How to Navigate Medical School as a First-Year Student - Care+Wear
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How to Navigate Medical School as a First-Year Student

  • 4 min read

 About the Author

My name is Aaishwariya Gulani and I am a 3rd-year student at University of Central Florida.  From my time at UCF, I realized that we all entered medical school full of hope and wide-eyed, not quite sure how the next four years were going to go.  The only thing getting us through was that at the end of it was the job we have been dreaming of for most of our lives: becoming a doctor.  There is so much more to the game that I wanted to share with you, to help better your journey into the healthcare field. 

1. Learn soft skills 

Having gone through two years of medical school, I quickly realized the differences in expectations versus reality. Medical education has a strong emphasis on academics and a well-rounded patient experience to make us into good future physicians, but there was still something lacking. 

I studied business in undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania which had a huge emphasis on soft skills or the things you learn outside of the classroom and the textbooks. This prompted me to start a podcast with my former undergrad roommate who is also a medical student, called  The MS5 Podcast. It focuses on building these soft skills and strategies to do so in our daily lives as already busy students. We bring on guest speakers with backgrounds like mine in business and healthcare who have seen both sides of the spectrum to share their experiences and advice with students.  Learning from experiences has been more impactful than textbooks, and especially when those experiences will mirror ours in the near future.  

Just listening to these speakers has been empowering, let alone the response we’ve gotten to the podcast from other students. Realizing that a lot more people felt that lack of those skills was eye-opening, and I am ecstatic to be at the forefront of integrating these skills into our education even if just casually for now. 

2. Find a Hobby and Go Beyond Your Scrubs 

On the other side of this, I have also had the honor of being chosen to be Miss India USA 2020, an experience that has shown me how physicians can truly follow their passions even outside of medicine. I believe that all students in medical school can be incredible, well- rounded physicians whether that is through research, extensive charity work, excelling in the performing arts, or things like pageants. For me, being Miss India USA allowed me to express my cultural background and realize that becoming a doctor does not mean I have to give up everything I was before but rather I can incorporate it as I pursue medicine. 

For me, this crown was a statement and a voice. 

It was a statement for everyone in pageantry and medicine that no path is rigid.  We can intersect and bring new opportunities into each realm.  It was such a unique experience to be working in a hospital on weekdays and walking down a runaway on weekends.  I was able to expand the view of pageantry and most importantly grow with it.  

This crown was also a voice.  When I first won, I vowed to use my title as a platform to advocate for global health disparities and what better chance to do so than during a global pandemic.  While this year has made service difficult, it also made us think outside the box to make an even greater impact.  It began with my Covid Nurse Project where we collaborated with local bakeries and the UN to thank our frontline nurses during Nurses’ week for all their hard work.  I was also able to organize my fellow sister queens Sidhya from Washington and Shruti from Texas to virtually dance and send a message to our community.  As I began to realize that boundaries were only as limiting as we made them, I was able to expand my work to giving speeches on zoom and working with nonprofits virtually to raise awareness of pressing issues in and out of healthcare.

3. Make Your Voice Heard 

My newest passion in healthcare has been advocacy.  As a medical student, we see medical education, patient care, and physician burnout every day.  Realizing our voices are impactful was a huge step for me to get involved in organized medicine through the American Medical Association (AMA), American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), the Florida Medical Association (FMA), and the Physicians Society of Central Florida (PSCF). 

Students involved in these organizations are making changes at the local, state, and national level.  The opportunities allow us to work with working physicians and talk to them about their experiences, a theme I already discovered I enjoyed through my podcast.  Finding mentors in this field is invaluable and learning from them about the future of healthcare and how we, at this young age, can impact it has been an incredible experience.  This kind of passion and dedication is applaudable and is what has inspired me to continue to advocate for ourselves and our patients.

As we progress into the medical field, I think it is so important for us all to look beyond the academics whether that’s by building our soft skills, pursuing our other passions, or advocating for change because these are the factors that will build us into unique physicians with a diversity of experiences.

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