For myself and I think many other incoming med students, the process of gaining acceptance into medical school was quite consuming. So much so, in fact, that once I was accepted, I focused all of my efforts on traveling (I spent parts of the summer in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Los Angeles and Napa Valley) and hanging out with friends and family. My aspiration to live this adventurous and carefree pre-medical school lifestyle was partly due to advice from many current med students during my application year. ‘Enjoy your life while you can,’ they all said, ‘travel far away and have a great time. Don’t even think about school until you get there.’
I pretty much followed that recommendation exactly, and then when the time came, I packed my car and drove up to Portland, moving out of the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time. Luckily for me, here at OHSU, we have an orientation, which is six days long if you include the White Coat Ceremony, and is entitled ‘Transition to Medical School.’ Before the ‘Transition’ began, I figured that it was a way to ease us in, allow us to meet our new peers, and get the administrative stuff out of the way before classes began. I was partly right, and we heard from representatives from Financial Aid, Center for Diversity, the Teaching Services Office, etc., and of course from Dean Richardson, Dean Mejicano, and the entertaining and energetic ‘Dr. O.’ The information was all worthwhile, and though it was difficult to sit in a lecture hall after a summer where my only duty was to frolic in the sun and enjoy myself, it was a lot easier than jumping straight into studying which artery supplies blood to the trapezius.
There were a few aspects of our ‘Transition’ week that really stood out to me, beyond the delicious (and free) coffee, breakfast and lunch that we received each and every day. The first, I am ecstatic to report, is the amazing quality of the eclectic group of people I now call my classmates. It can be difficult to meet 131 new people all at once. You end up in lots of 5-minute conversations about where you grew up and where you went to college. So, it’s a testament to the personalities of the people in the class of 2016 that the week of meeting each other was actually pretty spectacular, albeit socially exhausting. One thing that OHSU is not, I learned, is a place where hundreds of 22-year-old biology majors gather to continue their life-long journey toward becoming physicians. Not that there is anything wrong with that path, but I find it much more interesting when some students are recent college graduates, while others have had previous careers and non-academic life experiences. Some of my classmates, for instance, have worked jobs in fields such as graphic design and prison security, others have military experience, and still others were pharmacists or EMTs. Having people from a variety of backgrounds brings a wide range of knowledge and skills into one room, and I can already tell it’s going to enrich both my social and academic experience here at OHSU.
Throughout the week and for a variety of reasons, quite a few doctors spoke to us as a group. This is not surprising, of course, given our career choice, but there were a few common themes to these talks, some things that nearly every doctor said without knowing the others had said it. The first was that we, as first year medical students, are extremely lucky. We are lucky to have earned a spot in medical school, which is coveted by many. We are lucky to be on the path of becoming a physician, which can be one of the most fulfilling and incredible careers a person can have. And we are lucky to be at OHSU, which not only places an extremely high value on education, but where the clinical care of patients is among the best in the country. In a sense, I knew all of these things already, but hearing doctors who are far along in their careers talk about how much they love what they do was both inspiring and motivating.
The other common thread in nearly every doctor’s presentation, and what stuck with me the most, was a mention of their own medical school experiences. Many of the current physicians said that medical school itself was one of the greatest times of their lives. They explained that even for a practicing physician, nothing in their career can emulate the experience of medical school; learning for the first time the intricacies of the human body, working directly with patients in a wide variety of fields, delivering your first child into the world, holding your first scalpel, working harder than you ever have before, and doing it all with a group of peers that have different passions, but one common goal. That’s what I took away from my orientation at OHSU. That I’m not only lucky to be on the road to becoming a doctor, but that I’m lucky for the fact that I am in medical school, and that for the next four years I will use and enjoy all of the incredible resources, challenges, friendships and hopefully triumphs that go along with being here.