Feeling Pulses: The Week Before Medical School


Where do I begin! I can sum these past two weeks of med school orientation in one word: surreal.  It’s a lot to take in, and I wonder if that’s why my school dedicated a whole two weeks for orientation:

Two weeks to fully soak in and appreciate what is happening!!

It began with receiving my very own white coat on a sunny Sunday morning. Standing in the middle of my bedroom, I wore it for more than twenty minutes, just staring at the mirror. Thinking. Taking it in.

Then there were a series of meetings to attend (online through Zoom of course, to prevent large gatherings). Some focused on the health disparities in Missouri, sending us to online breakout rooms of about ten students to discuss case studies and share what we thought of proposed treatment plans. The faculty would always be saying things like “You’ll learn as a doctor to…” or “your patients one day” and the small talk with classmates often times included the question, “do you know what specialty you’re interested in?”

Medicine always felt like something far away, but now I’m actually here. 

Socializing with my class felt challenging. There were online lunches where I ate food in my room and tried to get to know my group of about seven fellow M1’s  and two M2 orientation leaders. We played icebreakers like Bingo but honestly it’s hard to connect with new people over Zoom.  I ended up bonding the most with my small group when we met up for a socially distanced picnic in the park. Everyday, my phone would be buzzing with notifications of classmates organizing socially distanced hangouts at places like restaurants, parks, and the zoo. It was a constant internal battle of should I attend this or are too many people going that it feels like a risky large gathering? I enjoyed making friends at official orientation events like CPR training and vitals training where we practiced taking each other’s blood pressure. It’s interesting because you only see their eyes (since we wear wear masks everywhere). One time I met someone at an ice-cream social; we talked for a good two hours and even exchanged numbers. Then I saw her again the following week in the parking garage but literally didn’t recognize her until she said hi! When I met her, she had glasses and a mask on. This time, she wasn’t wearing glasses and hadn’t put her mask on yet, and thus actually looked like a totally new person to me.

Everyone seems to have the same fear at the back of their head– could this pandemic seriously affect how acquainted we get with our class? But I guess only time will tell. 

The second week of orientation included more online meetings introducing different studying softwares every med student swears by from Anki flashcards to Boards and Beyond videos. At least five different outside resources were strongly recommended to us! That’s a lot. It’s overwhelming and confusing. The M2’s kept emphasizing that everyone studies differently, and that it takes trial and error to figure out what works. Some listen to lectures, some just rely on flashcards and outside resources.

They laughed about how they don’t even listen to lectures slower than 2x its speed anymore, meanwhile I’m still processing at 0.5x the speed that I’m starting med school soon.

Then it was picture day for ID photos, and before I knew it, the two weeks of orientation was coming to an end.

Everything was finally sinking in, and that’s when my orientation leaders caught me off guard with an unexpected request. We were to write an email to our future self, that would be delivered to our inbox on March 15, 2024, also known as our Match Day. They told us to write about what specialty we think we’re going to go into, and what we’re most excited and nervous for in med school.

So what did I write about?

The moment that struck me.

I was sitting in a classroom with my white coat on, feeling the weight of my stethoscope in my pocket. We were waiting for vital signs training to start. I was excited to see this M1 from my CPR training group take the seat beside me. I enjoyed talking to her; I felt like we clicked. Then a doctor entered the room and began showing us all the locations in the body to feel a pulse, and told us to practice on ourselves and our partners. I looked at my friend and asked, “so who goes first?” I ended up going first. I reached out to press my two fingers against the carotid artery in her neck.

When I could feel the steady pulse in the pads of my fingers, it hit me.

Who I am and what medicine means to me because of it.

I don’t know if it’s evident through my blogs, but for those who don’t know, I’ve always had a talkative personality. There’s just always been a natural inclination to talk to people. I’m the type that made a Carnival cruise employee her pen pal years ago after one summer vacation during high school. We actually ended up keeping touch for about a year. I’m the type that talks to strangers on the flight, and then writes blogs like  I’m Obsessed With People: An Anecdote afterwards. I’m the type that often finds herself perceived as someone comfortable enough to open up to and confide in. Maybe it’s because I’m such an open book myself.  The point is my experiences throughout my entire life echo one simple fact:

I am drawn to connecting with and understanding people. 

Feeling her carotid pulse in my fingers made me realize I’m delving into a new territory of connection and understanding people. This is the start of a journey of helping people on a deeper level than I’ve ever experienced before. It’s interesting to think about. A few minutes ago I was just making small talk, trying to get to know this fellow M1 from New Hampshire. A few minutes later, to think she’s allowing me feel the literal beating of her heart simply because we are training to be doctors and this is what doctors do: we study humans in the deepest level possible so that we may best understand why someone feels off and fix it.

Feeling her carotid pulse in the pads of my two fingers, it hit me that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Can’t wait to start med school on Monday 🙂


P.S. I hope I still find the time to blog once school starts… I’ve also started toying with the idea of maybe starting a YouTube vlog called “Chronicles of Nadia”…? We’ll see… Until next time 🙂


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