The Scoop on University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

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Session 368

My guests are The Short Coat Podcast’s David Etler and med students from Carver College of Medicine. The Short Coat Podcast is part of the Meded Media network. We’ll talk about their journeys to medicine and so much more. 

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:30] A Little Background About Our Guests

Dave thinks other medical schools don’t have a podcast basically because they’re afraid to do it. Medicine and medical education are somewhat conservative, risk-averse, and “professional.” But they don’t play this.

Abby and Emma are both second-year medical students. Emma is from Washington state and she’s passionate about family medicine. She hopes to work in that area, particularly in underserved, urban settings.

Abby is an Iowa-native who’s interested in neonatology and pediatric palliative care. She likes to do global health work. She spent her last summer in Jerusalem working at a NICU. 

[07:00] Ways to Reduce Stress in Medical School

Emma thinks medical school is a lot more fun than she was expecting. At Carver, they have different learning communities. Outside of school, she loves running. In fact, many of them do run on the weekends. She also does embroidery and art. 

'Med school is what you make it.'Click To Tweet

Abby agrees with Emma in that if you want to exclusively study, eat, and sleep, you can do so. It’s very easy to fall into that trap but you can do a lot of other things. She took a pottery class and she loved it. She also tries to get some exercise in. They have movie nights almost every weekend. She makes sure to carve time for herself. She sets a time for studying and time for movie nights, using this time to breathe.

They’re so much material in medical school that there’s no possible way you can learn everything. Knowing this gives Emma the freedom to work hard but also be able to take a break.

Trust your system. If they say you’re going to pass at this level, you’re going to be an okay physician. Being able to learn how to do that is very helpful. It’s all about learning, accepting, and course-correcting.

David describes there is this readjustment process that you have to go through. You can’t get stuck with one process. It’s going to be different for every class or every subject. 

You have to be very flexible with things, especially with your studying techniques. Abby has found that she does better with taking more breaks and doing fun things at their school.

Taking breaks is very important because it helps you absorb information better. Filling up your life with other things will make you a better medical student.

'You will do better by taking breaks and not cramming and pulling all-nighters.'Click To Tweet

[Related episode: How Can I Learn to Relax and Destress for the MCAT?]

[12:15] You’re Not Alone

Emma wished she knew before she went to medical school that it’s not possible you can learn everything and that it’s not really necessary to learn them all the first time. 

It’s common to feel like you’re not doing as well as you want to. But in reality, everything can be feeling like that to some extent. You have no idea what’s going on behind the facade that your peers are putting up. 

'It's important to start those relationships and be open about that.'Click To Tweet

Interestingly, Abby actually thought Emma was very “together” last year. It’s funny how we think social media like Instagram has done that to our culture. But we have always done that. We just now do it on Instagram too. Just remember that you’re not the only one experiencing this.

There’s one famous photographer saying that for every one picture you see, there are 700 other pictures of that same thing to get to this one you think is amazing. And you’re beating yourself up that you’re not getting the same picture after three.

Also, you don’t have to be good at it to do it. Abby has been crocheting lately and she admits she’s not good at it. But it’s fun and it relaxes her so she does it. 

[Related episode: The Intersection of Medicine, Social Media and Technology]

[15:44] Dealing with Impostor’s Syndrome

Acknowledge you have impostor’s syndrome and acknowledge the things that you’re good at. 

Abby thinks acknowledging that you have imposter’s syndrome is the first step to overcoming it. You might feel this way, but that’s not how it is. This worked for her. 

She also tells her that she’s going to be better at some things than others. For instance, she was so bad at the biochem part of medical school but now, she’s really doing well in the clinically oriented disease processes. Not being good at one thing doesn’t mean that’s a real deal.

'We all have our niches. We all have the thing we're good at.'Click To Tweet

Emma thinks that impostor’s syndrome is really prevalent in the first semesters of medical schools. Expect that. It’s normal. And you will get through it. You got in so you’re supposed to be there. They didn’t accept you just on a whim.

It’s a cyclical thing. As time goes, Emma and Abby are feeling this less. But now they’re transitioning to clinical rotations, they’re back to being scared again. Moreover, talking about it is really critical. 

[Related episode: MamaDoctorJones on Imposter Syndrome in Medical School]

[20:40] Picking Schools to Apply To

Emma admits she didn’t know of Iowa until she applied there. But she had listened to The Short Coat Podcast two years before applying. She heard how the students at the school were seemingly happy. She thought it was a welcoming place. She loved the curriculum as well as the global health opportunities. 

Then when she interviewed at the school, she felt the most comfortable here as well as the most welcoming. 

Abby did terrible on her MCAT. She’s living proof that it’s not a dealbreaker although it makes things a little harder. Carver College of Medicine was the only place she was admitted. 

For her, in-state tuition helps a lot as well as being close to her family. Basically, she only applied to places with a strong global health program because she knew this was something she’s interested in.

'Location does matter.'Click To Tweet

Emma is a pacific west native so she loves hiking and skiing. So coming to Iowa was an adjustment for her. But that said, she thinks location is important.

[Related episode: How to Choose a Medical School & Put Together a School List]

[22:35] Preparing for Clinical Rotations

Ask, ask, ask. Ask other students about it. You can look at other resources online if they help.

[23:30] A Day in the Life 

Abby is a lecture-goer. She gets up for their 8 am lectures, where they have two per week. In the first semester, they had anatomy lab and they used to have case-based learning. They go through a patient case little by little every week. They give learning presentations about certain topics.

They also have standardized patient interviews every couple of weeks. They interview a patient specifically focusing on a certain part of the interview. 

Emma used to be a lecture-goer but she finds their recorded lectures to be very helpful. She’s able to stop it and review if she doesn’t understand something.

In the afternoon, they may have small group class activities. And if none, they spend time studying. They go home variably. Abby goes home at 5 pm and studies in the evening. 

[26:30] Maintaining Relationships Outside of Medical School

Abby advises making time for relationships if it’s important for you. For Emma, she spends a couple of hours every weekend to speak with her family back home. She finds it helpful to not be living with them. Then she won’t feel she’d have to neglect them all the time for studying. This way, she’s able to be fully present when talking to them and not worry about studying.

[Related episode: How Relationships Change in Medical School]

[28:40] Dealing with Failure

'Failure is part of the process, almost. You can't be afraid to fail because you're going to.'Click To Tweet

Failing feels terrible. David illustrates the everyday failures such as not understanding the concept or you got a grade worse than you wanted to get on that quiz. 

These are all learning experiences you can take into yourself and do something with. Again, trust the process. If you have the ability to decide on what school to go to, find those that have support systems in place for the students. They allow some degree of failing. 

Medical school is very hard with a lot of stuff you need to learn really quickly. You have to have that freedom to mess up on occasion or even frequently. 

'Failure is just feedback. If whatever you're doing didn't work, fix it for next time.'Click To Tweet

Moreover, if you’re really passionate about this, you can still do it no matter what background you come from. Also, know what you’re passionate about (things outside of medicine) and maintain those regardless of what career path you go into. 

[32:39] Finding Mentors

Abby’s mentor is a neonatologist. She realized she loves ethics and so she approached an ethics professor and asked how she can learn more. 

Currently, she’s doing a project on babies with bilateral renal agenesis in terms of ethical decision making. This is a condition where both kidneys are absent at birth. So she’s trying to build an ethical framework to guide physicians when they’re presented with these patients.

Emma talks to some physicians and advisors as well as to upperclassmen who are going to areas she’s interested in. 

'The upperclassmen are a great resource.'Click To Tweet

[Related episode: Getting a Mentor to Guide Your Premed Path]


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