Millennial In Medicine: Gemma St. Louis, 1st Year Med Student
March 13, 2020: every student at the University of Miami received an email informing us we would not return from spring break. I remember thinking “oh yay another week off…” this turned into two and then three, and then the rest of the semester. Finishing your undergraduate degree online, missing graduation, and not getting to say a proper goodbye to everyone who helped shape you is difficult to fathom. Not to mention the utter fear of COVID-19, a virus that we knew very little about.
I had my interview at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine on March 9, one of the very last interview days before they moved to virtual interviewing. I received a call on March 30, while quarantining that I had been accepted. It seemed like fate. I would get to return to Miami and when everything was “back to normal” I would begin my MD/MPH dual degree in my favorite place.
But as everyone knows, nothing got back to normal. My class began our MPH courses in June over Zoom. We couldn’t spend the summer getting to know each other before our MD courses began in August. We sat at our desks alone each day studying epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health day in and day out wondering if we’d ever get to meet the faces behind the screen.
In August we all moved down to Miami and were hopeful that we would be able to attend in-person classes. Although we were not completely in person for our first semester, we were very lucky to be able to attend in-person classes once a week. We have small learning community groups (around 9 people) that meet with a facilitator once a week for our “Medicine as a Profession” (MAP) course.
MAP was a blessing. After sitting on zoom for four hours a day, 5 days a week, this dynamic course reminded us why we came to medical school in the first place. As early as our first day of class, we learned how to take a full history and perform various parts of the physical exam. And by our last day of class in December, we were evaluated on our interaction with a standardized patient for whom we conducted a history, head eyes ears nose, and throat (HEENT), pulmonary, cardiac, and abdominal exam.
We completed all of our normal physiology courses as well as our first pathology course during our first semester. Talk about drinking from a fire hose! Thirty-two credits down, and I feel like I have already learned four years' worth of information, as well as communication and clinical skills. Although this first semester was far from normal, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to enter healthcare at such a pivotal time in our country’s history and cannot wait to be on the frontlines in the future!