“It was interesting to watch how my classmates reacted in a pressure-filled situation,” said Kasen Culler, a first-year student describing a teamwork exercise at Northwestern Simulation, one part of the medical school’s Introduction to the Profession Week.
Led by David Salzman, ’05 MD, ’09 GME, MEd, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and of Medical Education, a group of students were confronted with a scenario: standing in line for coffee, another patron begins having chest pain. With a Northwestern Simulation team member supplying the voice for a simulated patient mannequin, the students inquired about the patient’s medical history, opened the mannequin’s airway and performed chest compressions.
“It was a good teamwork-building exercise,” Culler said. “It gave us a chance to practice the basic life support we recently learned, but in a sophisticated environment.”
This exercise, among others, is part of the unique approach of Introduction to the Profession Week: impressing upon students the unique responsibilities of the medical profession.
The week of activities is designed to establish several core competencies in the new medical students, areas of focus that familiarize them with the role of a physician. These competencies include ethics, teamwork, communication, patient-centered care, quality improvement and personal awareness and self-care.
During interactive lectures, small group discussions and team-based learning, the importance of those competencies are highlighted. In addition, the students participate in patient care or clinical experiences, such as observing a faculty member conduct a patient interview and visiting a community health center.
For Culler, who spent a year before starting medical school at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab investigating powered leg prostheses under Levi Hargrove, PhD, associate professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, these experiences highlighted areas of medicine with which he was somewhat unfamiliar.
“The aim of our research at the AbilityLab was to make it easier for patients with amputations to transition between different modes of ambulation — for example, going from level walking to walking up a ramp,” Culler said. “I was interested in research experience that allowed me to interact with patients while at the same time use my engineering degree, as I really enjoyed the engineering side of things when I was an undergrad.”
Visiting and speaking with care providers at the Howard Area Community Center was a markedly different experience, but one that Culler said he found valuable.
“There are lots of barriers to providing care for people,” Culler said. “As future physicians, I thought that was great to talk with people we can work with to improve the health of our society and communities outside of the hospital.”
Likewise, observing a physician-patient interaction prompted Culler to consider how he might act in that situation.
“It’s valuable to start thinking about the ways that we can be good listeners and provide support at the same time,” Culler said. “We might run into difficulties with communication that are entirely separate from the care aspect, and we have to learn how to deal with that.”
The end of Introduction to the Profession Week is marked by Founders’ Day, a celebration of Feinberg’s history and the official start of the academic year. Here, first-year students don their white coats for the first time and recite the Declaration of Geneva, a modern day interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath.