.
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?
Gainesville is a college town of around 130,000. The nearest big cities are Jacksonville which is about an hour and a half away and Tampa/Orlando (2 hour drive). There are several trails, nature parks, and museums/exhibits nearby and a decent amount of eateries and grocery stores. Football game-days are a huge deal and it is a unique atmosphere that transforms the campus. UF is an active school in general and with a lot of sunshine much is centered around being outdoors. Other pluses are a regional airport and less distractions compared to my hometown. Getting around is also easier with less traffic and the bus system is free for students. Some downsides are the humidity during summers and the random/hard to predict rain so always having an umbrella is a must, not to mention the threat of hurricanes but there is enough warning ahead of time with those. The food options on the health science campus are somewhat limited.
What would you consider strengths of your medical school?
P/F curriculum, new med school building, round tables in the lecture studios, sharing of resources, supportive administration/receptive to changes, breadth and expertise of faculty, research opportunities, facilities in close proximity to one another, access to a children’s hospital, VA, cancer hospital, and neuromedicine/cardiovascular hospital, clinical rotations in an urban setting in Jacksonville, collaboration and interdisciplinary approach
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?
Netter’s, BRS, Pathoma, Sketchy, test bank questions, Boards and Beyond, Zanki deck when possible. Otherwise when something is unclear I will Google and try to find online resources, on YouTube or from other medical schools for example.
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?
Our school provides us a fair amount of clinical exposure early on. We practice interviewing and physical exam skills with standardized patients from the get-go, and starting 2nd semester of 1st year, also with real patients under the supervision of our small group leader. We get a chance to do oral presentations and write-ups during these patient encounters. In addition we have three preceptorships where we are paired with a doctor or doctors for a week or two and can practice our clinical skills in a real-life setting and apply the knowledge we learned. Furthermore, we have an Equal Access Clinic that focuses on primary care especially for lower income and underprivileged patients at several sites in town. Many students volunteer at EAC/hold leadership positions. There are also many shadowing opportunities, we can simply reach out to any physician and they are used to having students around, with Shands being a teaching institution affiliated with a large research university.
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?
My biggest regret from undergrad is not branching out and being more social, meeting people, etc. I could have struck a better balance and explored different paths, gotten out of my comfort zone, and networked more instead of focusing solely on academics. I also wish I took additional time to travel and gain new insights.
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?
I have definitely experienced feelings of the so-called “imposter syndrome.” What pushes me is my family and knowing all of my classmates are going through the same situation and that all of the hard work will eventually pay off. This strenuous pre-clinical phase is only temporary and things will improve. Staying grounded and understanding the big picture are also beneficial to realize the fortunate position we are in to be able to affect lives and humankind in a profound way.
How do you maintain your mental health while balancing school, work, family, and other social obligations?
This is always a challenge but I attempt to remain sane and destress/get my mind off medical school by taking time to myself and watching sports/TV shows, reading, staying up to date with news, and being outdoors and soaking in the sunshine, among other activities. I also call my family every week and keep in touch with friends from back home.