Extensive clinical experience is essential in the training of medical students to be proficient physicians. These experiences help shape their future in medicine through exposure to many specialties and by their learning from many professionals in their field. Amarachi Okoro has completed her third year of medical school at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and she currently is seeking her dual degree with a master's in public health through the PRIME program.
She describes her early clinical rotations as a motivating and valuable experience in her medical education.
The first step
All students must gain a certain amount of required clinical experience, including some elective coursework, in order to move on to the next phase of training. Though Okoro plans on specializing in primary care for underserved populations, she still had the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience from many specialties that can help her in numerous ways during her future career.
Okoro's first rotation was OB/GYN, which she remembers as one of the most intense and fulfilling of her medical training so far. She looked forward to the first day with some trepidation, but with the excitement that comes with finally being able to live a lifelong dream. "I was familiar with a classroom after four years of undergraduate and two years of medical school," she says. "But being a third-year is totally different. It was the first chance to practice after all of that learning, and I was actually doing it! It was so exciting."
OB/GYN is a diverse specialty that combines labor and delivery with surgery and clinic. Amarachi rotated between these fields and learned treatment and evaluation approaches from both physicians and residents. "All of it was very hands-on," she says. "You had to learn by doing, [and] you had to learn by mistakes. The attendings and residents were very nice, but it was very intense because they had high expectations."
All clinical experience is overseen by seasoned doctors who mentor the medical student, model excellent bedside manner and show him or her how classroom knowledge applies to the practice of medicine. Amarachi appreciated how the different levels of physicians were able to mentor her in different ways. First-year residents were able to sympathize with the medical students, as those days were fresh in their minds. More experienced residents provided a lot of education to medical students and, especially for students like Amarachi, were able to provide specific recommendations for their future specialties. Attending physicians were excited to show medical students the ropes, offering perspectives that only years of medical practice can provide.
Taking it all in
With all her clinical experience, Amarachi is still looking forward to providing primary care. One experience, in particular, solidified her decision as she was seeing patients in a community clinic. "A woman had come in to see us because she [had experienced] sexual harassment by her boss. She didn't know where to go, and she came to her family care physician," Amarachi recalls. "I was able to talk to her, and it wasn't about prescribing anything; it was communicating with her as a person and connecting her with the resources that could help her. It's a really holistic view of well-being. It's not just medicine; it's much more than that."
Clinical experiences will continue to provide opportunities for Okoro and other medical students to have a positive effect on healthcare for individuals and communities nationwide.
By Kyleigh Roessner