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There are always a million and one things to learn, but somehow we still manage to be involved in a million and one things outside of school. This fall I’ve felt particularly fortunate, in that many academic aspects of life have overlapped so seamlessly with my extracurricular interests. During the Clinical Foundations of Medicine course, for instance, I took two electives entitled “Narrative Medicine” and “Medical Humanities and Biblical Literature.” The narrative course reminded me just how powerful writing can be as a reflective tool; I’d almost forgotten how deeply wonderful it is to take the time to process, introspect, and write. I’m fairly certain I wrote about parts of life and school that I didn’t even realize I felt so passionately about until I paused. Reflecting is funny like that. The best part of that class, though, was interviewing early-onset Alzheimer’s patients and creating a piece of writing based on the conversation. The more I learn and grow, the more I realize that my greatest fear may be losing my memory, so it was a surprisingly emotional experience. (The thought of not being able to read myself a bedtime story — let alone academic materials — is much more terrifying that any physical disability that comes to mind.) I also simply enjoyed the interaction, though, and I am actually returning to the Turner Center this afternoon to help geriatric patients set up access to their online patient portal.

The “Medical Humanities” class was equally wonderful and quite unlike anything else I’ve done in med school. We read from the Old Testament, we talked about physician burnout, we became acquainted with mindfulness, and we visited botanical gardens. It’d be difficult to explain how it all came together, but to give you a taste, here are some of the photos I took when prompted to “find inspiration by reading Solomon’s ‘Song of Songs’ and go in search of erotic images in the garden.” When we came back together as a group, we discussed the meaning and stories we imagined behind the images we’d captured.

On a different note, I was able to attend the AAMC conference in Chicago last week, where a couple classmates and I presented a poster on our active learning project. Essentially, we have been working to better prepare incoming students for their role in small groups, beginning with an M1 orientation activity that teaches facilitation techniques. Using one of Atul Gawande’s books as fodder for discussion, we work on moderating skills before M1s even start their courses. People at the conference seemed to be excited about the idea, and we gave away close to 100% of our “Facilitator’s Guide” handouts!