A Day in the Life: Harvard Medical School Student


(tinkling music) – Hi, my name is Bliss Chang. I’m a third year medical
student at Harvard. I just finished my core clinical rotations through the integrated
clerkship program here at Cambridge Health Alliance, which means that instead of
doing block cell rotations and doing three months of medicine, three months of surgery, et cetera, I do all the specialties at the same time for the entire duration of the year. I’ve currently narrowed
down my specialty interests to either neurology or orthopedics. (peppy music) So during the clinical year, my days typically consist of waking up, taking a shower, getting my breakfast, and then heading over to the hospital, getting there anywhere
from six to eight a.m. Since I am in the longitudinal program, the one difference is that
the clinics that I go to vary from day to day. Monday I might go to neurology, Tuesday I might go to pediatrics, Tuesday afternoon I might go to medicine. So it really varies in that aspects, and I’ll head over to the gym usually just to get a quick pump in and then go study for a few hours, and then if anybody wants
to hang out or anything, I’m pretty flexible with that regards. – So tell me a little bit
about your specific program at Harvard Medical School. – Okay, so there’s two programs, one is Health and Science Technologies and the other one is Pathways. I’m in the Pathways program
which is the larger program and we recently converted
to having one year of pre-clinical studies in the classroom while also following
some patients every week, and then transitioning fully into the core clerkship
rotations our second year. And then third year onwards,
we do a combination of research as well as doing some advanced rotations in whatever field that
we would like to pursue. – So break that down for
me a little bit more. What does rotations mean? – So rotations are really the essence of how you develop your clinical skills. In the first year you’re
really accumulating the basic knowledge that you have to have in order to take care of all the patients, and then the second year is
where you continue to build on that knowledge but really
putting all these principles that you’ve learned about into action, checking reflexes on patients, you’ve learned about all
the physiology first year, second year you get to actually do it, see what that actually
means for patient care. – Right, so it’s not just
in a classroom anymore, now you’re actually kind
of becoming a doctor. – Exactly. – So how is your program different from how it used to be done? – So traditionally a lot of schools as well Harvard Medical School had a classic two years in the classroom and then two years in the hospitals, as well as more of a lecture-based format. So now they’ve completely overhauled that and in the pre-clinical years we have what’s called
problem-based learning where you get into small groups and really work on applying
your knowledge in the class as opposed to learning
the knowledge in class because we like to spend
valuable time in the classroom really doing things that
we couldn’t do just alone during independent study. And then the clerkships come much earlier, about a year earlier and
I think that’s excellent for many reasons, the
most prominent of which is that you get clinical exposure earlier and that to me is really the
essence of what you’re doing as a doctor and then it also gives you a lot more opportunity to
explore different specialties because if you’re in a
two plus two curriculum that means that you finish
all your core rotations at the end of third year and then you’re applying
straight into residency. So the decision on what
specialty to pursue is a little bit rushed. – I see, so right now
you’re kind of having a longer period of time to experience every different specialty and decide which one you want to pursue. – [Bliss] Yes. (peppy music) – [Interviewer] So, what is
the academic culture like at Harvard Medical School? – Yeah, so it’s very collaborative, especially given that we have
a true pass/fail curriculum, both in the pre-clinical years as well as during our
core clinical rotations. We do have some grading afterwards during the advance
rotations but prior to that, it’s completely pass/fail. But on the whole, it’s a very
collaborative atmosphere. – Very cool. How would you describe the workload, especially compared to undergrad? – So first year when
we’re in the classroom learning the basic sciences, I’d say that the workload is a lot more than what we have in college. For example, one semester of biochem usually takes us about three
or four weeks to go through, so the pace is definitely
a lot more accelerated. On the clinical side of things, it’s really hard to quantify because the learning is so different. A lot of the learning can be things that are not necessarily knowledge based. It’s a lot of social interaction skills, how to deal with certain
situations while on the floor. Somebody goes into cardiac arrest, how to use CPR to save somebody’s life. So it’s a good mixture of practical as well as more foundational
knowledge for yourself. – Was there anything
that you did before HMS that you think really
kinda prepped you for this or gave you the skills that
you need to succeed here? – Really it’s the whole
experience that I went through that really prepared me well. I think academically I was
a biochem major in undergrad and I think that really
helped me first year to transition in as opposed to some people who hadn’t had any biochem at all. – I can imagine that’d
be a rough transition. – I think for clinical rotations, it’s really something that nobody can really prepare you for. There’s nothing you can really do. The one thing that HMS does very well to help us prepare for the wards is having us in what’s
called Practicing Medicine, which is a once a week
course during the first year where we get exposure to patients and standardized patient actors so that we feel more comfortable before delving into the
actual clinical scene. – [Interviewer] Right,
sort of training you for those interpersonal parts of it. (peppy music) So tell me a little bit more about the longitudinal style clerkship program. – Yeah, so traditionally
for tons of years, we’ve had the block cell rotations which means that we do a specialty for a fixed period of time. For example, three months of medicine, one month of neurology, et cetera. – Okay. – And then when you’re
done with that block, you’re totally done with it, you move on to the next specialty. In the longitudinal style, what we do is we do all the specialties, so neurology, pediatrics,
psychiatry, medicine, surgery, radiology, we do
all of these specialties at the same time. So most of the students end up
doing the block cell rotation because there’s only 12 spots for the longitudinal program here. For me, I got lucky
obviously to be selected and the reason why I
opted into the lottery were mainly twofold. One is about the longitudinal aspect and two is about the types
of patients that you meet. This longitudinal program takes place at Cambridge Health Alliance and so the patients that come
to Cambridge Health Alliance are of a lower socio-economic class, of different racial
ethnicities, et cetera, and so I really wanted to challenge myself to make sure that by the time
I graduated medical school, I had a very good comfort working
with this type of patient. So that was one, and then two
is the longitudinal aspect which means that you’re really
able to not only keep fresh on all the different specialties
throughout the entire year, but also really see the interconnections and how they fit together
amongst each other. Probably my favorite part as well as the favorite part of everybody in this longitudinal program is the ability to follow our
patients for such a long time. It really develops this
strong relationship between the med student and the patient. – That sounds really unique compared to every other
program I’ve heard of. – So the patients really open up to you and start telling you things that you may not otherwise elicit, and that’s both helpful from
a person-to-person connection but also from a medical standpoint. – [Interviewer] Of course, yeah. (peppy music) So what would you say is
the most unexpected part of medical school? – So I’d always heard
that medicine is something where you sell your soul to, where you really have
nothing but the books to be your friends. I think I found that
completely not the case. – [Interviewer] Oh good.
– There’s so many wonderful people and medicine is, if not more about the social interactions that you have with your peers
or colleagues, the patients, as it is about the book knowledge, and so that’s been a
very pleasant surprise. I was supposed to do a PhD actually, and I actually dropped that
after my clinical year, and that’s just a testimony
to how much I enjoyed my interactions with
patients in medical school. – What advice would you give to either a younger version of yourself or anyone else who is considering going into the medical field? – Yeah, I think really
just try to figure out what your passions are. If it’s not medicine, then that’s great. Find something else that
you’re really passionate about. I think whatever you do, you have to have that
burning fire within you or you’re just gonna burn
out later, at some point. I think if you’re considering
applying to the top colleges, it’s really nice if you’re
very passionate and dedicated to something that’s non-academic. Kind of think about it as proud parents trying to choose who they
want their future kids to be. They’re always gonna choose the person who has the academics
and something really nice that’s non-academic as
opposed to the super-genius who got a perfect MKAT. So really try to focus on
something that distinguishes you, something that you’re passionate about. It could be underwater basket-weaving, it could be basketball, playing the flute. Whatever it is, just make sure
that it’s one or two things you’re really passionate about
and take that a long way, as opposed to doing a few
things and being good at them. (peppy music) Hey guys, if you really like this video and want to learn more
about top universities, hit that like button below, subscribe and catch me next time. (peppy music)

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