Day 1: Orientation and My First Patient!

by Lorien E. Menhennett

It’s real now. I’m officially an MS-1 (first-year medical student) at Weill Cornell Medical College. And I have the ID badge to prove it.

Yesterday marked day 1 of orientation, which continues the rest of this week with various lectures, receptions, and our white coat ceremony.

Yesterday also marked day 1 of seeing patients. Yes, that’s right! I saw a patient. My job yesterday was just to observe. But before long, I will be working as a “junior clinician” as part of Weill Cornell’s Continuity of Care program. I have a specific patient (whom I met yesterday), and will be responsible for things like attending all of her appointments, making clinic follow-up appointments, providing emotional support via phone (she gets my cell phone number), documenting all our telephone calls in the electronic medical record, and serving as a liaison to the clinic physicians if she has medical questions (I obviously can’t give any medical advice!). As I learn to do things like take a history or perform a physical exam, I will practice those skills with her. The idea is that the patient (who has some complex issues) has an advocate, someone familiar with her situation and medical history helping make sure she gets all the support she needs, and ensuring that all the necessary issues are addressed. In return, I learn about managing chronic medical conditions and interacting with a patient — skills that can’t entirely be taught in the classroom.

When I got to the clinic yesterday for the appointment, the clinic coordinator told me I was “brave” for doing this on my first day of orientation. Perhaps she’s right. But the way I look at it, that’s why I’m here — to learn how to be a doctor. No time like the present.