April 14, 2020

Student Insights: Spotlight on First-Year Students

Written by

As year one of medical school comes to a close, our co-coordinators reached out to a few of their fellow MS1s to chat about what this year has meant to them, what they’ve enjoyed the most, and how it has lived up to or differed from their expectations.

Ingram.Clark sizedClark Ingram

Hello! My name is Clark Ingram, and I am an MS1 from Huntsville. Congratulations on your acceptance to UABSOM! Hopefully I will meet you all in the future!

How did you find it adjusting to medical school?
It was much easier than I expected considering I graduated from college four years ago. Since I had been out of the classroom for all that time, I was afraid that it would take me a while to get the hang of being a student again. For any other “non-traditional” students out there, it was actually a really enjoyable process. It’s helpful to know that there are many options available for you to learn the material and you can find the method that works best for you.

What has surprised you the most about medical school?
I was surprised by how much I enjoy being in medical school. Going into school, I thought it would be a long, grueling process on the path to becoming a physician, but it has honestly been some of the best times of my life. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to build a knowledge base and then be able to apply that to patient scenarios and real patients.

What are some of your favorite things about UABSOM?
I have really loved the people I have met at UAB including the students, faculty, and staff. It is inspiring to be surrounded by so many motivated people and I have met many friends that share my similar interests. I love playing soccer and exploring Birmingham, and there is always someone to experience new things with. The upperclassmen have been very helpful with giving us advice and helping us navigate school. The faculty have also been very helpful and open to shadowing opportunities and I have had the privilege of shadowing in many different specialties and surgeries.

What has been your favorite module so far in medical school?
My favorite module has been Cardiology. It was our first organ module, and it was amazing to watch our instructors incorporate physiology, pathology, clinical scenarios, and treatments throughout the module. I have a history of heart disease in my family, and it was interesting to learn about pathology and treatments relevant to the issues I have experienced in my own life.  

What are some of the ways that you have gotten involved at UABSOM?
I have gotten involved with the Office for Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) as a Diversity Ambassador. I have really enjoyed this role because it gives me the opportunity to meet with applicants and answer their questions. We are also connected with students from all over the country and talk to them about UABSOM. I am also involved with mentoring undergraduate students at UAB who are interested in medical school. I feel that I had a haphazard route to medical school, and I like to think that I can help others find a clearer path.

If you could tell yourself anything before you matriculated, what would you say?
It is important to come into school with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. It is easy to focus on a certain path and be narrow minded, but take time to learn and enjoy the process.


Feng.Wendy sizedWendy Feng

Congrats on your acceptance to UABSOM! My name is Wendy Feng, I’m an MS1, and I’ll be one of the OLs for your upcoming orientation.

A little about me: I grew up in Vestavia Hills, attended undergrad in NYC, and was excited to return home to pursue my medical education at UAB. My passion for medicine is both personal (I watched someone very close to me suffer from cancer) and professional (I was always interested in and good at the biological sciences, and I wanted to use these strengths to help others). Looking forward to meeting you. Feel free to reach out!

How has it been adjusting to medical school?
Since I took a couple of gap years before medical school, I knew it would take some time to get back into a school mindset. It had been a hot second since I sat in lecture, took notes, studied, taken a test, etc. However, I’d say the break was also advantageous in that it allowed me to more easily adjust my undergrad study habits to better accommodate medical school. 

What has been your favorite class/module so far?
To be honest, I don’t particularly like or dislike any class or module. To me, every block is important and will be tested on Step, so I try not to get caught up in whether or not I like them.But if I had to choose, it would be cardio because:

  1. It was our first organ module (Novelty Effect??)
  2. The professors were incredible. This time next year, you’ll have had the pleasure of learning from them
  3. Something just clicked for me. After this module, I began to consider cardiology as a potential career choice

What has been the hardest adjustment?
Medical school is a different type of learning than I personally enjoy—lots of memorization, not as much logical reasoning. You hear people say that “medical school is hard,” but I don’t think the difficulty is necessarily in the understanding of material but the sheer volume of it. Luckily, there are a lot of cool resources to help you along the way!

What has surprised you most about medical school?
How normal everyone is. Pre-meds in undergrad get a bad rep for being “Type A.” Of course, you have your Type As and your Type Bs in medical school, but I’ve been able to have unique and engaging conversations with everyone in my class. I find my classmates to be down-to-earth and caring, and they all have their own personal and professional motivations for wanting to be a physician.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell “pre-matriculated” you?
To take every fundamentals block seriously. It’s easy to brush things off in fundamentals because it’s purely pass/fail with no honors. However, the material ends up coming up again in organ modules, so if you learned it really well the first time, it’ll be a lot easier to deal with the second time. I think of medical school like a (massive) bucket holding a finite amount of information. You have to learn it all at some point, so the more you commit to memory earlier on, the easier your life will become Step 1. 

Any final thoughts/advice?
There’s a light at the end of this seemingly long, dark tunnel. When I start to feel burnt out from the constant cycle of studying/testing/studying/testing, I remind myself that this grind ends after second year. Medical school changes drastically starting third year (it’s a different kind of grind!), and having a definitive endpoint makes it a little easier to get through.


Alabi Tawa sizedTawa Alabi

I am currently a first-year medical student in the UABSOM Primary Care Track program, which means that I will complete most of my clinical rotations at the Tuscaloosa campus.

I was born in Lome, Togo, a small French-speaking country in West Africa, known for its famous soccer player Adebayor Sheyi and for the friendliness of its inhabitants. About ten years ago, I moved to the U.S. to live with my father in Minneapolis, Minn., which I now call home.

I worked as a clinical research assistant for three years before joining UABSOM as a student. I managed several projects related to health outcomes and survivorship among children and young adults with cancer. It was during this experience that my interest in becoming a physician crystallized. Prior to that job, my interests involved biochemical research on HIV replication. I studied chemistry at Carleton College, one of the small liberal arts colleges niched in Northfield, MN--the town of cows, colleges, and contentment!

Outside of academics, I enjoy learning more about pushing the limits of my body and as such have trained in Shorin-Ryu Karate. I am currently learning to Egyptian belly dance.

How has it been adjusting to medical school?
So far, adjusting to medical school is like going for a rollercoaster ride, especially if you are afraid of heights like I am. It is possible to accomplish the work needed to pass the classes; however, I had to become flexible. Just like at the beginning of a ride, you’re excited and nervous at the same time about what lays ahead. The first hill or the first weeks are uncontestably the hardest to surmount. They are emotionally and physically challenging because you have to experiment and figure out what works for you. You experience a disconnect between the overwhelming amount of work needed and your ability to see this through to the end. However, once I accepted that I have to continually adjust my methods, the process became more bearable. I even had enjoyable moments where the ride was not too bumpy!

What has been your favorite class/module so far?
Microbiology was my favorite subject, mainly because it allowed me to learn more about the infectious disease world beyond my research on HIV. Besides, it allowed me to reconcile such knowledge with the elementary microbiology I had learned in French while in high school.

What has been the hardest adjustment?
Finding time to exercise regularly. Although I dance once a week, I hope to incorporate a more vigorous activity in my schedule.

What has surprised you most about medical school?
I surprisingly enjoy all of the contents of the curriculum because of their practicality in understanding the human body. I particularly enjoy giving more information to my parents about the reasons why their physicians prescribed them a certain drug or activity.

Looking back, what is something you wish you had done prior to matriculating?
I would have taken immunology (my hardest block in med school so far) and studied abroad in a Spanish-speaking country so that I could better maintain my communication skills in that language.