This summer I was one of 80 students selected out of 800+ applicants to participate in the University of Virginia’s Summer Medical and Dental Experience program. The SMDEP program offered students like me a variety of both academic, and career experiences that support dental, and medical school career preparation. In this program, I met other college students, medical and dental students, and doctors that helped to shape my experience, refine my goals and increase my confidence in planning the next steps. Without question, this program enriched my life and has been an experience that I will always cherish.
As a student in the program, I was treated like a medical student, adorned with a “white coat” and an identification badge that allowed me entrance to the UVA Healthcare Center. We attended informative lectures, interactive classes, maintained study hours and performed on quizzes and tests to demonstrate our learning. I must admit that canvasing the hospital in business attire and our white lab coats was an admirable feeling and gave me a view of what I desire for my future. Being surrounded by some of the best and the brightest minds in the world and those that want to help others through medicine is a feeling that I hope to propel me towards my goal.
During the program, I was exposed to the real world of medicine through several clinical medicine lectures on new-found topics in health including: bioethics and global health; the role of physicians in promoting good health, the fact and fiction surrounding addiction, STD’s including HIV and AIDS; intro to obstetrics and gynecology, dermatology, emergency medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, radiation oncology, and endocrinology; cardiovascular diseases in the minority population; cancer research; challenges and rewards of a career in medicine; and careers in biomedical research. Not only did these lectures focus on the promise of the future, they focused on the realities of the present. We were taught to concentrate on our plan towards attending medical or dental school and identify what attributes would make us stand out and how we could enhance our application.
The theme of the program was “From the Wilderness to the M.D. Promised Land”, showing that we can reach our goals even if we think we are far from them. Initially, I thought that as a student athlete, with less time to dedicate to a rigorous and demanding study schedule, I would not have a promising profile in pursuing medicine. However, my personal conversations with members of the medical school admission board helped me to learn key aspects of my athletic experience that demonstrate balance, time management and mental endurance. Their perspective of my experience increased my confidence in applying to medical school.
I also had the opportunity to participate in a lecture series entitled, “Where Doctor’s Work,” where I was able to visit the autopsy department, radiology department, non-invasive cardiology clinic, a senior-care center, the primary care clinic, general internal medicine department, and also UVA’s Simulation Center. In the autopsy clinic, I held a human heart, lungs, liver, and brain. It was so amazing that I texted my mom about my excitement the moment I left.
The Simulation center was by far my favorite place to explore. We saw how the medical students practiced with life-like patient mannequins that had an actual pulse and heartbeat, flowing blood, tear ducts, urine, and defecation secretion ports. After an initial observation with the mannequin, the doctor instructed us to assist the patient. Immediately the heart rate and pulse monitor went crazy and the mannequin patient started to talk, saying that his chest was hurting. The task was to direct the doctor as to what the patient required to lower the heartbeat and pulse to normal levels based on previous lecture. The real life demonstration was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed the application of what we learned from lecture.
My summer as a student with the SMDEP program was such a positive experience that challenged me, enhanced my perspective of the medical field and the academic requirements, and increased my intensity and focus in accomplishing my goal to pursue medicine. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to spend my summer at UVA and building the pathway to achieve my professional goals.