After our conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating community. As students of color, especially in areas with low diversity, we create our communities of allies with other students of color or students who are open-minded and willing to learn. For students who come from places with established diversity, the transition to creating communities of their own can be a challenge.
This year, like those before us, we entered our study periods for Step 1 with some trepidation — both about the long hours of studying and the high stakes of the exam. Like those before us, we reassured ourselves that if we put our time in now, we’d be able to move beyond memorizing minutiae to caring for patients in the hospital. And then, unlike those before us, testing centers across the world closed.
The same four walls surround us for hours on end while we try to marry the responsibilities of medical education with those of social distancing. While these new restrictions may at first seem conducive to much desired additional study time, gym closures and social gathering restrictions only deepen the isolation already felt by so many medical students.
The COVID-19 pandemic has relegated medical students to the sidelines of clinical duty. Cancellation of in-person class and clinical rotations combined with protocols for social distancing have left us without our normally packed schedules and to-do lists. Eager to help, many have begun grassroots efforts to support physicians and other frontline health care workers outside of clinical settings and beyond typical roles.
Last week, the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) announced that Step 1, the first of three required licensing examinations for medical trainees, will stop reporting three-digit scores and instead report only a pass/fail designation as early as January 2022.
It was not until our second semester of medical school that we started gross anatomy. Finally, I became that quintessential medical student walking home too tired to change out of my formaldehyde-tinged scrubs.
Second year? Could that be? It felt wrong. It threw off my whole identity. “I’m just a first-year,” had been my motto for the past twelve months.
It was a Friday afternoon in the middle of October during my second year of medical school. I, along with my classmates, was preparing to complete our formal graded “check-off” for intubation.
First year of medical school: / Don’t remember much. / MD/PhD students, you know what I mean. / Learned how to use a stethoscope.
A frail elderly gentleman was wheeled in on a stretcher and left alone. His paper-thin skin lay gently across his delicate frame like fine linens. His mouth lay agape. His slightly yellowed sclera framed the piercing gray eyes cast upward at the harsh fluorescent lighting. He didn’t blink. He didn’t cry for help. He awaited the inevitable on a stretcher in a hallway of a fully occupied emergency department. I was confused and scared at the apparent lack of treatment he was receiving. There was no crash cart prepared for him. He wasn’t attached to telemetry. He didn’t have a nasal cannula. He lay in bed alone — in waiting.
Barely into my second year of medical school, I already have a reputation — I love asking the uncomfortable stuff. Social history, sex, drugs, alcohol, I want to know it all. At first, it was just because that section randomly fell on me during small group sessions or standardized patient encounters. Then, I began to volunteer, or be volunteered. “Mariya loves the dirt,” my classmates say. Without saying, I always approach this section of the …
“My rheumatologist was the one who told me I have cancer because for nine months we thought my back pain was due to a type of arthritis. He felt really bad about it and when he called me to tell me the diagnosis, he started crying on the phone.” A student in my second-year medical school class says this when we are in the big lecture hall for a class presentation on how to give …