A Day in the Life of Katie Owens Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Meet Katie Owens, a second-year MD/MPH student at Feinberg School of Medicine, and get an inside look at a typical day during this phase of her medical school career.

6:30 a.m.

I wake up and start the morning with a French press coffee and a homemade breakfast burrito. I am a big breakfast person, as it helps fuel my body and brain for the day.

If the weather is nice, I’ll sit on the balcony and sip my coffee. It’s a habit that helps center me and prepare me for all the learning and growing in the day ahead.

After I am dressed and packed for school I head over to the train, a short 5-minute walk from my door. On my commute, I like to listen to podcasts about topics outside of medicine like the news, storytelling podcasts or even Ted Talks in Spanish to keep up my ear for it. Overall, public transportation in Chicago is amazing. As Feinberg students, we get an unlimited train and bus card. Beyond my daily commute, I use this card to visit different neighborhoods on the weekends - my goal is to step foot in all 77 by graduation!

On Monday mornings we have our Synthesis and Application Session (SAS), which reviews and quizzes us on the content we learned the previous week. It is a great way to informally assess my strengths and gaps in knowledge. It also gives me a chance to begin to connect concepts and solidify them for the test and, more importantly, clinical practice.

9:00 a.m.

Right after SAS, I am headed off to Ultrasound Session. These sessions are conducted with standardized patients and supervised by faculty. The standardized patients give us feedback on bedside manner. This feedback is invaluable as we learn about medicine not just as a science, but an art. The faculty will instruct us on technique and anatomy. It is so cool to locate structures on ultrasound; I feel one baby step closer to being a real doctor.

After the morning sessions have concluded, I will grab a coffee and some lunch with friends. I often pack my lunch at home to make sure I am eating a well-rounded meal. But if I forget, there are so many options on and around campus. Our student lounges are also filled with fun activities like games, puzzles, ping pong, pool and even some work out equipment. These are super nice to utilize when I need a short break.

1:00 p.m.

In the afternoon, I have a Medical Decision-Making class. This class is all about approaches to making evidence-based decisions for real patients. We learn about clinically relevant biostatistics, epidemiology and how to assess research papers for bias and applicability to patient. In our first year, we are taught all of these concepts. In our second year, we are actually the ones teaching the concepts to our fellow students. It’s a great way to reinforce what are sometimes slippery concepts.

I have an hour break in my schedule, which I use to catch up on some asynchronous lectures, review tough concepts or work on my research project. I am doing research on food environment and liver diseases. I have always been curious about how the built environment influences the prevalence and severity of preventable chronic diseases. This is what specifically drove me to pursue an MD/MPH. Identifying upstream, mutable social determinants of health is key to preventing and treating disease. I really appreciate the flexibility in the day to enhance my productivity.

As part of my dual MD/MPH degree, I worked in a community garden which is about two blocks away from my Education Centered Medical Home. This summer I taught cooking classes to community members, with an emphasis on easy, accessible and healthy cooking. We used ingredients from the garden, which is free to community members, to cook yummy and nutritious dishes. The tofu and veggie stir-fry was an unexpected favorite of many!

3:00 p.m.

Then, I head to my Problem-Based Learning (PBL) class. It's a small group session where we go through a medical case, based on real patients, in a step-wise fashion. We will start with the "A pages", where we might only read about the patient's presenting symptoms before we have to stop reading and discuss as a team what we should do next: what questions to ask a patient presenting with infectious symptoms or what tests to order or exam maneuvers to do for someone who is complaining of abdominal pain. If we don't know the answer right away (and often we don't) or we decide that a certain test or concept should be researched more, we make it a "learning issue". In the next session, we will come back each having a learning issue to present. Some examples are "What are the diagnostic criteria for polycystic ovarian syndrome?" or "How to read a 'fishbone' diagram". Today I am presenting on the "4 major types of shock," hitting on the major signs, symptoms and treatments. This is a wonderful way to become a mini-expert for a day on a topic and teach it to your peers. I often choose issues that are cloudy to me at first and use the motivation that I am speaking on this topic to help me clarify and solidify information.

5:00 p.m.

I am off to the gym, where I take a boxing class. Feinberg has a partnership with a chain of gyms in Chicago. It has been a great and affordable way for me to stay fit and active. The best part is that my favorite location is along my commute, so I don’t have to go very far out of my way to maintain a healthy routine!

6:00 p.m.

I head home to make dinner and play with my rabbit, Susan. This is a great way to relax after a busy day and prepare for the next.