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Anatomy: May the Forceps be with You

Our second year of medical school is over! I can’t believe how fast it went by. I am very excited to start our clinical years and talk to actual patients, but I will definitely miss M2 year and the unique opportunities I have had at Michigan Medicine.

My favorite part about this year started last May, when I was asked if I would be interested in working for our Anatomy Department’s BlueLink team over the summer. BlueLink is an educational resource for the anatomy courses offered at the University of Michigan that utilizes a plethora of multimedia and lab resources to enhance the anatomy experience. My role on the team was to perform detailed dissections for photographs used in lab manuals and online study resources. Needless to say, I was thrilled to accept. Anatomy was easily my favorite course of first year, and this was a chance to continue my education in an intensive way.

Over the summer, my concentration was on head and neck anatomy for the new dental student lab manuals. I had never enjoyed a job as much as this one. The Department of Anatomy is filled with fantastic faculty and my fellow team members were a joy to work with. When the fall came around and classes started, I decided I couldn’t give it up. It was too much fun to walk away from. And lucky for me I didn’t, because with the fall came exciting new opportunities: the chance to be a teaching assistant for M1 and undergraduate anatomy courses and to work on an unprecedented project: constructing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for anatomy!

Though my part in the MOOC was small, I continued to do what I love best and dissect. The faculty and other team members worked to create a comprehensive course for anatomy that is free and open to the public. The first course opened for enrollment is Anatomy: Musculoskeletal and Integumentary Systems. In January, it was recognized as one of the top 10 most popular MOOCs of 2017 based on enrollment numbers. Considering world class faculty were teaching the course, it was no surprise to me that it quickly rose to the top. Stay tuned for the next segments because trust me, you won’t want to miss them.

Working for the Department of Anatomy is easily one of the things I am most proud of from this year. The friends I made and the mentoring I received are unforgettable. My last day ended with a salute to the team, and nothing could have been more fitting as I take off into M3 year.

Almost M4s

It’s hard to believe that we now have less than two weeks before we finish our last M3 required rotation. On one hand, it seemed like that the clerkships have been flying by, but it’s also hard to imagine a time without the clinical knowledge I have amassed. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to be coming to the end of my M3 year. I have learned and grown so much, but I am looking forward to greater flexibility in my schedule and electives during M4 year.

March and April are still technically part of M3 year, where we partake in career electives before officially being considered M4s. We assembled our schedule for that back in November/December; now we’re working on scheduling the rest of our M4 year. Our current system allows us to select one class at a time for your top two choices in a similar system to the NFL draft. Then, after everyone has selected each of those individually, there will be an open enrollment period for choosing the remainder of our schedule. Picking our new classes definitely makes us excited (and a little apprehensive) about the year ahead. That means it’s time to start getting ready to apply for residency (*shudders*).

Right now, we’re still in the transition between curricula, so our system for core clerkships/M4 electives will not apply to future classes. The core clerkships will transition to M2 year, freeing up more time for career electives and M4 experiences as part of the Branches. I’m excited for the chance to have more elective time, especially since I plan to apply in Family Medicine. With my upcoming schedule, I will hopefully have time to explore complimentary fields that will prove valuable in my future practice. Like Dermatology, where I can learn to recognize the scary rashes vs the not-so-scary rashes and how to best manage them.

After our last shelf of M3 year at the end of next week, we’ll have two weeks of Intersession, including taking the M4 CCA (Comprehensive Clinical Assessment), UMMS’s version of USMLE Step 2 CS.

Around this time, the current M2s will also be entering the wards for the first time, beginning their “M3” core rotations. It’s definitely quite a ride, but an incredibly enjoyable one. Good luck to them!

Earlier this season, the Michigan Marching Band performed on the court during halftime at a Michigan Men’s Basketball game. Including the drum major performing a back bend!

eMpower: Succeeding Together through Peer Mentorship

Hello from Jonathan (M2) and Kylie (M3)!

Over the summer, we had the chance to sit down and reflect on our time in medical school thus far. A major theme that kept popping up was peer mentorship, and the vital role it has played in positively shaping our experiences at UMMS. Over the last year or so (by complete chance quite frankly), we both befriended different upperclassmen who have offered invaluable guidance to us as we progress along our journeys towards becoming physicians. They have provided support across the board, from how to best study for anatomy, to introducing us to student groups or research opportunities that best fit our interests.

As we talked more and more about this, the two of us began to wonder… Wouldn’t it be great if we could create more opportunities for peer mentorship in medical school? Why doesn’t a space like this exist, where M1-M4s and MSTP students can come together to have discussions about the obstacles many of us face, as well as strategies to overcome them?

With the help of two other passionate M3s, Alia Ahmed and Christine Wu, the four of us decided to create that space. We polled students for their perspective, worked closely with UMMS faculty within the M-Home learning community, conglomerated our ideas and soon enough, UMMS’s newest peer mentorship program was born — and we named it eMpower.

In designing eMpower, instead of the traditional dyadic mentoring format, we decided to try something new: small group mentorship. We envisioned these groups, composed of students from all years, meeting periodically to discuss topics that medical students frequently seek guidance in. The topics we ultimately decided on were: succeeding academically, discovering one’s path through extracurriculars and research, finding wellness, and thriving in the clinical environment.

For the first year of the program we had nearly 300 students sign-up! This then led to the creation of 19 different small groups where students could ask questions freely, discover newfound interests, and reflect on the challenging, yet exciting road ahead.

We recently held an eMpower session that focused on providing mentorship for the clinical years. M3 and M4 students shared what being a clinical student is like with the M1 and M2 students in their small groups. Many students talked about some of their best experiences, some of their most difficult ones, and emphasized the importance of resiliency during these years.

Five sessions later, the inaugural year of eMpower is coming to a close (as is this lengthy blog post). Helping to develop this mentorship program has been an exciting process, and we feel fortunate to be at an institution like UMMS, which supports its students in transforming their ideas into reality. We look forward to seeing how this program will continue to grow and evolve next year! If you’re an incoming M1 reading this, we look forward to you joining us next year, where students are committed to building a strong medical school community that empowers one another to achieve both personal and professional success.


Jonathan and Kylie

Biorhythms 2017!

Twice a year, I am amazed by the talent and grace (and silliness) of my classmates in our medical school dance show — Biorhythms.

January 2017 Biorhythms performers. Photocred: M2 Rana Kabeer

This year I participated in the dance “Racy Desi,” which featured Bollywood music. I really looked forward to our Monday night practices for the chance to take a study break, see some wonderful people, and move to fun music. Even if I started practice thinking about the never-ending list of lecture and research tasks, I would always end it smiling (and marveling at the boundless energy of one of our choreographers, Nikki). Biorhythms was also a great chance to get to know classmates and students in other years who we wouldn’t otherwise meet. I’m so grateful for our wonderful directors, Karlie, Chrystina, and Connor, who put their energy into creating such a great show!

“Racy Desi” dance group. Photocred: Rana Kabeer

Schoolwise, we just wrapped up our Hematology sequence, the last one of our pre-clinical education. We are now completing a capstone course prior to starting on the wards. As an M2, it has been rewarding to see the same physiologic principles appear in different organ systems throughout the year. For example, my understanding of immunology has been greatly strengthened by seeing its topics reappear in infectious disease last year, and then in renal, rheumatology, and hematology this year. Every time when we add a new layer of clinical presentation, I find that my comprehension of the basic principles is strengthened. Which is good, because immunology made a lot less sense the first time around last year!

In the next few weeks, I look forward to consolidating some of our basic science knowledge, and then taking a few weeks off to recharge before the next big adventure: M3!

Reaching the End of M2

Happy New Year! It’s 2017, and the M2s are quickly wrapping up with our preclinical curriculum. In six weeks, we will bid goodbye to the lecture halls and anatomy labs for good, don our short white coats, and step into the hospital. I can’t wait! Between now and then, we have a two-week Hematology/Oncology unit (our last unit of new material!), a two-week review period, and a two-week vacation. The vacation is a particularly nice and unexpected gift; it will be wonderful to take a break to relax and fill our sleep reserves before hitting the wards.

Our clinical rotations (these are traditionally done during the M3 year, but we’re getting a head start due to Michigan’s updated curriculum) include blocks spent working with Internal Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Neurology, and Psychiatry. We’ll be working in clinic six days a week, though the specific hours will vary depending on which service we are with. I’ve been told I’ll be very busy, but that I’ll also feel more engaged and enjoy clinic more than lectures. Hopefully it works out that way! I start on Pediatrics, and I’m excited to simply dive in and see what working in the hospital and clinics is all about. That, after all, is what I came to medical school to do! Most of my classmates feel the same way: somewhat nervous since there are so many unknowns about working on the wards, but also excited to get started. As much as we’ve learned thus far, I know we’ll learn even more during our clinical time, adding real life experience to what we’ve memorized from our text books and lectures.

Last week we had a short Rheumatology unit, in which we learned about autoimmune conditions affecting the joints. Now that we are reaching the end of our preclinical material, a lot of this unit was review of concepts we’ve seen before. It was nice to see things a second time; while I definitely needed the review, things were a bit easier to remember this time around.


The Botanical Gardens had an exhibit of “botanical clothing.”


I managed to take the test on Friday (we have from Friday afternoon until Sunday night to take our weekly quizzes or exams), which meant I had an entire weekend to enjoy! My free days allowed me to take full advantage of some of Ann Arbor’s many great things to do. On Saturday I went to a movie at the beautiful historic Michigan Theater and had coffee downtown with my parents. Sunday was very cold but beautifully sunny, so I bundled up and went for a run by the Huron River – one of my favorite things to do here whether winter or summer! I spent the afternoon at the UM Matthaei Botanical Gardens, enjoying the warm steamy air and many-colored plants, and finished up the weekend with a game night featuring Settlers of Catan. School keeps me busy, so I always appreciate free time and try to make the most of it.

Stay warm out there!


Life Outside Medicine

What if I told you there was life outside medicine? Cheesy, I know, but I’d like you to take a second to imagine the possibilities that await you when you attend a university such as Michigan—one that fosters exploration of all your talents. Well, if your imagination is still dulled from overindulgence this holiday season, I’ll try to paint a vivid, tropical picture for you.

The JerkxJollof team is a diverse group of past and present University of Michigan students with (or earning) degrees in medicine, engineering, social work and music.

Though romantic, I sought to examine this problem similarly to how we are taught medicine: holistically and sometimes seemingly paradoxically. But like any medication hoping to breach the market, this theory had to be explored before being put into practice. Michigan’s flextime quizzing gave me the opportunity I needed by allowing me additional time to frequent Toronto, a flourishing, unapologetically diverse international city that nurtured the concept of promoting diversity through celebration.

Realizing the need for such untraveled avenues, my friends and I set out to address the theme of celebration by creating a space where individuals could rejoice and learn about rich African and Caribbean culture. Borrowing the name from a past graduation event, JerkXJollof (pronounced Jerk and Jollof) was born. The name embodies both the Caribbean and African diaspora respectively through two native dishes: Jerk, a fiery Jamaican cooking style, and Jollof, a spicy West African rice dish. Through Soca/Afrobeat-themed parties we call “experiences,” we pride ourselves in sparking discourse with culture, cuisine and nightlife.

These community outreach initiatives are just one of the many endeavors I’ve been able and encouraged to pursue far outside the boundaries of traditional medicine. I can confidently say that here at Michigan, we’re not just cultivating doctors, but nurturing people because we are encouraged to explore the fringes of our curiosity and passions alike. It is these experiences and adventures trailing humanity, independent of the hospital, that often guides and provides the inspiration required to solve complex medical anomalies. Just like healing is more than physical, and life is busier than a single lane highway, there is more life outside medicine.

The team standing in the heart of downtown Detroit in business wear depicting the dichotomy between work and play.

Attracting more than 800 people, New Year’s Eve proved to be the largest experience yet. This stage view captures the crowd’s excitement as patrons anticipate the midnight countdown.

Happy New Year! A team of drummers is seen playing traditional African beats at the stroke of midnight.

JxJ rule number one: come as you are. While some patrons wear traditional outfits, others prefer a more casual look.

Guests are encouraged to bring flags, like the Ghanaian one pictured above, to represent the wide array of ethnic and cultural identities present at the event.