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Medical students reflect on first year at UHCOM

After a year of ups and downs, UH College of Medicine’s students officially wrapped up their first year of medical school.

UH College of Medicine’s students officially wrapped up their first year of medical school. As they reflect on their challenges and triumphs, students look forward to their second year. | File Photo

After a year of ups and downs, UH College of Medicine students officially wrapped up their first year of medical school.

The students are recognized for being the medical school’s first cohort and having a unique semester as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the February winter storm.

For some, like second-year medical student Nabeel Ahmad, the unpredictable events made it difficult to adjust as a new student.

“My first year was tough,” Ahmad said. “Dealing with Covid, adjusting to a rigorous curriculum, trying to be warm in a rare winter storm and a hurricane scare was not easy. I made it because of my support system, which I am incredibly thankful for.”

Ahmad said all of these events went on to teach about perseverance and the importance of a growth mindset.

A persevering attitude also contributed to second-year medical student Breanna Chachere’s success. Chachere revealed how her first year felt like a mix of triumphs and challenges. 

“Starting medical school at a brand new school in the middle of the pandemic felt surreal,” Chachere said. “For the first few months, I would wake up, get out of bed, go through my morning routine and then sit down at my computer to attend class. It was more challenging for our class to create a class culture and to celebrate milestones that other first-year medical students typically get when they are in person and when they have more advanced students to guide them.”

The course load and steep learning curve presented itself as a wake-up call to Chachere and Ahmad after struggling in some of their classes.

Despite the disappointment, their scores pushed them to establish a good study plan and increasingly gain confidence in their studying and clinical skills for success.

In addition to adapting to a new school, Chachere experienced another challenge after her father died. Before he died, she utilized skills learned in her classes to advocate for the proper care of her father.

“It was challenging for me to lose someone so close to me and to navigate grief and loss in the middle of an already challenging experience,” Chachere said. “My father was so proud of me, so I am committed to (making) him proud by finishing medical school and using this experience to better serve my patients.”

“I am committed to advocating for stroke prevention awareness and ensuring access to quality care and optimum health outcomes for low-income and underserved patients like my father,” Chachere continued.

But despite the challenges endured, both Chachere and Ahmad rose to the occasion with the rest of their cohort. Together, they created a tight-knit community providing support to one another through the resources available.

“As the founding class, we call ourselves the pioneers,” Chachere said. “We started sharing resources and would create practice quizzes and exams so that we would all feel fully prepared for our exams – these types of opportunities allowed us to create a little family and helped us grow through the challenges together.”

As they enter their second year, Ahmad and Chachere are excited about what is awaiting them. For Ahmad, it’s the induction of UHCOM’s second class and playing a part in their success through a newly established mentorship program.

As for Chachere, it’s continuing her growth as a physician with renewed confidence while engaging her peers with volunteer work and advocacy in the Third Ward and East End communities.

“Before we even started our program, my classmates and I gathered together to draft a statement of support addressed to the community after the murder of George Floyd,” Chachere said.  “We wanted the community to know about our school’s mission to partner with communities and eliminate health outcome gaps, and to do so by advocating and speaking out against institutional injustices affecting the health of our patients.”

For UH pre-medical students seeking tips for their medical school journey, Ahmad shared the importance of self-care.

“My advice for pre-meds who are about to enter medical school is to carve out time for yourself,” Ahmad said. “For me, this was blocking off certain weekends to spend time with family or to travel. I used my holidays/long weekends to catch up with them over a meal. Remember to prioritize your health, including your mental health.”

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