Med Student Mentor: From Miss America to Med SchoolApr 4, 2014
Being Miss Utah 2012 is hectic, but this year Kara Arnold learned the only thing that can really prepare you for the craziness of the first year of med school ‑ is the first year of med school. The former Miss America contestant talks about what she wished she knew on the first day and what excites her (and has her a bit freaked out) about the second year. If you’re considering med school yourself, she also has some advice for you.
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Interviewer: Kara Arnold is wrapping up her first year of medical school here at the University of Utah. I want to get some insights from her for those that might be starting their first year of medical school in the fall. Thank you for taking time to talk to us.
Kara Arnold: Absolutely.
Interviewer: So the first thing I have is looking back here at the end of your first year just about, what did you wish you knew on the first day?
Kara Arnold: I really wish I knew how to balance my life more.
Interviewer: So when you say, "balance your life." What were some of the things that you speak of?
Kara Arnold: Between sleep, and eating, and exercising. It's just tough. You go from such a balanced life and you don't realize those little moments that you miss. Just walking around campus, or getting some fresh air, or walking back and forth from your car, that I actually sometimes miss those moments and those don't happen in medical school because you realize the value of a minute.
As a pre-medical student you have to do everything. You have to be on top of your volunteering, and your research, and this and that. But it's a whole new ball game when you come to medical school.
Interviewer: Really? Just a whole bunch of new challenges.
Kara Arnold: Yeah. You just realize how little time you have and how much you need to maximize that time and make it useful.
Interviewer: Could you speak to what you think the importance of what having those other little things in your life are in that first year?
Kara Arnold: Yeah.
Interviewer: Like working out, or maybe time with friends and family, or maybe just getting up and walking around campus.
Kara Arnold: Getting up and walking around. It keeps your mind healthy enough to be able to study, and to be able to learn. And I think that's what I've realized, is that I can't just dedicate my entire life to reading a book. I'm not going to be a good doctor that way either. And so keeping my mind and body healthy will enable me to learn better, and to be a better doctor in the end.
Interviewer: What was one of the most challenging aspects of your first year of medical school?
Kara Arnold: I think the expectations that I set for myself. I think pre-medical students are type A personalities who are crazy over . . . Just everything has to be perfect. Right? And so I think one of those most difficult things was letting it go and saying not everything is going to be perfect, and it doesn't have to be perfect. The world is not perfect.
Interviewer: Sometimes it's good enough, huh?
Kara Arnold: And sometimes it's better to learn through those imperfections, that I didn't get a 100 on that test. And what are the questions that I remember? The ones I got wrong.
Kara Arnold: And that's at those points that I'm really learning is because I wasn't perfect. Or I went in there and I did a physical exam and it wasn't perfect, and what do I remember? The things that I didn't do well.
Interviewer: Yeah. That's interesting. You spoke about type A personalities. Everybody in medical school that way?
Kara Arnold: It sometimes seems like it.
Interviewer: Is that a challenge to get along with that many type A personalities in that small of a space?
Kara Arnold: It becomes intense. I think we're just all intense people that, you know, we're here for a reason, and we have these goals, and these dreams, and we're going for it. You become bonded with these people. There's only 100 people in our class. Like, you know all of them, very well. Really good friends. You know what's going on in their lives. But that really brings a sense of synergy that we can feed off of each other and this energy of why we want to go into medicine.
Interviewer: What surprised you in your first year?
Kara Arnold: I think the biggest surprise to me was how much I enjoyed clinical scenarios, as that I've never really been exposed to medicine before. And so I have all this basic science behind me, but I had no idea how it really applied to the body. And so when you start to see clinical scenarios in test questions and all around they present the information within a patient, and what that patient was really dealing with. And how you use that science to solve these problems blew my mind. That's why I think medicine is fun, that I can apply it to people.
Interviewer: Your second year is coming up, what's got you freaked out about your second year?
Kara Arnold: Balance, again. I still haven't gotten it all done. A lot of that is your volunteering and your engagement in the community, and that's something that I've been astounded by, is how many opportunities that I've had to be involved this year. And so I hope to be able to balance that with my school work as well next year.
Interviewer: So what has you excited? We've talked about what has you freaked about year number to, what has you excited?
Kara Arnold: More opportunities. I guess you realize how much you've grown, how many skills you've gained, when you go into your clinical and you see patients. And I'm like, I can actually bring in a patient all by myself, do their vitals, talk to them all about what's going on, take a physical exam, and then go present that to a doctor. And I feel like that's a lot of growth within one year that will only expand into my second year.
Interviewer: You're able to do that at the end of one year?
Kara Arnold: Yeah.
Interviewer: Really? I didn't know that it was that fast.
Kara Arnold: Right. I didn't realize either, and I don't feel like you realize that you're learning so much and then all of the sudden you look back and you're like, wow. I could have never done that day one.
Kara Arnold: There's no way. And so then just applying all the knowledge we've learned to those cases is awesome.
Interviewer: What would you want anyone that's thinking about medical school to know about medical school? They're kind of on the fence, or they've thought it'd be kind of cool, what would you say to that person.
Kara Arnold: Don't get discouraged. I think there's oftentimes that I even get discouraged now, or after a test, and I'm like, what am I doing this for? Why am I here? And I think it's having that long-term perspective, and a lot of the kids here really have that and that's why we're here. We are able to see past those little moments of discouragement, and to see how excited and happy we will be becoming doctors.
Interviewer: Let's pretend for a second that you got into medical school and about halfway through the first year you're like, I don't know if this was for me. Would you have felt that that year was wasted if you decided to change at that point after that first year?
Kara Arnold: Absolutely not. I've just seen myself grow so much through these experiences, and my depth. And not knowledge of just science, but knowledge of people. And I think I look at people differently even after just the small experiences that I've had, and I want to know more about them.
And I think that even though I was curious about medical school before, I'm even more curious now. It's looking at someone and wanting to know their story and everything about them and everything that makes them human and what they're dealing with and what they're struggling with. And if that's all I took away from this right now, then that's worth it.
Recording: We're your daily dose of science conversation medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.