Crossing Bridges

It’s spring break and the pause in coursework has given me a moment to reflect on medical school and my experiences since beginning eight months ago. The past eight months have gone by in a blur. My go to line when people ask how medical school is going is to say, “It’s going”, because it is. Still, there have been some great “this is med school” moments mixed in.

After seven weeks with my nose glued to the books learning as much as I could about the renal, endocrine, and gastrointestinal systems as well as nutrition (yes all that somehow fit into seven seemingly short weeks), I was ready for a break from t

Getting to UCSF was not easy. I took the 122 from my home to Stonestown, where I hopped on the M to get to Laguna Honda. There, I waited for the 43 to bring me to Parnassus. It was the summer of 2008 and I was a rising high school junior, participating in Program for Investigation and Training for Careers in Health (PITCH) at UCSF.

Wearing my white coat with my stethoscope hanging around my neck, I knock. I introduce myself while going through a checklist in my mind: say hello, ask how the patient would like to be addressed, start with the chief complaint.

It’s hard to believe that only five and a half months ago I anticipated sacrificing all free weekends, dreaded walking up the seriously underestimated hills of San Francisco, and walked into class with nonexistent anatomy knowledge among other thi

“I lived through WWII. A little needle is not going to hurt me,” said Ms. X as I screened her for vaccination contraindications.

“You get how much time for cardio?” My friend, a third year medical student at a different school, was a bit surprised at the reduced amount of time we have dedicated to Cardiology in the new Bridges curriculum compared to his.

“Mr. Hayward is a 45-year-old African-American male with hypertension who presents with dyspnea on exertion…” Patient narratives like the one above traditionally open with a mention of race. That has begun to change, however, as UCSF and peer institutions move to discourage this practice—in some cases as early as in the first months of medical school.

An unexpected advantage of introducing a new curriculum has been the fervent solicitation of student feedback. Through a renewed emphasis on feedback and change, first-year students will not only cross Bridges, we will help build it.

This year, UCSF introduced Bridges, a new curriculum for first year medical students. The new curriculum involves 1.5 preclinical years instead of two, and features three major components: Foundational Sciences (FS), Core Inquiry Curriculum (CIC), and Clinical Microsystems Clerkship (CMC). With so many moving parts, trying to understand each piece is a challenge even for the first year medical students experiencing the new curriculum. Synapse’s newest column, Crossing Bridges, provides an insider view from five first year medical students as they break down the new curriculum’s different components.