Monday, August 17, 2009

My First Day As a Harvard Medical School Student


Fist Day

This morning I had a number of introductions, most notably by Dr. Nancy Oriol – the Dean of Students at HMS. She has a wonderfully charming personality and generously shared her advice about what’s in store for us. “If you’re a male”, she said, “Being a Harvard Medical School student is an aphrodisiac. Showing up at the bar and informing men in there that you’re a medical student at Harvard is death for a female”.

We shared our excitement and worries with each other (just a few hours earlier a lengthy session on mental health hazards and treatment was conducted). On a large blackboard Dr. Katharine Treadway, our instructor for Introduction to Profession class, neatly listed our points of excitement. Her writings were encoded in a language that I might one day be able to read and understand comfortably. She used single letter abbreviations for “with” (looked like marriage of e and a coma) and “without” (an s with a bar?) which I have never seen in my life. Also “b” for “be?” and other symbols. Her “E” looks like a dollar sign missing one bar.

Among things people were excited about:

- Being somebody’s hero

- Becoming an agent of social change

- Being a Harvard student

- Reaching catharsis when it all begins to make sense

- Classmates

Solid, positive stuff. Upbeat. Then we started filling out another half of the board with our worries and concerns. Things like DEATH and DEBT appeared in caps and the mood changed.

- Harming people inadvertently

- Disappointing myself and my community

- Cynicism

- Workload

- Classmates

Interestingly, “Classmates” appeared as both, an excitement point and something to worry about. One student’s exhilaration “My classmates are all geniuses and very incredible people!” became another’s fear “Are they all going to be like geniuses and all, how am I ever going to make it here?” Yet another student wondered – anonymously – if adcom has made a mistake with their decision to let them in. Yes, we were all worried and anxious, but still excitement prevailed.

After getting my ID, I walked up to the main entrance to the Gordon Hall building. Its heavy doors seemed impassable. I remembered the day I came to interview. I thought these doors would never open for me (there was also a helpful sign that said “No Access Without ID” here). So now I held in my hand the magic laminated key to these doors. I swiped the card. The yellow light flickered but remained unaltered. “Hem-hem,” I thought, “Perhaps I’m not all the way a student yet? This does say a temp ID…” But that moment I looked over at my new friend and my confidence returned. This is my first day as a medical student at Harvard. I met amazing people today. I received a heartfelt welcome from so many distinguished students and faculty. I have a new mailbox and a new home, my society home. With a confident “SWOOSH!” I swiped the card again. This time the light turned green and the door clicked, and Harvard Medical School door opened and let me in.


  1. Polina, thanks so much for your webite and advice. Its so nice of you to take the time to put this up for us aspiring medical students. I wish you the best of luck. Also, thanks for telling us about the first day you are very descriptive in the entry and you make us feel as if we the readers were there. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you.. thank you.. and thank you.. u are already showing signs of a good physician - the willingness to help others..

    Ur insights are very valuable and I like others very much appreciate it... Veritas!!!

  3. Dean Oriol is a very warm person! She loves her Family Van program and from what I remember, is open to people signing on and helping, so I would totally look into that. I think you might run into Dr. Cesario Bianchi, he said he taught histology or gross anatomy, can't remember. But if you do run into him, he's a cool man.

  4. Hey Harvard med girl- we were very proud and happy to be a part of your White Coat reception- thanks for showing us around the beautiful med school too. It is so awesome to see you fulfill your dreams...

  5. Thank you all so much for your kindest words and wishes! I am tremendously excited to start, but I will need a lot of luck there I think :)

  6. Hey. Don't be discouraged in your blog, but it's probably you best you took the white coat ceremony off.

  7. hey...keep it have ALOT of good stuff on here.

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  9. Hi Harvard Med Girl,

    I want to thank you so much for writing this blog, being descriptive in each of your interviews and your experience as a Harvard Medical School student. I have used your interview questions to help prepare me for my interviews. I just finished my early interview with Weill Cornell and the interview went great! I'm so glad I had 'you' to help me prepare. In addition, I have both Atual Gawande books. When I saw your post about the health care costs in Texas, I had to read it! It was very valuable to me.

    While here at Weill Cornell, I hope to come up to Boston Children's. My PI gave me information for a round trip bus for $20!! I'm trying to see if I can shadow one of the pediatric congenital heart surgeons (as you know, they're #1 in the country!) If I am able to go, you will definitely be in my thoughts.

    Once again, thank you so much for your dedication to this blog. You will be a great doctor and I hope to see what is to come in your future!



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  11. first day is always hard and confusing. you must feel like home there by now.
    DE en hombres jóvenes

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