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My Journey to Clinical Sciences

When it came time to move back to the U.S. from Antigua, I was initially nothing but excited. I really enjoyed my year and a half in Antigua but I was more than ready to come home and move onto the clinical side of medical school. After being back in the U.S. for five months, I realized how much I miss life on the island. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I don’t think I would trade it for anything.

I left Antigua in July and had a month of self-study at home before my 5th-semester rotation at Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC) in Staten Island. The 5th-semester rotation for students in the old curriculum is six weeks long and is run a bit differently at each site. At RUMC, we rotated through a different unit of the hospital every week, in groups of four or five. We rotated through the GI endoscopy suite, emergency department, oncology/hematology, the outpatient clinic, a doctor’s office, and a week of history physical exam lectures.

The entire rotation in Staten Island was a great learning experience. I just wish it had been a little bit longer. When I was in the emergency department, I was able to diagnose a patient with upper arm weakness as having recently had a stroke.  Being able to recognize a certain disease or condition that you have been reading about for the last 16 months is a rewarding experience.  Once you make the connection from textbook to a real life, it really engraves the condition in your mind.

While in Staten Island, I was lucky to be in a diverse group – each student had a different strength. We were able to teach each other what we knew and build our collective knowledge. The saying “you don’t know a topic until you can teach it to someone else” holds true in so many ways in the medical world.

During my 5th-semester rotation, I finished registering for USMLE Step 1 and set my official test date. My date was somewhere around one month after I finished in Staten Island. I gave myself that extra month to finish my question bank, write some practice NBME exams, and touch up on my weaker subjects. That extra month was just enough for me as I found myself hitting a study wall about a week before my test date. I knew that if I waited any longer, I would start to lose points.

The exam itself is an extremely long day. I used almost the entire eight hours (down to the last few seconds). When I submitted the last section, I let out a sigh of relief and went home to begin the three-week wait for my score. Three weeks after I finished the exam, I received an email from the ECFMG saying my score report was ready to be viewed.

I was ecstatic when I saw the words ‘PASS’ in the middle of the first page. I printed out my score report and sent it into the Clinical Sciences department. I made sure to send it as fast as I could so I could start the credentialing process. My hope was to get my paperwork together and get a rotation at the beginning of the New Year.

The credentialing process is extremely straight forward, especially after already going through the process of submitting documents for 5th-semester. I had a few documents that had to be updated and resubmitted. I found it helpful to make an Excel spreadsheet with expiration dates for all of my documents. That way I know what is expiring and when I have to update it so that I can get it to my coordinator well in advance.

The toughest part is waiting for credentialing to happen, since it only happens twice a month.  Once I received the email about my documents being accepted, I just had to wait for my clinical coordinator to assign me a rotation and that happened within a week! My coordinator sent me an email letting me know that I had been assigned my first rotation. At the beginning of the year, I began a six-week rotation in Family Medicine in Decatur, GA.

I am currently getting everything together and working out the logistics for a move from Arizona to Georgia, but I am very excited to be starting my core rotations.

by Justin Capasso, Class of 2013