‘It’s a really unique time:’ Medical students share their struggles with graduating into COVID-19

FAU pre-med and medical students say that coronavirus has given them a new perspective on their future profession.


While it’s a tough time for the medical community at at FAU during the COVID-19 pandemic, some students see it as a learning lesson. Illustration by Alex Liscio.

Fallon Forrestel, Contributing Writer


Amanda Kravitz, a graduating medical student at FAU, thought her match day would go a lot differently.


“Match day” for medical school graduates is where Kravitz and her classmates find out what hospital they’re doing their residency program, an important first step out of medical school.


“Normally match day at FAU is a huge ceremony where your family and friends fly in from across the country and celebrate with you while you open an envelope that tells you your whole future,” said Kravitz.


According to Kravitz, FAU’s match day was conducted March 20 on Webex, a software for video and audio conferencing. The students were able to open their envelopes stating the program in which they matched with in front of faculty members who joined the conference call. 


Although the circumstances make a virtual match day understandable, Kravitz explained how the occasion wasn’t how she pictured.


“That is the biggest day you work toward in medical school,” Kravitz said “It didn’t really have the same effect.”


With classes moved online and traditional on-campus commencement ceremonies scheduled in May cancelled, FAU pre-med and medical students are trying to adjust to the major changes being made — all while entering the medical profession during uncertain times.


According to students from the medical community at FAU, learning online has come with many challenges and unexpected changes. However, a few students who are aspiring doctors say that experiencing COVID-19 before entering the medical field has acted as a learning lesson and given them a new perspective on their future profession.


“One thing that has definitely opened my eyes is how it shows health care is a unit,” Alaina Tillman, who is studying neuroscience and behavior and sociology, said. “It’s not necessarily just the doctors, it’s the researchers, the physicians, the nurses and the social workers. All of these people are working together to accomplish one goal.” 


According to Kravitz, COVID-19 has caused her to think about and appreciate all essential workers who are putting themselves at risk. Outside of healthcare workers, Kravitz said she now has greater respect for janitors, grocery store clerks and post office workers who are also placing themselves in a vulnerable place for the sake of others.


The coronavirus has also sparked other emotions within students who see room for improvements within the healthcare system. 


Rosemarry Vardanyan, an FAU graduate master’s student at the College of Medicine, said that she was “really angry” about what is going on with the shortages of medical equipment because it places medical workers in a tough spot. 


”Healthcare workers shouldn’t be put in a position like this,” she said. “I’m really hoping it will be a learning lesson for the healthcare system as a whole so they’re more prepared for things like this.”


For Vardanyan, COVID-19 carries great significance since it relates to the specialty she plans to pursue in emergency medicine. According to her, seeing what healthcare workers are facing right now “has made me even more passionate because seeing what they’re going through just makes me want to be out there and help them.” 


The pre-med and medical students also placed an emphasis on the importance of taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by following recommended social distancing practices.


“I want to make sure that everyone is safe and taking the precautions to listen and social distance because it’s really important,” said Karina Marin, a senior pre-med biology major.


Marin said that the shift to online learning hasn’t been easy. She said she enjoys attending class in-person because it is easier to retain information and ask the professor questions, instead of emailing about questions later.


“A lot of the professors are not good with emailing, like one of my professors hasn’t responded and it has been a few days, so it’s definitely harder to communicate” Marin said.


As for graduation being cancelled, Marin said she is sad but thinks it is absolutely necessary and President Kelly is doing everything he can.


Graduation for medical students took place on Webex on May 1.


However, for fourth year medical students, their in-class learning and hospital rotations wrapped up before the rule to minimize exposure by not letting medical students into hospitals came into effect. It was only leading up to match day where the students were supposed to complete a two-week course in-person preparing them for residency, that their studies were impacted by COVID-19.


According to Arushi Thaper, a fourth year medical student, the curriculum had to be moved online, which presented challenges.


“That was a little difficult for us because at our school we’re used to small group sessions and group learning,” Thaper said.


Vardanyan said that COVID-19 is affecting her ability to apply for medical school.


“I think it’s been really hard…especially as someone who is planning to take the MCAT,” Vardanyan said. “The first test date is cancelled and now my second test date is probably going to be cancelled so it is a really confusing time.”


But even through this semester, students expressed an increased passion for what they are studying and eagerness to get into the medical field. 


“It’s a really unique time. I feel very proud and excited to embark on this and I mean, what better time to start,” Kravitz said. “We’re also in this weird transitional period where I’m not a doctor yet so I can’t really do anything, but I’m finished with my coursework so I feel antsy and eager to start helping.”