From Dallas, Texas
Washington University in St. Louis, B.S. Biology
What does your typical day of medical school look like?
Right now, I am currently in a course where we are transitioning to clinical experiences so typically we are in classes 8-5 PM for the next 2 weeks. For pre-clinicals, my weekly schedule varied depending on which classes I had but my typical schedule looked like this below: Monday: Mechanism of Health and Disease Content Application Sessions 9 AM -12 PM (MHD CAS is our main basic sciences course during our didactics) and rest of the day was white space which means we can use that time as we need such as studying, working on research, ECs, and so on. Tuesday: 8 AM-12 PM Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship 1 (LIC 1) where we were are assigned to a preceptor in either family medicine or internal medicine and see patients in clinic approximately 1-2 times a month. If I did not have LIC 1, I would have my Scholarly Pursuit and Thesis course (SPT) from 1 PM – 3 PM which is a class to help people go over the fundamentals of research, help find a mentor, or work on our projects as we need to complete a thesis to graduate. Wednesday: Mechanism of Health and Disease Content Application Sessions 9 AM -12 PM. 12 PM- 1PM was lunch. Then I had Clinical Skills (CS) 1 PM – 5 PM where we learned the basics of gathering a history, writing a HPI, and how to do a physical exam. Sometimes, it would alternate the Compassionate Practice course (TCP) from 1 PM – 3 PM where we learned skills related to communication and empathy through humanities pedagogies and Preparation for Practice (P4P) where we discussed topics of ethics, healthcare policy, patient safety, population health, and team-based care. Thursday: MHD CAS 9 AM-12 PM. Rest of the day was white space Friday: MDH CAS 9 AM-12 PM: Rest of the day was white space. For most people the schedule can vary when you have your other classes (SPT, TCP, P4P, CS, and LIC1) but we all had the same MHD schedule. We also had a course called Future Accelerators of Medicine and Beyond (FAB) where we talked about the future of medicine and topics such as design thinking, genomics, AI, and screening assays throughout the year.
How do your classes and lectures compare to those at your undergraduate institution?
Honestly, I think undergraduate material was harder than medical school in terms of material difficulty; however, the sheer amount of material that you are expected to learn is a lot more than I had to learn during my undergraduate career. I think being pass/fail during our didactics helps minimize stress and allows us to focus more on learning the material. Also being in a class of 60 students, the faculty are incredibly invested in your success and often know us by name, which was a big departure from undergraduate when I could be in a course with over 900 students.
How has your approach to learning and/or studying changed since you were an undergrad?
I procrastinate a lot less than I did during my undergraduate career. I also think I have become more of an independent learner during medical school as our curriculum is built for students to really become responsible for their own education and learn to customize their studying. Our school gives you all the tools to succeed but it is your responsibility as a medical student to take advantage, be on top of your work, and be in charge of your own education to prepare us for our future careers.
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 a whole, I think our student culture is welcoming and students are willing to help support each other. As a new school, I think there is a sense of excitement with being able to leave a legacy and a focus on exploring ways to improve our school and the student experience. With a class size of 60, each class forms a tight bond with each other as we spend so much time with one another. We are paired with a “big” which is a medical student one year above us to give us advice, guidance, and an additional resource. We are each assigned to one of the 6 houses, which creates even more sense of a tight knit community as they each have their own events such as my house holding an annual potluck. Each house has 2 coaches, and I think the coaches embody the values of our school very well. My coaches always check in after exams, provide career advice, and have been some of the biggest advocates for me at the school. The sheer amount of resources and support I have been given truly has made the transition to medical school a lot easier and less terrifying to navigate. Also having access to the TCU university main campus, allows us to interact with the undergraduate students. This has given my classmates and I access to multiple opportunities to engage with the TCU culture and participate in school events such as going to several sporting events such as tailgating football games, which have been some of the most fun moments of my 1st year.
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?
I think Fort Worth is a hidden gem. It has all the perks and resources of a big city but has the community and feels like a smaller city. For fun, Ft. Worth is known for the stockyards so I recommend getting a nice pair of cowboy boots and a cowboy hat as well. There is a robust nightlife scene such as West 7th or even the stockyards with tons of cool bars and clubs to go relax/have fun with friends after tests or stressful weeks of medical school. There are tons of museums such as the modern art museum, Amon Carter museum, science and history museum that are cheap if not free! There is also the Fort Worth Zoo which is named one of the best zoos in America (some people debate this) and the botanical garden nearby, which host tons of events throughout the year. Lots of classmates also go explore Dallas which is only a 30-40 minute drive and also has tons of fun things to do as well (tons of great Asian food too!)
What would you consider strengths of your medical school?
Independence during phase 1! You have a lot of white space that you are able to do things you love and find balance. Tons of friend went rock climbing, weekly sand volleyball, extracurriculars, and whatever else makes you stay sane. Early clinical exposure is another strength because it really helps ground you and remind you why you are grinding and studying every day. I looked forward to being in clinic and it really helped correlate everything I learned from the main basic science course. We are also NBME tests only so you can use all the board resources and start studying early (just make sure to keep up!).
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?
It really depends on each person because everyone learns differently. I personally used B&B, Anki, Pathoma, Amboss, and Scholar Rx practice questions (this resource is free but the other ones are not). We get “bricks” which are online chapters to read so I would skim and find the topics on B&B and watch those videos. If I was really struggling, I would watch Pathoma as well and Anki the cards. Then the weekend before and during exam week, I would do all the relevant ScholarRx questions and do more Amboss questions for extra practice.
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?
So we have a clinical skills class, which I thought was really good at teaching you the basics. The beginning half focused a lot on history taking but midway it picked up a lot as you begin to learn the physical exam for different organ systems (ie. The cardiac physical exam). The cohort faculty are true gems of the program and they go above and beyond to make sure you learn. Almost every session, we would interact with a standardized patient and have a simulation to help us practice our skills. We have a final OSCE during phase 1 and a full head to toe exam check before you begin clinical rotations to ensure you are ready before you start seeing real patients.
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?
Travel more and have fun! I kept thinking that I needed to grind nonstop, and once I got into medical school that I could relax. I fell into the trap of hyper focusing on the destination instead of enjoying the journey. You will always be busy but there is always a way to include fun hobbies or trips during the year. Also make sure to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally because it is a long journey and medical school will test you in ways you did not expect. So make sure you have a great support system!
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 think self-doubt is one of the most common things to feel in medical school. My biggest change that has helped me has been being kinder to myself and reframing my mindset. I think medical students are often really hard on themselves and I have had to work through being okay not knowing everything. It is impossible for a person to know everything in medicine, but I can always strive to know more and do better the next time!
How do you maintain your mental health while balancing school, work, family, and other social obligations?
TCU is phenomenal when it comes to mental health resources, particularly we have a counselor who is designated for medical students only and she has been wonderful so far! The school also provides Headspace which is an app that provides mediations and helps calm you down when you have a lot going on. The coaches have also been super helpful (they are mandatory reporters), and they have reminded me to take care of my mental health, especially when I was busy and would try to focus solely on school. The most important thing for me has been having a solid support system like I mentioned above. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my best friends, peers, and my coaches in medical school.
Does your medical school provide access to lecture recordings/podcasts?
TCU is mandatory in person “content application sessions”. So you will have in-person classes and they are usually not recorded. I have had friends record it via voice memos or share notes. The school provide bricks and the faculty share their slideshow presentations afterwards, which is often more than sufficient. We use ScholarRx, which has an associated podcasts with topics we cover, and some of the episodes I listened to were helpful. The school also provides Osmosis which can be a great review and explanation of topics that you need a little bit more clarification on.
How are your pre-clinical and clinical course work graded? (Pass/Fail, Honors, etc.)
Preclinical is P/F which has been such a blessing. Clinical are graded; however, only the outpatient experiences are graded (H/P/F). After you finish phase 1 (the didactics), you have immersions which is 10 weeks of nonstop inpatient rotations (IM, OB/GYN, Surgery, and Pediatrics). During this time, you do not get any grades, but you do get feedback from your preceptors, which helps you figure out areas of improvement. This is different compared to my friends at other schools who get thrown into clinicals and are graded right away. TCU gives its students 10 weeks to just really go and learn as much as we can without having to worry about grades.