Brandeis University, Biology, Neuroscience, Chemical Biology, Legal Studies, B.S./M.S.
From the Greater Boston Area, Massachusetts
What does your typical day of medical school look like?
As our preclinical curriculum lasts only 14 months, I am currently in my core clerkship year, also called the Principal Clinical Experience, or PCE. Each day can vary by clerkship and what service I am on at the time. For inpatient weeks I tend to get to the hospital around 6am to pre round on my patients before rounding, which can last until noon. After a lunch talk, afternoons are spent writing notes, calling consults, and coordinating with the rest of the care team. Outpatient clinics start around 8:30am or 9am, and generally involved quick chart review, initiating a patient encounter, and presenting to your attending.
In the preclinical year, we use a flipped classroom with Case-Based Collaborative Learning (CBCL) in class structure. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday we are in the classroom 8am-12:30pm, with the afternoons off for class prep and other commitments (see the next question for more information). Wednesday are spent at our clinical site, working in a longitudinal primary care clinic, and practicing history taking and physical exams on inpatients.
How do your classes and lectures compare to those at your undergraduate institution?
The preclinical curriculum at HMS is pretty unique as we use the flipped classroom/CBCL structure mentioned above. The night before class you spend some amount of time learning the basics of information for the subject matter, primarily through videos and annotated handouts created for the course, along with a few textbook readings. In class, cases with both basic science and clinical questions are worked through in groups of 4 before being further discussed in the big group (a big group refers to one Harvard “society” equivalent to around 40 students). There are faculty members present to help organize the discussion and ensure that the teaching points are thoroughly discussed.
How has your approach to learning and/or studying changed since you were an undergrad?
I don’t think it has changed as much as I expected. I’ve always been someone who is a very activate class participant that reviews lecture notes after class, and I think that has worked well for me in our preclinical courses. As I continue through my clinical year, the biggest change I’ve found is becoming more efficient in my studying, as there is limited time outside of clinical duties to eat, sleep, complete daily tasks, and study as much as one would like. Limiting distractions like facebook has been most helpful to me so far.
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?
As HMS has a full pass/fail curriculum in both the pre-clinical and core clerkship years (M1/M2) and no internal/external ranking or AOA membership in any year, we have what I find to be a collaborative learning environment that allows friendships to blossom outside of the classroom. The first year is filled with opportunities to get to know each other outside of the classroom, with the two most well-known being the class music video and FABRIC, a yearly multicultural class-show put on for Revisit weekend. The entire class comes together and puts together some really amazing work, while continuing our studies and clinical responsibilities.
What would you consider strengths of your medical school?
The passion of the educators here, both preclinical and clinical, has really struck me. Whether is was extra support, mentorship, or research and other extracurricular opportunities, there are so many faculty who love working with students. The number of possibilities at HMS truly feels endless, and the faculty support only makes those possibilities even more attainable.
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?
Entering my clinical year (as previously described in my M2 year) I felt extremely prepared clinically. In the first year each Wednesday was dedicated to clinical skills with a mix of working in a longitudinal primary care clinic, practicing history and physical exam skills on inpatients, and round-robins where patients with specific conditions come and allow us to examine them. There are also extracurricular opportunities, such as working at our student-faculty clinic that allow additional clinical time in the first year if desired.
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?
Imposter syndrome is extremely pervasive in medical school given the number of amazing and intelligent colleagues and faculty that I get to work with each day. However, for each instance in which someone else has an answer, there are going to be just as many times when you will be the one in a place to help others. Never forgetting what your strengths are and what you bring to the table really helps in those moments where it feels like everyone else is bringing more than you. Of course, it is hard to be constantly reminding ourselves of this, but fortunately I have an amazing partner and friends who lift me up in those times, and I hope that I am able to act as that same support for others.
How do you maintain your mental health while balancing school, work, family, and other social obligations?
In the first year, having classes 8am-12:30pm four days a week allowed for plenty of schedule flexibility to complete appointments and other commitments that need to occur during business hours. This relieved a lot of stress, and made the balance of medical school much more seamless. Even in the core clinical year we have dedicated “flex” time in each rotation that is a certain number of afternoons off in order to complete those need to do tasks.