Francesca Tan is another great friend of mine from high school- The Ursuline School. She has been studying neuroscience in college, attending Stony Brook, and I can’t even wrap my head around how she’s managing that!
I asked Fran what prompted her to go into science in college.
“In the later years of high school, I was starting to seriously put thought into what my major would be in college. In order to get a better idea of what I wanted to pursue, I took more specialized courses in the fields that I already had an interest in; these were namely AP United States Government, Anatomy and Physiology because I had a consistent affinity for science and history in high school, but I never enjoyed math. After taking those courses, I definitely knew that I preferred science over history and law because it seemed to be the most interesting and versatile field, in both subareas of study and in career choices.”
Knowing how important it is to develop relationships with professors, I asked Fran how her experience of virtual learning while studying to go into medicine has been.
“It has been a tough adjustment for everyone involved in education to move online. I do have to mention that I am grateful for the way that the majority of my professors have handled the situation with grace and consideration. The toughest aspect of virtual learning is the lack of meaningful relationships between students and professors. The distance has put a strain on the quality of methods for delivering course materials, as well as the mental stability of many students (especially when financial struggles and family losses are taken into account). Because of this, students and teachers have collectively been forced to adapt to the virtual environment. Along with the barrier between students and professors, time management is another skill that is necessary for doing well with virtual learning because students have multiple courses, each with specific schedules that have their own due dates and exams where module cycles are refreshed every week. Exams were the toughest part about STEM courses, even before the pandemic; they are likely twice as stressful for many students now that we are remote. It is the nature of these courses to have exams *a little too* frequently, so having to adjust to a new learning environment coupled with having major exams on a regular basis adds pressure on students. Combating all these adjustments and factors comes with learning to navigate the virtual environment – while in-person connections are unlikely, digital connections are still a thriving possibility. Schools with extensive websites provide the best resource for students, and the capacity to take advantage of the technologies we have today has never been more essential as remote learning persits to be a new norm.”
I know you (Fran) mentioned that you’ve been working at a NYC hospital helping the process of vaccine administration. How has that been?
“Participating in the vaccine administration process has been a largely positive experience so far, for two reasons. The first reason is that I have been able to observe an upward trajectory in the distribution process over time. Specifically, we have expanded our criteria consistently over a relatively short period of time (a little less than 2 months) – we began with prioritizing the immunocompromised, those aged 65 and above, healthcare personnel, and first responders; now, the criteria has expanded widely to teachers, restaurant workers, and many other public-facing employees. This has shifted my mindset towards cautious hope for the future of our patients and our communities. So far, we have not experienced any issues regarding dosage supply which we are extremely grateful for as well. Most patients are also greatly relieved when they are at the distribution site, and all the staff are motivated and collaborative, which makes the work worthwhile to me. It is always inspiring to work with people who are committed to delivering the best care for their patients, so I am always grateful for the opportunities that I have with Mt. Sinai. Our digital system is a crucial part of the distribution process, and serves as our lifeline in maintaining a highly coordinated process, from scheduling to monitoring patient information – I can say with 100% confidence that our distribution would rapidly crumble without our extensive digital system – both staff and patients depend on the system’s functionality to operate vaccine distribution.”
I asked Fran what she would recommend to anyone looking to go into medicine right now.
“My advice for those interested in pursuing pre-med courses in college would be to prioritize a few important things – it is better to concentrate a large amount of effort and focus onto a few things than to divide minimal effort amongst multiple things (which quickly becomes overwhelming and dysfunctional). The first would be to be prepared for virtual learning, which means learning how to navigate digital connections and to not only explore, but also take advantage of online resources – these are all under the umbrella of practicality. My second piece of advice would be to find a strong reason that compels you to pursue medicine – the field does not wait until graduate school to challenge you as a student. You will find that you may have to completely rethink your study habits and time management skills, and in the beginning many students (including myself) experience academic failures that force us to confront the reality that we must find ways to improve. However, if you find your own personal reason to pursue medicine, that will help motivate you when you face temptations to quit (as I have many times before!), particularly when the experience becomes overwhelming. I think that as a career, all people involved in medicine are continuously learning, not only about their field but also about themselves and their capabilities. For those of us who are in the beginning stages, it is critical that we make valuable connections with our peers and mentors; the best way to do that in our current state is through online activity. There are countless virtual resources that are at our disposal as students, it is always in our advantage to explore the potential digital connections that exist!”
I asked Fran where do you see medicine going or changing after this year?
“Medicine is constantly evolving as a field. I foresee many developments taking place, particularly in the genetics sector: there is a growing amount of research in various sub fields of genetics because it persists as one of the most relevant studies for humans today.”
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