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Hello! My name is Shannon Flynn, and I am a proud member of the University of Michigan Medical School Class of 2013. Having been a regular reader of the Dose of Reality blogs for the past four years (my sister, who is currently an M4 here at the U of M, got me hooked during her application process), I am thrilled to be on the other side of the computer and to have the opportunity to share my experiences with the Michigan medical community. 

Let me begin with a little more information about myself. I recently turned twenty-three and am from Guilford, Connecticut, a small shoreline town. I attended Harvard for undergrad, although I must say that Michigan has always held a special place in my heart…My parents—both of whom attended the U of M and are absolute diehard Michigan football fans—love to tell friends, neighbors, and (even more embarrassingly) strangers who happen to be sporting Michigan apparel that my first words were “Go Blue!” Needless to say, they shared in my excitement when I chose to enroll in medical school at the University of Michigan last year.

Since I am starting this blog one month into my second year of medical school, I won’t even attempt to summarize my entire M1 year in one paragraph…it was definitely too busy for that! I will say that, overall, my first year as a med student was an amazing experience. As with any transition, there was definitely an adjustment period for me in going from a liberal arts college curriculum to the fast-paced, two to four week sequences each centered on an organ system. The weekly quizzes and exams that accompany these academic blocks require quite a bit of hard work and self-discipline. Nonetheless, there is something immensely satisfying at the end of each sequence when I skim through my several hundred-page course pack—absolutely covered in my hastily scrawled handwriting—and reflect on the breadth and depth of the material we have learned in such a short period of time. Although I would be remiss to imply that this is anywhere near the mastery of information that is required of a proficient physician (or even a clinical medical student), it is nonetheless an accomplishment, and one that I believe is providing my classmates and me with a solid foundation to a career in which knowledge attainment and synthesis is fundamental.

While lectures and exams undoubtedly occupied a substantial portion of my first year of medical school, my most memorable moments as an M1 largely occurred outside of the classroom setting. From multidisciplinary conferences, in which University of Michigan patients and family members selflessly share their most personal and heart-wrenching encounters with illness to an auditorium full of medical students, to standardized patients (trained individuals on whom we have the opportunity to practice history taking and physical exams), there are constant reminders that communication and compassion are absolutely critical to the practice of medicine. For me, these experiences, which are sprinkled throughout the preclinical years, provide a constant reaffirmation of my decision to enter this profession, as well as a nice reminder that medical school is about far more than just passing the next exam.

I realize that I am already bordering on too long of a first blog post, but I will quickly add that medical school thus far has definitely not been all work and no play. Over my first year, I found a pleasantly surprising amount of time for activities outside of the classroom. My class is an incredibly active group, and I have spent many afternoons playing pick-up or intramural soccer, basketball, and ultimate Frisbee with fellow med students. I was also able to get involved with several student organizations through the medical school, such as the American Medical Women’s Association and Galens Medical Society, both of which have a heavy community service focus. Another highlight of last year was a spring break trip to Cuba in February, a service trip offered by the medical school. The visit gave me and eleven of my classmates an amazing opportunity to see a healthcare system that is entirely different from our own, as well as to explore the culture of Havana.

So far, I have not found M2 year to be too different from my first year. Although there are a couple more hours of lecture every day, I think most of my classmates would agree that the material is even more interesting and clinically relevant than last year, and that the workload is therefore certainly manageable. In the month since we’ve been back from our last summer break ever (as our professors frequently like to remind us), we have already completed the cardiovascular and respiratory sequences, and we start renal tomorrow. The eleven week summer break was definitely a welcomed change of pace, but I’ll admit that it’s nice to be back into the swing of school. There’s a hint of crispness in the air, the leaves are just starting to change color, and—best of all—Michigan football is off to a 3-0 start…there’s nothing quite like autumn in Ann Arbor!