Chetna Thawani, M2

Chetna Thawani
From Voorhees, New Jersey
Rutgers University, B.S. Biological Sciences
University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, M2

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

MWF we have lectures 8-2. Tuesday mornings we have SELECT, which is a course focused on things like learning leadership in the healthcare system and emotional intelligence. Tuesday afternoon we have DCE, which is essentially like clerkships but a little less intense / just for practice and just for a day a week. Thursday we have a class called Doctoring where we conduct patient historys and physicals on standardized patients and practice more clinical skills.

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

They’re similar to more advanced courses in my undergrad, where one lecture is basically an entire topic in the field. Each professor is an expert in their subject. Here are some example class topics: “Hemolytic Anemia” “Blood Borne Hemorrhagic Viruses”

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

I used to write out all my notes, and just read them through a lot. I’ve since moved towards more active studying – Anki, practice questions, making graphs/ outlines instead of writing out every word. I still haven’t figured out a perfect balance or perfect studying technique, and I think everyone would agree that they’re constantly tweaking their study method to better serve the increasingly dense 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?

We have these things kind of like Hogwarts houses, called Collegias, which are “learning communities” that we’re split into for things like anatomy lab, doctoring groups, etc. We also have intercollegia competitive events where we compete with other Collegias (my Collegia always wins, by the way). Each Collegia also has a career adviser and it’s a great way to get advice from career advisers and also upperclassmen.  Most people are really into Collegia and it’s really nice! Everyone at my school is very friendly and cooperative, the student culture overall is a nice “work hard, play hard,” mentality.

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 moving downtown this year, so I’ll talk about the downtown area. There’s a couple different areas downtown; there’s one with a more party vibe and one with a more classy vibe; the school is moving to the more classy area; it’s near the Tampa bay area and has a lot of nice restaurants and shops nearby. CAMLS, the patient simulation center, is very close to the Riverwalk and many downtown Tampa landmarks as well. There’s a few different options for bars that we all go to the evenings after exams. There’s also many different types of restaurants for just grabbing dinner with friends. The school has a couple large gyms that many of us like to go to to relax, as well. And of course, there are many beaches 30-45 minutes away! The only thing I don’t love about it are the parking problems, but that’s in any big city.

What would you consider strengths of your medical school?

We have a student board that very efficiently takes the classes feedback on things like lecturers, lecturing styles, content, exam fairness, etc, and brings it to the faculty. The faculty meets the student board very often and they are consistently trying to make our school experiences the best possible, and so they’re constantly implementing new ideas based on our feedback. That’s a huge strength in our med school – the faculty listens to the class and actually tries to adjust based on the classes needs. We also have many diverse clubs and interest groups, as well as a couple student-run clinics.

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?

Zanki, Boards and Beyond, Pathoma, Sketchy. I use outside resources to help clear things up and keep in mind the bigger picture. It’s also a good way for me to review important key points and make sure I’m honing in on the right things – most often, the things most tested on in our class exams are things that are constantly mentioned in outside materials. I know a few people in our class that only learn from outside materials and almost ignore lecture material, which is a fair technique in my opinion.

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?

I really like that USF has a Doctoring course. I’ve had so much practice by now interviewing standardized patients, and practicing physicals on each other and standardized patients. The school puts us in different scenarios – we did a sexual history taking focus,  focused specifically on standardized patients with disabilities, we even had an emergency simulation with people from other colleges (pharmacy, physical therapy) and things like that. We’re going to be doing things like digital rectal exams on standardized patients this upcoming year, which I’m definitely excited for – it’s definitely a leg up to have that standardized patient exposure before clinicals.

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 didn’t take a gap year, and I wish I had. I feel very close to being burnt out already, and feel like if I had taken the year, I would have been a bit more relaxed and less on the edge, and been able to focus more on learning medicine instead of just being constantly stressed and struggling with time management.

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’m still doubtful of myself, especially being straight out of undergrad, I’m one of the youngest in my class and I always feel like everyone is older and wiser than me. I made a really good friend here whom I had originally thought had her whole life together, and as I got to know her she helped me realize that no one has it fully together; we all suffered from imposter syndrome, and we all feel like everyone’s better than we are. Like everyone else, we all just got to continue faking it.

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

I try to force time for going to the gym or out running, since I know it helps me blow off steam and energizes me at the same time. One of my good friends and I started going on short morning runs together, which really kept me sane throughout the year. It’s hard and I’d say most of the time, I don’t balance it all very well. But I’m surviving right? Luckily, my family and my boyfriend back home are very supportive and understanding of my time limits these years.

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