August 2010 Archives

Teaching Teaching Teaching

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So I am now a high school biology teacher! I got thrown into the mix last Monday and am teaching 5 sections of 9th and 10th grade biology. We have spent the last week on plants and will wind down with a test this friday. After a long labor day weekend we will start fresh with animals. And the students better be ready. My interest in teaching was peaked as a TA for the animal diversity lab, so the students are really getting my passion in the upcoming weeks. Im excited to give them a challenge as I hope to push them to some of the same standards I had for the animal diversity students.

I am also very excited because tomorrow (wednesday) I get to start sharing a little bit about me within the curriculum. We are discussing the effect of climate on plants and many of the pictures I will use in my mini-lecture are from my own travels. More importantly, some of those pictures are from Itasca! Hopefully they respond the material as well as I hope they do.

Otherwise, everything is going well. Classroom management is the most challenging part of the job, since it just takes time. Time for the students to get the procedures down. Time for me to learn how my students operate. Time for us all to get systems in place that best suit how we can learn together. But I am being patient and taking it one day at a time.

So it begins...

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"As University of Minnesota Medical School students and future physicians, we take this oath as we enter into a career of partnership with our patients, collaboration with our colleagues, and improvement of our health care system.

We pledge to commit ourselves to excellence in the care of our patients.

We pledge to uphold the integrity of medicine and commit to maintain the highest standards of professionalism.

We pledge to be stewards of education.

We pledge to embrace our social responsibility to practice medicine justly.

We pledge to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Let this white coat be a reminder of this pledge, of the privilege we hold as students of medicine, and of our commitment to service."

-Excerpt from University of Minnesota Medical School Class of 2014 Statement of Commitment


When asked how medical school is, a common response is "It's like drinking water from a fire hose"...basically a lot of stuff comes at you very fast. With two full weeks of classes under my belt, I would have to agree. The amount of material we are learning is delivered quickly and the courses are fast-paced, so it is easy to be overwhelmed.

This year, the University of Minnesota Medical School has implemented a new curriculum that involves a lot more independent learning time as well as small group work. For our first semester, the first year medical students (MS1) have 3 courses:

1. Human Structure and Function (HSF): This course includes anatomy, histology, and embryology all rolled into one.
2. Science of Medical Practice (SMP): This course includes genetics, biochemistry, and presentations from patients.
3. Essential of Clinical Medicine (ECM): This course entails learning about how to do patient interviews, physical exams, and case studies.

As you can see, a variety of topics are covered in just a semester and I am literally knee deep in books. However, the faculty and staff are very supportive and have provided resources to help students. In addition, there is a very supportive and collaborative atmosphere among students, which makes things are manageable when you have the "we are all in this together" mentality.

This feeling of belonging and community was very established during the White Coat ceremony in which the class of 2014 received white coats (as well as a nice stethoscope and reflex hammer!) as a symbol of our commitment to medicine and our official welcome to the medical community. At the ceremony, not only were we able to celebrate with our family and friends, but we all recited a commitment statement that was written together as a class. So when the going does get tough and the hours of studying get long, we will have the oath to look back on and remind us of our commitment to medicine and becoming doctors.

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Cadavers, Cakes, and Celebrations

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"Live. Laugh. Love."

Today has been a day of celebration for me. Not only was it my birthday, but it was also my first day of medical school classes. During the past week so much has happened, which included a busy orientation week, a memorable White Coat Ceremony, and many trips to the bookstore to get the necessary textbooks and supplies. Right now I would say I am feeling blessed. Blessed to have such supportive family, friends, peers, and mentors. Blessed to have the opportunity to pursue my passion of becoming a physician. Blessed to have had an amazing 22 years of life so far. There is so much more to say (and pictures to post), but anatomy homework must take priority so stay tuned...

The waiting game...

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Summer institute is all finished! I successfully completed the summer teacher training and am now hoping for a teaching position come the fall. It was a long five weeks, but a very productive five weeks. Though I have been teaching in some form or another for four years, training took a lot of the guesswork out of teaching. I used to think teaching was more art than science, but have since learned that its just science with flair. There are things a teacher can do, that if executed properly, WILL result in positive outcomes. For instance, having students identify similarities and differences between things is one of the best things you can do with your students! Students also seem to love those venn diagrams...

With any luck, I'll be making lots of venn diagrams with students come September. I should hopefully have a placement within the next few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed!

Be kind. Be trustworthy. Be direct.

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"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Where you live. What you eat. How much schooling you have received. Your family background. The color of your skin.

What do they all have in common?

They are all one of the many social determinants of health. Without a doubt medicine is a science-based practice, but often times the equally important social aspects of it is neglected. And when these factors are not considered, this can lead to compromised care and health inequities. Studies have shown that minority patients receive poorer quality and fewer procedures than white patients. Certain populations have higher incidence rates of diseases than others. Undoubtedly this has a negative impact on the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a pre-orientation program called Introduction to Urban Areas with about 25 other incoming medical students in which we discussed health disparities and learned about different populations in the Twin Cities area. The two and a half day program was filled with engaging speakers, viewing parts of the eye-opening movie "Unnatural Causes", discussions, and community service opportunities. One of the highlights was speaking with health professional and learning about different patient populations and cultures. Being knowledgeable about different cultures is paramount in medicine because it can enable physicians to build stronger relationships with patients and provide better care. For example, some Hmong people practice "cupping" as a health remedy, which leaves bruises and this is often misinterpreted by health professionals as a sign of abuse. Or some Somali patients will call a fever, "malaria." Being mindful and respectful of cultural practices and traditions is therefore very important.

So what can current and future health care providers do? While health disparities are a vast issue that cannot be solved over night and being 100% culturally competent is an impossibility, there are steps and considerations one can take. One of the speakers succinctly summed up how one can better serve diverse patient populations: Be kind. Be trustworthy. Be direct.

Be kind: This entails being empathetic and understanding of your patients' histories, beliefs, traditions, and situation. Sometimes cultural-based practices may differ from accepted medical practices and it is important to not dismiss these cultural beliefs, but rather find a balance between the two.

Be trustworthy: Building trust is key in a patient-physician relationship. People are entrusting doctors with their lives and sharing intimate health information they may not even share with their families. If a patient doesn't feel comfortable with their doctor, then they might not be as forthcoming or be as compliant.

Be direct: Health care is a complex, especially for those who may have language barriers. Therefore, it is important that a diagnosis, treatment plan, and other information are delivered in a clear way to ensure patients are informed. This can involve using some creativity. For example, there was a physician who noticed many of his Somali patients were facing constipation problems because they did not understand the importance of regularly drinking water. Thus, he used an analogy that compared the drinking habits and stool softness of camels versus cows. While that may seem a little unorthodox, it worked because it was something that the patients could understand and relate to.

Just taking small steps like that can help enhance patient-physician interactions, especially with underserved populations, and that can lead to better care and better care can lead to alleviating health disparities.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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