Ten months and over ten sequences later, M1 year ended about two months ago….well I know I’m super late on updating you on my progress throughout the year. As you saw from the summer issue of Medicine at Michigan, I’m still part of “the journey of a thousand miles…”
I don’t have enough descriptors that can encompass the experiences and emotions I have experienced as a first year medical student. The way things are done around here have made my life as M1 a lot easier than it would have been any other place…in my opinion.
I was able to establish my support system at school earlier during the year. I made friends that help me get through everything and learned the value of relationships throughout the year more than ever. Even though getting through sequences had been my main focus, I always had time to celebrate my relationships….friends’ birthdays, occasional movie outings and above all my Sunday night after quiz traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony gatherings have been the highlights of my social life.
Left: Danny, Hela, Grettel, Fasika, Ekua (Go Mediversity The night of Fall Ball....we had our own gathering at Melange.
Ekua and I
The year went by so quickly. The way the curriculum is set up makes integrating the seemingly infinite facts easily and made the time seem shorter than it actually was. The CFM weeks that were scattered throughout the year also made the transition between the more difficult sequences somewhat bearable. Each sequence came with its own set of challenges that made me think differently each time and teaches me not only new facts but novel ways of thinking. However, the overwhelming amount of time I spent on lecture videos and powerpoint slides didn’t leave me much time for extracurricular activities and clinical exposures. Regardless, the few exposures I got through the Clinical Foundations of Medicine have given me some of the basics of clinical medicine such as taking history and physical from first time patients. I recall the mixed emotions of uncertainty and excitement I felt during my first interview of a standardized patient. While putting on the white coat and assuming my future role always excited me, the fear of not being able to perform to the standards always made me nervous. However, the standardized patients give candid feedbacks that helped me recognize my flaws and help build my confidence. Doing a physical exam also came with its challenges. Despite knowing the steps to the different parts of the exam, performing each one was not an easy task on all patients.
The Family Centered Experience was another aspect of the curriculum that allowed us patient exposure in a slightly different manner. I was partnered with one of my classmates Tyson and we were assigned to a family whom we visited a few times throughout the year. The purpose of the assignment was to understand patients’ perspectives on their disease when they are not at the hospital and how it affects their daily lives, their past and their future. Our assigned family was very gracious and helped us learn the aspects of medicine that we don’t get taught in the classroom: caring and compassion. Even though these are the inherent ideals that most medical students came with, they tend to get lost in the facts and figures that we have to memorize to become competent caregivers.
The intensity of M1 year has taught me to utilize every bit of break time I get in a meaningful way. I planned a few vacations throughout the Winter term to alleviate the stress from school and the harsh Michigan winter weather. Attending the inaguration of President Barack Obama was one of the highlights of my semester. My close friend Omonye and I decided to take an overnight trip to D.C. to be part of history. Standing outside the National Mall with millions of people was a phenomenal experience. Even though the cold weather took its toll on everyone, the words of encouragement and inspiration shared amongst people kept us all going until the end of the inagural ceremony.
Luckily spring break still exists during first year of medical school. So I decided to go to California for the first time. After the end of immunology, which was one of the most challenging sequences for me, I decided to take it easy. San Franciso weather is similar to the temperate climate of Ethiopia. I was able to walk outside in t-shirts for the first time in February. It was absolutely wonderful to get away from the 12-inches snow in Ann Arbor.
Fasika, Omonye and Mode
My next trip was to New Orleans for the Student National Medical Association conference during the second week of April. The Student National Medical Association is a student-run organization that focuses on the needs and concerns of medical students of color (www.snma.org). I went with a few members of the Black Medical Association representing Michigan. The conference was a nice opportunity to share experiences with other medical students of color throughout the country as well as learn about the issues surrounding minority healthcare. I have been a member of the Black Medical Association since the beginning of M1 year. The members have been very supportive in a number of aspects. Even though I have not been able to actively participate or organize activities for the group, I always knew that I have the support of its members who are willing to share their unique experiences. Despite the dramatic decline in minority enrollment in the past year and this year, we are still able to sustain the organization.
My last trip was to Richmond, VA to attend a graduation of a close friend from Virginia Commonwealth University. The event was perfectly lined up with the end of the Infectious Disease sequence and a week after which was the first M1 weekend without a quiz I also made a quick stop at Herndon, VA to visit my aunt.
Well…..that was my reflection of M1 year. I have numerous hopes and fears for M2 and I’m very excited to experience them all…as they all get me a few steps closer to the end of the thousand miles.