I just started med school and I’m already seeing patients

Most of my friends in medical school won’t see patients until after their first year. And me, I’m still pinching myself over whether my M1 life is a dream.

I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, and just last week I took someone’s blood pressure for the first time. A few months ago, I was an industrial engineer in Dallas. Now, I’m a few weeks into medical school, and I’m already seeing patients.

When you choose a medical school that thrusts you into the clinic when you’re still just trying to learn the names of your classmates, it turns out you also get to hit the ground running toward your dream. And I have to admit, every time I put on my white coat, I feel like superwoman.

I’ve affectionately titled my first few weeks of med school as “med school bootcamp”. Because of the responsibility that’s being entrusted to my classmates and me so soon, our professors have made sure that we can confidently step into our clinical rounds feeling fully prepared. We’ve spent hours in our problem-based learning sessions, learning population health concepts that help us to identify health issues that affect the whole person. We’ve practiced taking patient history and vitals on simulated patients, and each other. And all along, practicing physicians, professors, and my fellow students have observed us and provided feedback so we can grow. “I’ll stay here until you get this,” one of my fellow classmates told me as I practiced taking her blood pressure.

So when it was my turn to execute what I learned so quickly in my first few weeks, I was ready. I felt like I had already received the feedback I needed to launch my life in the clinic on the right foot. And, even though I’m only a few weeks in, I’m already seeing the payoff.

I get to become better at patient care, faster.

Whenever I’ve shadowed physicians in the past, it’s always the way they respond to the people in their care that stands out to me the most. My preceptor, Dr. Kala, knows her patients’ families. She looks them in the eyes. She knows just the right questions to ask to understand the whole patient. I can’t learn compassion and empathy in the classroom. So the fact that I’m learning the intangibles from the start means that when residency comes around, I know I will excel. I can’t imagine the impact this will have for the people in my care in the future.

I’ll interact directly with real-life health problems.

I can apply my engineering beyond theories from a textbook. As I gain real-life exposure to current problems in health care, I’ll be that much closer to contribute to their solutions. I’ve already started a list of opportunities, and as a professor recently told me, there is no problem too small.

Most of my friends in medical school won’t see patients until after their first year. And me, I’m still pinching myself over whether my M1 life is a dream.

Kanesha Overton