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Reflecting on the MEDS Experience at CHS by Nathalie Chan

For our final reflection in MEDS420 during the Spring 2019 semester, we were asked to revisit one or two experiences or observations from previous weeks and reflect further. With this directive, I got a bit creative and tied a few of my observations and experiences together, summating what a valuable and unique opportunity that I was able to be a part of.

I was lucky to be a part of something considerable during my two semesters as a post baccalaureate student at CNUCHS.

I think a lot of student focus heavily on the OSCE labs, and rightfully so - they are fun, interesting, exhilarating, and it gives us a “fly on the wall” view of things to come in the near future. I thoroughly enjoyed the OSCE labs, and sitting in on Dr. Habib's debriefing as well as his hypertension/CVD lecture, but some of my most significant learning experiences came in the MEDS classroom at CHS.

In MEDS 410 and 420 student, during the 2018-19 academic year, we periodically met with our professors (in the first semester, Dr. Davis and Dr. Perryman, and the second semester Dr. Whitcome and Dr. Perryman) who directed us to reflect on who we were and our experiences as a patient, a student, and a future healthcare practitioner. From reading patient narratives by Dr. Rita Charon, to Eastern ethics and how we can see more clearly, to identifying the need for cultural competency or reconsidering our take on controversial issues such as genital 'cutting,' my lectures were led by amazing professors who challenged us to see our professions from the other side of the looking glass. This is a unique situation to me because I felt that I excelled, perhaps more than some of my classmates, in this part of the learning experience. I believe I believe that the principles and practices of narrative medicine, as explored in MEDS 410 and 420, play extremely well to my strengths.

It is true, we are all privileged in some way - or else we would not be sitting in a PMPB program writing these reflections. It is true that in some way, we are supported, our goals and dreams are championed by someone who believes in us. What many of my peers may not see is that while being championed and being given this chance, it is our responsibility to learn how to see an inverse perspective. Just as we have been taught the concept of the clinical gaze, it is our duty to practice identifying this phenomenon and only use it judiciously, and, perhaps, not during clinical encounters. It is our responsibility to avoid being dehumanized so that we can humanize our patients through our interactions with them.

Looking back through my observations and my personal experiences in the OSCE lab, one of the most memorable scrips was the neuro script. I played a women who had gone through a stroke and is now in the emergency room awaiting a standard stroke exam. I pride myself on observing the strength and intelligence in others, and thus trying to incorporate different ways to look at things as to gain perspective that I may not have ever had on my own. This is how I learn, and it has so far served me well. I am the type of person who learns from observation, and in this particular exercise, I witnessed a female medical student do something that I would have never thought of.

I think that perhaps I live too much by the book and sometimes am not creative enough to think outside of the box, although I'm working on it. In my stroke exam, the student held a paper in front of my face and asked me to name the items that I saw on the paper. The student before her performed the same exam and asked me to perform the same exercise of reading off what I saw on the page. The second student however asked me to name the items, and when I did not identify the items on the left side of the page, instead of ending the exercise, she moved the page over - more to my right side so that the figures would come into view and I could properly see them. It was a proverbial light bulb moment for me and showed me the power of thinking creatively. Thinking outside the box is something I strive to do, yet, culturally, I may not have always been provided the empowerment to do so. I realize that I lose out on a lot of things when I'm confined to functioning only inside the box, and such a moment in MEDS helped me realize that about myself.

It comes with a sweet ending, my MEDS experience. Our TA Ethel has been phenomenal. She imparts her wisdom to us about what to expect, how we can modify our scripts to shake things up, and to keep us in line when we have the potential to get rowdy. My professors have been notably instrumental in bringing to light issues that may never be spoken about again once we are in medical school, and thus challenging us to think outside the box. After all, this is what medicine is about, right?


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