One of the best parts about being a fourth year medical student, in my opinion, is being able to pay forward all of the help I got from older students when I was an M1/2/3. This can be done both formally – in the role of a leader of a student org, or informally – over coffee (I’ve heard this. I don’t drink coffee), or simply over email/phone/text.
Alongside fellow fourth year students Kristen Kolberg and Jesse Kelley (and M2 Yoonhee and M3s Caleb and Jessica), I help run SCRUBS – the surgery interest group. Our primary goal is to get students excited about the possibility of a career in a surgical field by providing opportunities to interact with surgical faculty and residents in both professional and social settings. One way we are doing so is through Surgery Olympics, which Kristen wrote an awesome post about a few months back. Briefly, Surgery Olympics is a totally voluntary program that connects teams of three to four M1 students with an M4 coach and a surgical faculty member to learn surgical skills and complete a research project.
We were blown away by the amount of student interest in Surgery Olympics this year, with 84 M1 students (about 1/2 the class!) applying for the program. To put this in perspective, when I participated in Surgery Olympics as an M1, there were about 30 participants. To achieve teams of only four students, this meant we would need to recruit 21 faculty members. Within days, we had recruited all 21 faculty from a wide variety of surgical sub-specialties (trauma, colorectal, transplant, thoracic, endocrine, cardiac, surgical oncology, minimally-invasive, ENT, urology, and plastics). The fact that we were able to do so speaks volumes to the level of commitment from surgical faculty to medical student education and mentorship here at Michigan. We also could not run this program without 21 M4 students who agreed to coach a team, and a number of surgical residents who have volunteered their time to help teach surgical skills throughout the summer. Mentorship from all levels is truly accessible at UMMS.
After running skills training sessions all summer, we just wrapped up the skills competition portion of Surgery Olympics. Teams competed in knot-tying, suturing, and laparoscopic surgery skills. Dr. Reddy’s (thoracic) team won, followed by Dr. Kwakye’s (colorectal) and Dr. Kraft’s (urology). The points that each team earned will carry forward to the research competition, which will take place at Surgery Grand Rounds in April.
Some teams have already submitted abstracts to national surgery conferences and are working to prepare manuscripts. Others have taken on larger projects that they will continue as time allows throughout the clinical year. The great thing about getting involved in a research project early on in medical school is that it allows for longitudinal mentorship throughout the curriculum. These mentors are invaluable as you try to figure out what specialty to apply to regardless of whether or not it is surgical.
It has been a ton of fun for me to help teach surgical skills to the (now) M2 students, a number of whom will be starting their core surgical rotations within weeks. I know that the other M4s who have been coming to teach surgical skills all summer have really enjoyed it as well. Throughout medical school, I have reached out a number of times to the M4 coach and faculty member I had when I was an M1 in Surgery Olympics for advice. I still consider them to be mentors and role models. I hope our current Surgery Olympians find similar value in this experience and that this program continues long after I have left UMMS.