There are approximately 125 students participating in the Program, essentially resembling a real medical school class. The setting and the activities scheduled have been designed to give you a really good idea of what it is like to be in medical school. Sort of.
Come prepared to work hard and to get the most out of the experience. By the end of six weeks, you will be closer to starting your first day of medical school than you could ever have imagined. Six weeks at Yale can change your life!
What Will You Learn? The Work.
Science classes consists of daily morning lectures in various subjects. The subjects are divided into two or three week segments, each segment encompassing a different aspect of the basic sciences. Evaluations (AKA Tests) are held at the end of every segment. The teachers are extremely nice and helpful. You will find them very approachable. They are extraordinarily charismatic, possessing an enthusiasm for teaching, which truly is an asset in helping students learn. You may spot them after hours, hanging around the dorms, and you are encouraged to mingle with them. They do not bite. (They're probably more scared of you than you are of them). The subjects will vary depending what on your background, but typically include topics like Physiological & Organic Chemistry, the Musculoskeletal System, and DNA Techniques and Applications. These subjects may vary with subsequent summers.
We Suggest: Leave your textbooks home. The Program provides students with all the materials required for the classes, including textbooks which you can purchase if you want at the end of the summer. You also have access to the medical library which contains unbelievable resources, including online access to the whole biomedical science world. You may want to bring some review materials, but once again, the Program provides all you really need. For you hard core students, you may want to review science since you will be taking a pre-MCAT your first weekend in the Program. It's only practice, and you will get a second chance later to show what you know.
Prof. Joseph Wolenski teaches one of the best science classes which focuses on the physiological mechanism of muscle contraction at the cellular level, with emphasis on how diseases resulting from genetic defects manifest themselves clinically. Searching for methods to treat these diseases is also included in the scope of the objectives for this class. Research presentations are to be presented in Journal Clubs, on various topics of student's choice. If you'd like to prepare for this class, the best thing to do is to read up on the structure of the muscle (sarcomere, myofibrils...). If these terms sound unfamiliar, just remember it's precisely the reason why you're coming here --- to learn!
The class itself is tough, but you will be prepared after taking the Prof. Ken Nelson's science class which deals with DNA and related topics. This course investigates the new techniques available for DNA research, especially those used by scientists to decode the human genome. You will also cover the cellular mechanism of transcription and translation in detail.
We Suggest: To obtain the most out of this class, be sure to communicate with your professors, ask questions, and spend sufficient time in the library. The professors are exceptionally helpful and will do anything to help you succeed.
Small Group Sessions and Journal Clubs
After going to lecture, you will break off into small groups of 14-18 students. The purpose of these Science Groups is to gain a better understanding of lecture material. You will also be expected to present journal articles that discuss current discoveries in science and medicine. The teaching assistants (TA) are medical and graduate students themselves, and are very enthusiastic and go out of their way to help you with the workload. You'd be surprised how down-to-earth these students are. You will acquire most of your knowledge from discussions in the Journal Club group.
These groups are also made up of 14-18 students, different than those in your Science Groups, however. In this session, you will learn not only how to write better, but you will also learn how to read passages similar to those in the MCAT, and to analyze them. The purpose of this group is to help you improve on the MCAT Verbal and Writing Sections. For some students, this is the best part of Yale SMDEP. Every pre-med has to learn how to write and communicate. Here's where you will learn, and in the process, get your medical school personal essay polished up and ready.
We Suggest: Bring a diskette for the presentations and the papers you will be doing. You will have access to both Mac and IBM/PC computers. If you have a laptop, you may want to bring it. You will be envied by the other students if you do. Trust us. The dorm has fast Internet connections in each room - at no charge to you!
One of the best parts of the Program is that you have the opportunity to shadow physicians at the Yale-New Haven Hospital that is located across the street from the dormitory. Depending on your group assignment, you may spend time in the operating room, the emergency department, or the autopsy rooms. You will also be attending workshops and biomedical lectures conducted by physicians.
We Suggest: Remember each time you see a physician: Take the opportunity to ask them if you can visit them again. They have not been not forced to work with the program - they simply love working with students. It is only through hearing you tell them what a great time you had that they will know that you want to come again. Don't be shy. It is your responsibility to get what you want out of the Shadowing. If you have to, invite yourself again. That's what everyone who shadowed the most physicians did!!
Biomedical lectures are given by guest speakers and the directors of the Program. They discuss current medical health concerns such as Skin Cancer, Hypertension, and HIV/AIDS, and Legal Issues in Medicine. These lectures are interesting and informative, and you will find their applications wherever you volunteer, conduct research, or even socialize.
How to Seminars - Getting into to Medical
You will also attend a variety of sessions of the basics of how to get from where you are into medical school - the real inside things you absolutely must know. You will meet a lot of fabulous people and role models.
Ask a lot of questions. They've been through it all and can tell you how to find your own best pathway into medicine. You will have a chance to exchange idea and opinions. Your network of contacts will expand enormously.
We Suggest: Bring a planner to keep track of all the lectures, group meetings, shadowing, and study group sessions. You can learn to create your own schedule and budget your time, just as you would if you were in medical school!
OK. Enough of the curricula. Following is a list of things you will want to know about your living conditions, your resources, and things to do to prepare. Just remember, we told you so.
Where Will You Live? The Harkness Dormitory Experience.
During your stay at Yale, you will live in the Harkness Dormitory, Yale's medical school student residence. You are assigned to your own room, a the ten-story building only one to five minutes from the hospital, the medical school, the lecture halls, and the food -- in short, a great location. The room includes a vanity and a sink, with lighting. Furniture includes an extra-long twin bed (for those tall people), a six-drawer vertical dresser, and a comfortable desk that invites you to have a great study time (standard size) accompanied by a chair.
In order to maximize your satisfaction with your living quarters, the following things are recommended:
- You may want to bring articles of decoration with which to bring life to the bare walls. There's something about staring at nothing that makes you want to do so many things, the least of them study. Remember this place will be your home for the next six weeks. Six weeks is a lo...ong time when you are far from home.
- For your bed, bring linen. You don't want to sleep directly on the plastic-coated mattress. As you can imagine, plastic does not agree with a typical Connecticut summer. The evening weather varies from cool to hot and humid, but mostly it resembles average summer weather: sunny and humid, with occasional rain. A light blanket should suffice for keeping you warm (you're taking this piece of advice from someone who always complains of being too cold). Don't forget your pillows and your teddy bear.
- Bring a lamp (desk or room) that illuminates your study space, as well as other areas. The room does not have overhead lighting, but the electric outlets are there for you to use.
Late-night hospital residents speeding by our dorms were pretty loud sometimes so some students suffered from lack of sleep. However, the chance of experiencing this phenomenon depends on which side of the dorm complex you live in, and the type of sleeper you are. Some people slept right through the ambulance sirens. If you are a light sleeper and turn out to be one of the not-so-lucky, consider bringing ear plugs or other sleeping aids. If you are a heavy sleeper like some of us, you will sleep more than you need. Don't worry.
A rug looks nice on the tile floor. It may feel great to step on something soft the first thing in the morning. If you are the spotless type, you may consider bringing cleaning supplies for the sink. Slimy globs may begin building up from frequent use. This is normal. These supplies may be purchased at the local grocery store, unless your favorite brand is an eccentric one. Also consider a broom and a dustpan (If you can fit these into your luggage).
A telephone and service for it is highly recommended. Although it can be expensive, ultimately the decision to have one is up to you. Some suggest that it helps to have a telephone number available for doctors and residents to reach you. If, for example, after shadowing a physician, you arrange with him/her to visit the ER during their rotations. If you plan on arranging to have them call you when a trauma case hits the ER, a telephone will be useful.
An alarm clock, although your worst enemy at dawn, can be your lifesaver. You will need it, especially when gravity in the morning tends to increase towards the end of the six weeks. Remember, classes begin at eight.
We Suggest: A sneaky trick (that worked one summer): Bring a phone. Hook it up. If you have the time and no money for phone service, wait until someone calls you. Ask the caller for the number to your room. Then give it to your friends and family. You can accept calls, but will need a calling card to make any. I did this and it worked! (This may not work if, for example, the previous inhabitant was a loner who never received calls, which is actually a highly unlikely quality in medical students at Yale. They are very social.) Keep in mind that your service may be disconnected at any time.
For your personal enjoyment, a radio/CD player is nice, with headphones. Keep in mind that the walls are thin and every serious student needs some quiet study time. Also recommended are board games, cards, or other simple forms of entertainment. You will have some free time when you will find nothing to do. If you like playing pool, working out, or playing the piano, these hobbies can be enjoyed during your stay. There is a piano available for your use at leisure, so bring your sheet music! As a matter of fact, bring any instrument you play and don't have to carry on your back. A talent shot is a high point of the Program -- a chance for you to look real good. A TV for all to share can be found in the Re Room (that's Re for Recovery). A laundry facility is available within Harkness Dormitories.
Are you ready for this? Bathrooms and showers are coed. No, this is not a typo. All-female and all-male bathrooms are available, however, but only on three of the ten floors. If your floor does not have the bathroom you prefer, you are free to go to another floor for showers. To make showering an easy experience, bring a bathrobe, and a tote to carry things such as shampoo, soap, etc. Sandals to wear while showering is smart, since as in all public places, you need to protect your feet.
What Will You Eat? The Food.
You will dine in the Yale-New Haven Hospital - morning, noon and night. The food is not bad, but it IS hospital food. Subway down the street is great for late-night meals, as well as Dunken' Donuts. A Wallmarts Pharmacy and 24 hour convenience store lies a block away. And New Haven, with its diverse culture and peoples, serves a variety of foods at many restaurants within walking distance.
If you have a small refrigerator and like the convenience of hauling it around or having food in your room, bring it. Load it with food! Or bring fridge-free snacks (AKA non-perishables). One guy had his parents Fed-Ex a burner so he could cook. Microwaves are awesome, but are not allowed. Soda and snack vending machines are available, but tend to be high quality items (read: $$).
We Suggest: Bring cash with you. ATMs are available, courtesy FLEET BANK (Yale's bank, too) in which case you may be charged a fee by your home institution. Or, in theory, you can open an account with them before coming to New Haven. You may want to call your bank and ask if it operates in New Haven, CT. We suggest you bring all the money you will need for trips, travel, etc.
What is Yale Like? The Atmosphere.
Getting around Yale is easy to figure out. You simply read up all the literature that you receive the first day of the Program (your homework for the first weekend), which gives you countless suggestions of things to do and places to see while in Connecticut. The first thing you want to do after unpacking is to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Don't procrastinate and try to do it all the last week of the Program. The Program provides you with a bus schedule. Obtain a train schedule too. Familiarize yourself with both. Bring a bike if it fits in your bag. Or rollerblades. Anything beats walking. Except for Super K-mart and some churches, everything is located within walking distance (if you have the time).
If you are a church-goer, there are many churches located in and around New Haven. When a group of us went to church, we met a doctor who had completed her residency at Yale, and who invited us for lunch at her home with her family. We had not expected this (of course we went) and were able to ask her lots of questions. The people at Yale are very friendly and love helping everyone out. Take advantage of your opportunities!
What Will You Wear? Your clothes.
As part of the Yale SMDEP, you will shadow physicians, and will attend dinners hosted by faculty or medical students. For the faculty, dress nice -- that is, professionally. For ladies, a church dress, nice slacks and blouses do the job. Penny loafers, and dressy shoes (not necessarily high heals) are recommended. For gentlemen, one suit is adequate, and khakis and/or slacks and ties are sufficient.
Not all host dinners require you to dress to impress. We had a group that was asked by the physician to bring their swim trunks--the affair was to be a pool party. So just be prepared for anything. As for what to wear to class, dress as you normally would for school. Jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirt, blouses are all appropriate. I must warn you though: The Yale medical campus is generously air-conditioned throughout. Even when students were melting outside, they almost froze to death while trying to focus on lecture. I suggest that you bring a sweatshirt, or something to keep you warm in a very cold classroom.
If you like clubbing, bring clothes for that. Some students opted for this type of fun on weekend nights. Bring sneakers or walking shoes for trips to Boston, New York, or Great Adventures (AKA Six Flags). As part of New England, Connecticut has diverse weather conditions. You may want to bring an umbrella or raincoat. You will need it at least once. The popular suggestion was a waterproof jacket.
For protection from the sun, or as a fashion statement, bring hats, caps, anything. And sunblock. Light sleepwear is recommended. Bring an iron, you want to look prepped.
For shadowing physicians, a lab coat makes you look like one of them. Don't bring the goggles, though. Also don't go out of the way and buy a lab coat--you won't need it.
Is That All? No. Here's the Fun Stuff.
To entertain yourself, there are many activities planned for the summer, as well as immediate fun to engage in. The Harkness Dormitory has a pool table, a TV with VCR, and a vast green lawn to play soccer, volleyball, or other outdoor sport. Yale itself has a large gym which you can sign up for, and an ice-skating rink (I'm not sure if it's open during summer months though).
Although it may differ every summer (call the office for current events), you have the opportunity to visit New York, Boston, and Great Adventures (AKA Six Flags). Bus rides are provided, so your responsibilities are your personal expenses on souvenirs and entertainment, and arriving at the bus stop for the return trip.
Visiting NYC wasn't on the agenda of SMDEP, but many students included it on theirs. Most of the participants visited N.Y.C. on the weekend of Fourth of July. Most formed groups and stayed at hotels, cramming the rooms. A hotel costs from $130 per night. One of the cheapest, quality hotels was Quality Inn Best Hotel. No this is not free advertisement. Actually, it is.
We Suggest: Unless you know a native of NYC (when you arrive at Yale, become good friends with one of them) who invites you to their place, you must stay at a hotel. What some of us did: We paired a guy and a girl to pretend to be a couple, checking out a room (with lots of maturity, of course). We must have done a pretty good job (pre-meds usually do) because none of the five plus groups got caught cramming eight people in a singles room. Just remember it's illegal--if you get caught you must pay the difference, but we are poo' students!!
At Boston, visit the GAP (they have a sale that weekend). Don't forget this is the home of many historical sites. Obtain a map of the city, and make it a priority to visit Harvard--buy a shirt, a cap, etc. If you've never been to the sites mentioned above: Bring comfortable walking shoes, a camera and lots of film, and a book to read for the bus ride (2-3 hr. drives).
So Much Work? Yes. And Here Are Your Resources.
OK, so this isn't new, but how much can you stress the importance of forming study groups? For the Program, it may be the only way to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Plus, study groups are fun, and will probably be the only way you will survive medical school, so this is good practice. Keep reminding yourself that you are here to learn, and that what you take home with you is truly a reflection of the time and effort you invest.
The Program's Directors are of great value to you, and it will be to your advantage to benefit from what they have to offer. Make the initiative to introduce yourself, and feel free to ask them anything about getting into medical school.
Some Final Thoughts
"Remember this is a summer program. Don't let it stress you. Do your best, but don't stress yourself out. Sometimes you may need to put your work away and chill with people or hangout with friends. Go out and see things that you may not see at home."
"The medical students were awesome. I thought they'd be stuck up but they were so much fun, and very helpful. I felt that they would all make great physicians because I could tell they really cared, and wanted to help out."
"On the last note, take everything mentioned above as suggestions, not as mandatory rules you must follow. Have a great summer and learn as much as you can while you are here. From future physicians to others."