Kevin Brown described his first day of medical school as walking into his wildest dream.
“I’m ready,” the 31-year-old said. “I figured I wanted to do something I felt passionate about.”
Brown is among 20 students who will spend their first year of medical school on Washington State University’s Spokane campus. On Wednesday, the students attended a daylong orientation.
“The first thing I tell them is to relax,” said Dr. George Novan, who led many of the sessions. “Everyone has gone through this before.” On the first day, “I think everyone is in shock.”
The students at WSU Spokane are among only 235 accepted out of 6,500 applicants this year for University of Washington’s WWAMI program – a doctor training program for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.
And the path is arduous: prerequisite courses, a successful score on the American Medical Examination Test – a multiple-choice test measuring science knowledge and problem-solving abilities – shadowing physicians, applications and interviews.
Even after a person knows they’ve been accepted, the anticipation of that first day is rough, said Sophie Clark. The 21-year-old was accepted into the WWAMI program on her second application.
Clark, who has bachelor’s degrees in cultural geography and cross-cultural relations, has been working as an emergency medical technician and is interested in rural primary care, which is in high demand for this region.
She and her classmates spent Wednesday learning about their first-year academic courses and expectations for studying, navigating the campus, meeting their instructors, hearing from third- and fourth-year students – and trying to make a diagnosis.
Novan trickled out bits of information about the hypothetical patient and asked the students to work in groups.
“We are asking you to think,” Novan said. “If you don’t know the words, don’t worry, I’ll tell you,” he said. Over the next year, “you’ll be learning 13,000 new words.”
The day ended with a presentation of a stethoscope to each student.
Make time for family, exercise and relaxation, Novan told them. “This is going to be a hard year.”
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