Jonathan Carnino, MS1

Age: 24
Hometown: Foxboro, MA
Undergrad: Boston University
Major: Human Physiology

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

My typical day of medical school starts with waking up around 5/5:30am, having my coffee, then going straight to school for studying or working on one of my research projects. I usually study/work every morning until my first class of the day, which is usually at 8am or 9am. For 3/5 days of the week, we finish class by 12pm at the latest and the afternoon we are free to use as we wish. On those days I head home, eat lunch, then continue studying until 3/4pm. I try my best to give a hard cut off of 5pm every day, and use my nights to cook, exercise, watching Netflix, and decompress. In a typical week, 2/5 days we have “Doctoring” in the afternoon which usually runs until 4pm. With morning classes being typical curriculum, “Doctoring” is where we learn how to actually be a doctor. One day is used for clinical skill practicing, longitudinal preceptorship, or standardized patient interviewing. The other day of Doctoring is small group learning where we go through patient cases and develop our clinical reasoning skills. After these Doctoring afternoons I typically take the afternoon off as described above. Most weekends are pretty busy with studying or working on research, so I usually start early around 7am and finish by 3 or 4pm. I always use the weekend after an exam to rest and recharge, not allowing myself to start any work until at least mid day Sunday. I definitely start my days front heavy but it’s always worth it to have my afternoons/nights free to do whatever I want. That’s a typical day!

Are there unique aspects to the curriculum at your medical school or niches that your medical school has emphasized with respect to medical education?

BUSM definitely puts an extra emphasis on incorporating social determinants of health and serving the underserved into our curriculum. 2-3 times a semester we have an entire week blocked off called “LEADS”. The workload these weeks is very low but there’s a full schedule of didactics, physician panels, and small group case work that we work on. For those interested in incorporating this into their medical education, BUSM is definitely a program worth considering. In addition, the faculty is certainly open to student feedback and we’ve seen our recommendations be implemented in real time as we go through the year. This is probably not as common at other schools and really appreciated by the students.

What clubs and organizations (both academic or non-academic) are you a part of? Additionally, are there any organizations or club events (even if you aren’t a part of them) that you think are unique to your school?

So far I’ve joined Socially Responsible Surgery, Surgical Society, some interest groups (Otolaryngology, EM, Anesthesia), and BU Mentoring for Aspiring Physician Students (MAPS). Socially Responsible Surgery is actually a growing national group that was started at BUSM a few years back by our trauma department. They’re expanding rapidly and there’s definitely a lot of neat opportunities coming from that. Even if you don’t end up at BUSM, it’s worth checking to see if your school has the club too, and if not, start a chapter of your own! MAPS is definitely my favorite, and although it’s specific to BU, I am sure every program has a similar club involved in mentorship. I have really loved working with pre-meds in the area and offering them advice on MCAT studying, application tips, and any other questions that come up.

Can you give us a brief description of the area surrounding your school? What are some of the more common things you or your classmates have done in the surrounding area during your free time/for fun? 

The main teaching hospital (which is physically attached to the school) is BMC. BMC is the largest safety net hospital in New England and is situated in an area that makes it very accessible to the underserved communities in the area. An obvious side effect of its proximity is some low levels of crime nearby, but the University police do a fantastic job of keeping the students safe and comfortable. There’s genuinely never been a report of any student having a problem walking around the area that I know of, but just wanted to mention this before people visit! Even if it may not look the safest one block away, I assure you the community is great and everyone looks out for one another. Our class so far has planned a few social events such as group discounts at local bars, a ski trip to Vermont, and many other smaller events. I’m biased but Boston is genuinely the greatest city there is. We have absolutely amazing food, you can never run out of places to try. We have many great bars and breweries in the city. Lots of fun stuff like kayaking in the summer, rock climbing places, and things like that. Plus, if you like to snowboard or ski like me, it’s just a short 2 hour drive to some decent mountains in NH/VT.

Some people end up going to medical school very close to where they grew up where as others move to a completely new place. Depending on your personal experience, can you describe how the location of your medical school relative to your family/support system/home base has affected your experience?

I grew up in MA and went to school in Boston just an hour away from my hometown. I really do appreciate being nearby home, but I still feel far enough away that my life is very much separate from my family/friends from home. If I ever want to run home for dinner one night or stay a weekend, I have the luxury of it being nearby. But if I need time to myself and really need to study/focus, I’m far enough that I don’t end up being bothered.

How would you describe the social scene outside of medical school?

Although our class size is pretty big (I think ~160, don’t quote me), the class doesn’t feel too big. Everyone seems to know each other to some degree or at least of one another. We are constantly being rotated into different groups so at this point 6 months in I would assume everyone has met one another at least once. Most people are open to share their study resources like notes or Anki decks, so I don’t believe we have any sort of competition between one another. Plus, being fully P/F pre-clinical with no internal rankings, there’s really no need for competition which has fostered a great atmosphere in the class.

How has your medical school facilitated physical and mental well-being? To expand on this question….Do you think your program has prioritized the well-being of its students? Do you have access to a gym or other ways of exercising? Do you have access to mental health resources? 

It seems BUSM offers just about any resource a student could need. If you’re falling behind in class or need to retake an exam, the school sets you up with a tutor to help you catch up and get back on track. Need to miss class for a doctor appt., from what I’ve heard the school has no problem with that. They emphasize the top priority being the students well-being, and second priority being that you are keeping up with class and succeeding. The student dorm has a gym and all medical students have access (for free) to BU’s undergrad gym. Overall I think the resources are there it’s just about seeking them out.

How has your medical school helped you connect with mentors and how have these mentors helped you?

As for general career mentors, we are assigned to an AME advisor from day 1 who we see weekly for Doctoring class and also meet with every semester 1 on 1. These advisors are all super nice people who are open to students emailing them at any point and/or meeting for extra time. I definitely feel supported in general by the faculty and our advisors. As for research, just like every school there are some departments/professors who are extremely open to having a student take on a project with them, then there are some who are not. If you sent out 6 emails looking for research, I’m sure at least 4 would answer you if that helps get an idea. BUSM loves research and is pretty well ranked in terms of NIH funding.

During your first and second year of medical school, what exposure to clinical medicine have you had? Are there unique experiences during the pre-clinical years that expose medical students to patient interaction?

Fall of M1 you start interviewing patients in the hospital just 2-3 weeks in. I LOVED this. It was great interview experience but also really “broke the ice” for students that were nervous for their first patient encounters. Spring of M1 we have longitudinal preceptorship, which is basically working under a physician in their clinic 1x a week for 3-4 hours. In preceptorship, we’ll have the opportunity to do everything from patient interview, physical exam, presenting the patient, etc.

What would you say has been the most difficult part of medical school? An alternative question…what do you think has been the biggest sacrifice you have made in going to medical school?

The most difficult part of medical school, I think, is that you need to be much more disciplined. For example, staying up till 1am in college to binge watch a Netflix series you’re hooked on was okay. But now, I feel like if I don’t get enough sleep just one night my entire day becomes a waste and I end up 1 day behind. Then I just need to work even harder the rest of the week or all weekend to make up for that. It’s really easy to fall behind.

If you could go back in time to the beginning of your undergraduate years, what advice would you give yourself?

If I could go back, I wish I enjoyed undergrad a bit more. I worked 20-25 hours a week throughout undergrad while taking classes full-time, and that really cut back on how much I got to enjoy the experience overall. I definitely underestimated the time commitment medical school would take, and while you still have some time for fun, it’s just a fraction of what was available in undergrad. I just wish I enjoyed it back then while I still had time to.

What else would you like to share with future medical students?

I was actually a reapplicant. I applied right out of undergrad and had an unsuccessful cycle. At the time, I was so upset and felt like this was going to just set me back and delay my life. In retrospect, it was the greatest thing that could’ve happened to me so far in my journey. I spent those 2 years working in biotech drug development, was able to properly study for my MCAT and do really well the second time around, plus reconnected with some friends. Overall, I grew so much as a person in terms of maturity and that helped me feel truly prepared going into medical school. Moral of the story is, don’t rush your way into medical school. Very few people are emotionally prepared to start right out of high school, so don’t be afraid to take some time off. You absolutely won’t regret it in the long run.

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