It’s hard to believe that I have been the Assistant Dean for Students for almost six months now. Time really does fly…especially the older I get. As I reflect, I realize that I haven’t been on a learning curve this steep since my intern year. So, for my first blog attempt, I am going to share with you the top ten things I’ve learned.

(Disclaimer Alert: I guess I should also mention that the opinions expressed in the following paragraphs are just that…my opinions. And in no way do they even attempt to represent the views of Medical Student Services, the Associate Deans Office, or the UASOM.)

10.  Medical school has changed vastly since I graduated…but also not at all.

Anatomy, physiology, pathology…not too much has changed over the last several decades. And, the things that I worried about when I was a student are still the same concerns people come to talk with me about: Am I ever going to be able to pay back these student loans? What do I want to be when I grow up? What if I don’t match? Some things don’t change.

But one thing has changed, and that’s who is sitting in the seats, who is doing the clerkships, and who is going through the match. You’ve heard it before…learners are different now. And, that has made the experience of medical school immeasurably different. As I was sitting in the LCME meeting last week and heard one of the fourth year students say that they really don’t spend the night in the hospital anymore, it really hit home. Of course the age of the 36 hour call has gone by the wayside in residency as well, so maybe it’s a natural transition. Is it better this way? I’m not sure I can say. And I think my generational gap might get in the way a little. I can say that it is different. The rest, in my opinion, remains to be seen.

9.  The steps to Volker Hall are really steep. And slippery.

No joke. Be careful.

8.  No one is responsible for opening or closing the umbrellas on the plaza.

Just an observation…not volunteering. I’m too short to do it anyway.

7.  Open communication is vital to success.

No matter what career path you choose, the way you communicate can make or break you. And, I don’t just mean the words you choose.

I can’t imagine that I am the only person who has ever opened an e-mail…read it…cried…read it again…stormed off in anger…came back and read it again…drafted fifteen response e-mails (all of which got deleted)…read it again…turned off the computer in anger and went and had a handful of thin mints. OK, so maybe you haven’t done that exact sequence (maybe samoas are more your speed), but attempting to interpret tone in a written statement can be a very dangerous thing. So, perhaps the lesson should be to pick up the phone if there is even a question. It will save you a lot of time (and tears…or, cookies) in the long run.

6.  The seats in lecture room B are really uncomfortable.


5.  Balance is important.

All work and no play makes Annalise a dull girl. But, all play and no work makes Annalise a horrible assistant dean and physician. Balance is imperative. Working weekends is part of the role of the emergency physician…and part of the role of the assistant dean as well. It’s very easy for the hours to get away from you and all of a sudden you look back and realize you haven’t been to the gym in six months (even though it’s less than 100 yards from your office). Don’t feel too sorry for me…I manage to make time for other (guiltier) pleasures such as Blazer basketball, The Following, and Impractical Jokers. But sometimes, I wish I had learned the art of balance much earlier in my career. Vacations are important. Sleeping in every once in a while is nice. And, working holidays is not the end of the world. It’s life. Welcome to it.

4.  Even when you are an assistant dean, your mom still gets mad when you don’t call regularly enough.

Especially when she is Italian and Catholic.

3.  It’s important to have people in your corner that you can count on.

And you need to be able to be counted on. It’s a two way street. But, it’s narrow, and there is no room for alternate agendas, empty promises, or unkind words that serve no purpose.

I grew up on teams…mostly sports, but other types as well. The essence of teamwork is that no one person is more important than the whole. I am very fortunate, because currently I am a part of two very high functioning teams…Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Medical Student Services. And, not surprisingly, there is an amazing amount of overlap between the two. Both teams put tremendous effort toward helping others succeed without a hidden agenda. Both teams make me want to work harder and be better because they believe I can. And, both teams do what they think is in the best interest of the people they serve, whether it be the child, the parent, or the student.

Probably most importantly, I know they have my back. And, I have theirs.

2.  I don’t like reality T.V. much.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the new job…just a temporally related realization on my part.

1.  Hands down, the students are the absolute best part of this job.

Even though it’s only been six months, one thing has emerged as the most rewarding part of this job, and that is getting to work with the students. Some make me laugh. A few make me cry. Some make me lose sleep. Some drive me to eat lots of thin mints. But, I have loved (almost) every single moment. I can’t wait to watch my first match day, to participate in my first UASOM commencement, and to watch this class of 2013 go out into the world armed with the resources that we have given them to be physicians, leaders, and pioneers.

Yes, it’s only been six months. But I have already developed loyalty for my team, pride in my students, and hope for the future. I think we’re in good hands.

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