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August 15th, 2017

An Immersive Three Weeks

By Reese Imhof

by Jennifer Dens Higano

We recently finished our first full block of medical school! Arriving on the first day was nerve-wracking. Pushing open the door to the Siebens building and hoping I was in the right place, both literally and figuratively, the “what if’s” swirled in my mind: What if I fail? What if I’ve forgotten everything from my prerequisites? What if my classmates don’t like me? What if I don’t like them?  What if I decide medical school isn’t for me?

The first three weeks have proven much less worrisome than that. The student support services at Mayo are robust, and the opportunities to find my niche in medicine are enormous. I haven’t forgotten everything and my classmates (and classmates in other years) are interesting, kind, and fun people!

If one word could describe my first three weeks of medical school at Mayo it would be “immersive.” Not only because so much of Rochester is tied to Mayo, both with respect to physical space and the number of people involved, but because our days are filled with Mayo. Don’t misunderstand – the days are not filled with school because we’ve had so much homework. The first week was orientation, and then we had two weeks of the Science of Health Care Delivery as our first block. Study-wise, the last three weeks have been pretty relaxed.

Immersive, for example, is that since the first day of orientation I have seen classmates every day. We’ve had plenty of interactive and group activities during class, like our group yoga class and time spent in smaller teams discovering Rochester social service organizations during the “Day in the Life” activity as a theoretical patient. Outside of classes though, the first weekend we got together at the Dean’s Pool Party, and then the following weekend we all went camping together and spent time tubing down the river, grilling, and bonfiring.

Photo 1: Enjoying the Dean's Pool Party!

Photo 2: Tent city during our camping weekend in southern MN

There are also all of the optional activities – interest group meetings, presentations, Grand Rounds, fitness classes, and social activities. Immersive means that some days I’ve been on campus from 8am to 8pm, and traditional classes haven’t even started yet! It sounds like a lot, but it’s been enjoyable. All the time spent has been a great way to get to know my classmates, learn more about the varied work happening around Mayo, and hear about all of the ways to get involved. It has been a little overwhelming too. There are so many options! For a relatively small medical school with only 50 students per class, even the number of student organizations is large. Maybe it’s the anxious, type-A med student thing, but sometimes I feel like I’m already behind. I’ve been reassured that this is normal, and that it takes time to figure everything out and find where to put my energy.

Photo 3: Learning knots and suturing with the Surgery Interest Group

Through orientation and the two weeks of Science of Health Care Delivery spent talking about health care system issues and context, we’ve been able to ease into medical school and get our bearings before starting the “drinking from the fire hose” phase. So far it’s been more like taking sips from a regular garden hose, allowing us to learn our way around campus, explore Rochester, and figure out how Mayo works, even while we’re getting a brief introduction to the social factors, economics, technology, advocacy, teamwork, and population health issues that make up the science of health care delivery.

Looking forward to the upcoming Biochemistry, Genetics, and Histology block, I’m feeling intimidated. With only six weeks to cover all of that material I don’t know how I’ll master it all. Somehow everyone who has gone through Mayo before me has managed it, and that is at least reassuring. As I blog throughout the year I will keep you posted on how it goes!

Photo 4: View of Gonda and Mayo buildings from the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center

Jennifer Dens Higano is a first year medical student from Brainerd, MN by way of a decade-long detour in Minneapolis. She is still exploring what her specialty interests will be but is broadly interested in bioethics, health policy, and health care design. Outside of medical school, Jennifer loves architecture and planning, and enjoys biking, reading, skiing, and relaxing on her porch with a quality cup of coffee.

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