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Looking forward by looking past

Andrea Knittel
AMSA Member
6th Year MSTP
University of Michigan

Post #3 of the "Back to the Wards" series focusing on the transition from research years back to the medical school and clinical rotations.

As I contemplate returning to the medical school and starting my clinical rotations, I’ve come up with a few strategies along the way to calm myself down and turn my anxiety into anticipation.  These include reminding myself of how much support I will have over the next few months to regain my clinical skills, evaluating potential sequences of rotations to maximize early learning but minimize early embarrassment in front of future colleagues (by choosing to start with a field I don’t plan to call my career), and spending time with my resident/doctor friends, who all assure me that I will be fine and that no one will remember my first few awkward weeks/months on the wards.  The strategy I’ve been using most during the last few weeks, however, is looking forward by looking past.  I’ve been motivating myself to gear up for the third year of medical school by contemplating potential away rotations, research experiences, and vacations I would like to take during my fourth year of medical school.  Although I have come up with a volume that would not fit into another four years of medical school, much less a single year, the process of thinking about what comes after the exhausting, but hopefully rewarding ordeal of third year makes thinking about that exhausting ordeal a little bit easier.

I really embraced this strategy at the American Public health Association Annual Meeting in Denver earlier this month.  As I prepared for my own presentation, I worked hard to attend the presentations of other scholars in my field, to introduce myself afterward, and to a few with interesting research or clinical connections, suggest the possibility of an away rotation in a unique clinic or a scholarly collaboration on a project that would extend my dissertation research.  Honestly, until I was at the conference and sitting in a particularly inspiring session, I hadn’t thought much about the next big transition after PhD-years to MD-years: school to the “real world.”  As scary as it might seem to think about finally leaving the happy bubble of Ann Arbor and my alma mater, it was exciting to think about what is coming next.  I think that holding on to the exciting possibilities beyond my clinical rotations just may get me through the worst of it.

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