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Medical School in a Pandemic

Christina S., M1

Moving to St. Louis in the fall, I felt just about every emotion in anticipation of starting medical school. I was nervous about meeting new people, excited to explore a new city, and sad to be moving away from home. Just when it already seemed tricky enough, there was the extra challenge of navigating all of this during COVID times. Although our experience so far has been different from what we anticipated, there have still been plenty of silver linings to med school in a global pandemic.

Virtual school is different! I was always a person to go to class. Suddenly not being able to, I was fearful about not getting the same experience as meeting face-to-face. Luckily, the curriculum staff and administration have made learning online effective and engaging and are very receptive to our feedback and concerns. We have large lectures but will also break into breakout rooms on Zoom to have smaller discussions and the opportunity to get to know our classmates more. They also worked hard to still allow us to complete a few in person sessions safely. Those became some of my favorite sessions and it makes me look forward to when we are able to actually all get together in person in the future. (And a bonus perk of virtual classes is a little bit more time to sleep/eat/study as we spend less of it commuting!)

I love exploring new cities. Moving here, it felt like there was so much I wanted to do and see and eat! COVID has limited some of our options this year, but it hasn’t made it impossible. The businesses, museums, and restaurants in STL have adapted well and the majority have protocol for staying safe while still being able to explore. During my first month here, I signed up for time slots and went to every museum in Forest Park on my days off. We took class trips to Eckert’s Apple Orchard and a sunflower patch, and ran 5Ks in waves to maintain smaller groups and social distancing. Every week, my friends and I try to order take out to support local business and safely explore while being able to hang out in person at the same time.

It already feels like forever since the words “social distancing” entered our vocabularies. Medical school in COVID and being more socially isolated from others has taught me about what is most important for my self-care and has emphasized the idea that we need to best take care of ourselves before we can best take care of others. We are so fortunate to have some of the best faculty & staff here who uplift us and help us tend to our well-being. I started doing yoga, scheduling daily calls with friends and family, and the green space in STL has made it easy to go outside and take brain breaks while still being safe. COVID forced us to face the balance of life and school head on as we began seeing the spaces where those take place merge together in our apartments and homes. Med school in a pandemic has put into perspective just the sheer responsibility the health care system has in society, the roles that we are all going to take on as physicians and scientists in the future, and how to best take care of ourselves and lean on others to be able to best fill those shoes.