Reflections by the “COVID class”

DMU Magazine asked several second-year student leaders to reflect on their first year of medical school, which they had done largely virtually and off campus. Now that they are on campus (albeit with face coverings required), they look back on their time as a “COVID class” and look forward to careers in a changed world.

“Something that I’ve always enjoyed is talking with my professors. I love staying after class to have a chat and ask questions. That was hard to do via Zoom. Now that we’re back in person, I value that time with faculty even more. I feel like we’re human again, not robots on a screen. “Doing everything virtually, I had my schedule perfectly set. I didn’t have to include any drive time. Now I get to campus and there are no parking spots. Everyone wants to be with each other.”

Ogechi Okafor, D.P.M.’24, M.S., vice president, Student National Podiatric Medical Association

“Starting medical school during the pandemic was really hard. It was hard to meet people, it was hard to stay motivated, it was hard to focus when all I did most days was sit at a computer, watching Zoom lectures and doing flashcards. I wondered if I was getting the education I needed. “Going back to in-person, on-campus activities and classes has been incredible. Instead of a few people whispering in masks, campus is a lively, bustling, energizing environment where a student can meet and make friends on a regular basis.”

Royal Cole, D.O.’24, vice president, College of Osteopathic Medicine Student Government Association

“If anything, the pandemic has confirmed my decision that we need more high-quality practitioners working during times like this. I truly believe DMU fosters an environment that pushes students to their potential while also allowing for emotional growth so we can connect with our future patients.”

Scott Chanthongthip, D.P.M.’24, president, Podiatric Medicine Advocacy

“I feel very strongly that hands-on experience, whether it be with cadavers, real standardized patients or practicing skills on each other, are our most important learning experiences. While our instructors did the best they could considering the circumstances, I felt robbed of valuable opportunities to learn and grow. I knew that I wasn’t learning certain skills virtually as well as I would have in person and couldn’t help but wonder if I would be less prepared on my clinical rotations and in residency because of it. That was very challenging for me.”

Dallan Blotter, D.O.’24, president, Student Osteopathic Orthopedic Association

“The one thing I am grateful for is that we are finally now able to meet on campus and interact face to face with one another. My classmates are no longer just a mosaic of talking heads within just another Zoom meeting. I absolutely look forward to waving, saying hello and complaining about classes with just about anyone I have had the pleasure of meeting so far. It is truly therapeutic to finally meet my class.”

Erik Johnson, D.O.’24, vice president, Anatomy Ambassadors Club

“In my first days on campus [this fall], I have had more genuine conversations with classmates, laughed more and discovered how passionate and devoted the professors are in an in-person setting. “The pandemic has solidified my desire to go into health care immensely. Health care can be a mess, it is certainly not easy, but to see the passion and sacrifice ALL health care workers have made to fight this pandemic truly shows I made the right choice.”

Seth Krueger, D.P.M.’24, president, American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine; CPMS student ambassador; teaching assistant, clinical medicine and ultrasound

“Being stuck to my laptop watching lecture after lecture was difficult when I knew there was a group of future physicians in my class that I could really bond with at DMU and for years to come. “There is no doubt that starting classes during a pandemic is strange. However, the faculty members of the D.P.T. Department made this rather unusual transition easy. Faculty provided us students with tons of resources and assistance that set us up for early success in the classroom.”

Ian Malaby, D.P.T.’23, CSCS, treasurer, Physical Therapy Club

“Being the extrovert I am, I feel like missing the campus life is what I struggled with the most. I love being around people, talking, interacting, you name it.”

Mohamed AbdelGilil, D.P.M.’24, president, College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Class of 2024; CPMS student ambassador; liaison, Faculty, Staff and Student Diversity Council; president, Muslim Student Association; vice president, Global Health Club; teaching assistant, clinical medicine and ultrasound

“I think the pandemic has highlighted the importance of sharing evidence-based information with the public, patients and fellow practitioners. In our country right now, things can get politicized so quickly, and health care has fallen victim to this the past year and a half. It just reminds me to keep compassion, patients and evidence at the center of my future practice.”

Kati Cassabaum, D.P.T.’23, president, College of Health Sciences Student Government Association

“It is weird seeing your classmates for about the first time after being together for a year already, but it definitely adds to the enjoyment of classes. It is also slightly bizarre to see the doctors and professors walking the halls. It was almost like they were these mythical figures of knowledge and not real people. “Being able to help people in difficult times is the crux of the [health care] profession. Problem-solving and perseverance are traits that health care providers possess that allow them to find answers to unique problems such as this.”

Tyler Gray, D.P.M.’24, president, Podiatric Practice Management and Journal Club; surgery teaching assistant

“Before starting medical school, one of the things I was really looking forward to was anatomy lab. I worked at the DMU Clinic front desk, screening patients [for the coronavirus], which was cool but not hands-on. I was able to volunteer at the Grace Church free clinic for two shifts. I would have liked to have had more shifts, but they were filled up by other DMU students.”

Tom Givens, D.O.’24, lead ultrasound teaching assistant and treasurer, American Medical Student Association; teaching assistant, clinical medicine; treasurer, Homeless Community Outreach

“My favorite part of being back on campus is teaching classmates in the Surgery Simulation Center. Surgery simulation is a great way to break up the classroom work, build applicable skills and have some fun. The class is very rich in diversity of life experiences. We have classmates with backgrounds in health care, engineering, research, conservation and much more. We finally have the chance to work together, which is reflected in the richness of conversations we have.”

Michael Poplawski, D.O.’24, president, American College of Osteopathic Surgeons, Medical Student Section; secretary, Sigma Sigma Phi, teaching assistant, Surgery Skills Lab

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