Deciding to utilize my skills and experience to work instead of continuing my medical education with online clinical rotations is a decision that I would choose over and over again. My experience working during COVID only bolstered my desire to help others in a medical capacity. It's often hard for students to balance clinical work with study time. Do you think of your early exposure to a real-world medical crisis as a gift in some ways, or do you wish your studies could have continued on a more traditional path?
I definitely think that my experience was a gift because I was able to play a meaningful role in a medical capacity on the frontlines during such a historic crisis. I was able to exercise my clinical skills as an EMT and in the hospital, while also fostering clinical education. While I did not earn any elective credits toward my formal medical degree requirement, I would not have passed up the opportunity during such an unprecedented time for a more traditional path.
With all of the Prometric testing centers closed for a few months during our clinical rotation suspension, I found myself to be more focused on my clinical work with EMS and in the hospital, rather than on the progression of my formal medical education and preparing for my shelf exams. Even still, there was ample time during my work schedule where I was able to,get some studying in. My mindset seemingly changed- I wasn’t studying for an exam, I was studying to possibly save someone’s life. It worked for me because I felt that having that extra fund of knowledge helped further my engagement during the experiences. For example, I was able to complete the online course, “Mechanical Ventilation for Covid-19,” by Harvard EdX. What's drawing you to anesthesiology as a specialty? What other options are you currently considering (and is it much of a horse race)?
I find myself drawing a lot of parallels between anesthesiology and my experiences working in EMS. Working as an EMT, along with my clinical rotations, has allowed me to realize that I not only enjoy, but prefer having more hands-on care, especially in the acute setting. I think that, because of my tenure working as a medic, physiology and pharmacology comes intuitively to me. Working as a medic has allowed me to practice similar basic procedures. I’d like to specialize in a practice of medicine that allows me to not only do what I’m good at, but also what I enjoy, and I ultimately see that being anesthesiology, perhaps with a fellowship in critical care medicine and facilitating training opportunities for prehospital care providers to maintain my engagement within EMS.
I did excel on my surgery rotation, but I think it was also because of how hands-on of a specialty it is and how engaging my residents and attendings were with me. I do enjoy operating and the methodical approach to procedures themselves. I also enjoyed learning about managing floor patients. I enjoyed learning about every aspect of the operating room, including the perioperative anesthesia. However, I found myself to be unsure whether I wanted to pursue the life of a surgeon at the end of my three month general surgery rotation. You've been active representing your medical program as a student social media ambassador. What do you foresee as the role of social media presence for the next generation of medical practitioners and their institutions?
I think that social media plays such a versatile role in today's age of entertainment outlets impacting society. Out of many options to speak on, I believe social media acts as a vehicle for promoting advocacy and inspiring education. I’ve been a long time fan of cardiothoracic/Critical Care Anesthesiologist and social media enthusiast, Dr. Rishi Kumar, MD, (@rishimd). He uses his platform to teach medical education and advocate for the overall improvement of our health systems, through the lens of a physician.
In a time where it’s popular to seek opinions regarding health on social media, I think it will be important for medical practitioners to use their education and voice to help disperse factually reliable information as we continue to strive in advocating for healthier communities, and to promote healthy lifestyles. Users on currently popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are also starting to popularize healthy diet/nutrition and lifestyles that I can see coinciding with the topic of preventive medicine. I’d imagine that integrating health & wellness with social media is going to become a popular outlet for the promotion of preventive and community health education.What would you most like older physicians to understand about what it's like to be a medical student today? How do you think medical societies can best support the students in the educational pipeline?
Stress is an inherent vice of being a medical student. I believe that the reasons why it is a natural part of the process is similar for medical students now as it was for older physicians. Competitive specialties, limited spots in programs, the burden of loans to afford the hefty price tag that comes with the desire to help others, the rising national averages of board exams over time. This stress is significant because it seems like the process impedes and degrades the very reasons why medical students wanted to pursue medicine in the first place, and ultimately contributes to the systemic healthcare burnout.
Just because stressful factors have always existed in medical education, doesn’t necessarily mean that this tradition needs to be continued at the same extent. I think that the NBME is gradually starting to recognize that they play a large role in this and are beginning to make meaningful systemic changes, most recently changing Step 1 to pass/fail. COVID did, also, force the Step 2 CS exam to be decommissioned, allowing the board to re-evaluate the necessity of the exam.
I think that medical societies can contribute to supporting their students by advocating for research into cited factors of stress and promoting cost-benefit analysis across the board with medical education. Providing more opportunities for their students to engage in activities that will enhance their profiles such as research, clinical work experience, mentorship, and generalized networking will support students throughout the medical education pipeline.
Jared Sharza is transitioning from his third to fourth year of medical school, rotating in the Greater Detroit area. He has been working in emergency medical services in various capacities for more than five years.#MemberSpotlight#COVID-19#MedicalStudents