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 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