Meet Brynn Carlson, a first-year MD student at Feinberg School of Medicine, and get an inside look at a typical day during this phase of her medical school career.

One thing I really love about our curriculum is that every day looks different! Today I’m excited to show you a day in my life in the midst of our Pulmonary module.

Since starting medical school, I’ve become more of a morning person and love getting my day started early so I can cross off a few things on my to-do list before class. My apartment has a gym which is super convenient and gives me a nice concentration and energy boost. I often multitask on the treadmill by knocking out some Anki flashcards I need to review or by watching a non-science lecture.

7:00 a.m.

After getting ready, I make coffee and a protein shake to take with me to class. I live with two fellow classmates, so it’s really nice having overlapping schedules and built-in study buddies.

I live in an apartment building in Streeterville less than a 10-minute walk from campus, which is especially nice when we have breaks in between classes. It’s really wonderful living near so many of my peers for social outings and study dates.

This morning we had a lecture in the Clinical Medicine thread teaching us about clinical skills for the pulmonary exam. We don’t typically wear our white coats for lectures, with the exception of when patients are present to show our respect and gratitude for them taking time out of their day to share their stories and further our academic development. I love that each module integrates basic science content with related clinical and public health concepts to provide a more comprehensive approach to our learning and reinforce how the fundamentals fit into clinical paradigms.

11:00 a.m.

I am part of the Glen and Wendy Miller Family Buddy Program, a mentorship program pairing first-year students with individuals living with cognitive impairment from the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease. Today, my buddy Tom and I spent time together at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Tom while exploring different areas in the city. As a former neuroscience major, I was really drawn to a program that not only expanded upon my understanding of the clinical management of cognitive disorders, but more importantly, offered a more holistic perspective of medical education. What I find most rewarding about a career in medicine is the opportunity it provides to establish relationships with patients that extends beyond the context of their diagnoses and care, and getting to know them as people first and patients second. While it can sometimes be difficult to keep at the forefront of your mind during long days in the library studying basic sciences and physiology, being part of the Buddy Program has reinforced my “why” and the fundamental humanism at the core of medicine.

12:00 p.m.

Midday, I head back to the atrium of the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center to eat lunch with friends. I almost always pack food I’ve meal-prepped or head home to make a quick lunch if I have a longer break, but today I had a Panera gift card from providing a campus tour to prospective Feinberg students. The hospital is filled with a variety of dining options and is really convenient to have right across the street if you’re pressed for time and need a quick bite to eat. One aspect of Feinberg I’ve found most fulfilling is the supportive and collaborative community that I get to work with, learn from and enjoy life with each day. I feel incredibly fortunate that Feinberg has brought so many talented, caring and hilarious people into my life, making the long study days much more tolerable.

12:30 p.m.

After lunch, I head to my Education-Centered Medical Home (ECMH), which is at a clinic called MiMedico run by Ray Mendez, MD. I meet up with several medical students in Simpson Querrey who also are assigned to MiMedico for their ECMH, and we take a Lyft together, which is subsidized by Feinberg. It’s a short 20-minute ride to get there. The clinic is located in Pilsen, a neighborhood in the Lower West Side of Chicago that is known for its beautiful murals and Mexican cuisine.

All Feinberg students participate in clinical skills development through ECMH, a unique part of our curriculum and one of the aspects I was most attracted to while applying. It's a four-year, team-based clinical experience that helps students better understand chronic conditions in a variety of clinical settings, working with diverse patient populations. As a former Spanish major and Spanish interpreter at a free clinic in Nashville during undergrad, I was really excited to return to a bilingual clinical environment and expand upon my medical Spanish skills in a new role.

1:00 p.m.

Each clinic day, we begin with a team huddle with all the medical students and Dr. Mendez. Upperclassmen will often give presentations on relevant clinical topics, such as a lecture today on psoriasis by fourth-year medical student Meron. We practice related Spanish terms and dialogues as a group, and then Dr. Mendez takes us through an overview of the patients we will see while we review their charts in the electronic medical record (EMR). Dr. Mendez really prioritizes consistent clinical follow-up with his patients, most importantly optimizing the quality of their care, but also enabling us to develop longitudinal relationships with these patients and see first-hand how their health and subsequent care transforms over the years.

2:00 p.m.

COVID has brought both the challenge and opportunity of expanding how we deliver care – we engage in a mix of telehealth and in-person consults where an underclassmen/upperclassmen pair (M1/2 and M3/4) complete the primary consult with the patient, taking vitals, filling out screening questionnaires, taking a patient history and performing a physical exam.

Underclassmen will typically lead the initial conversation while upperclassmen take notes in the EMR, and they will then fill in any gaps with their more extensive clinical experience. We then meet with Dr. Mendez to share our findings and develop a plan for the patient moving forward, which we all discuss as a group with the patient. Finally, the underclassmen/upperclassmen pair will debrief in the huddle space to fill in any gaps in the M1/M2’s understanding of the relevant clinical concepts and medical decisions, and work together to complete charting, any necessary orders, lab draws or vaccines alongside the help of medical assistants.

After ECMH, I take a Lyft back to Simpson Querrey with some of my classmates and walk home. I study for a little at home, reviewing the learning guides from the lectures I watched this morning and studying Anki card decks corresponding to each lecture to help solidify the material.

6:00 p.m.

Next, I make dinner, which today consists of roasted spaghetti squash ‘pasta’ with a mushroom and soy crumble Bolognese and vegan feta. Since starting medical school, I’ve been experimenting with making mainly vegan dishes at home, and it’s been a really fun challenge to expand on my cooking skills and try out new meals in the process.

7:30 p.m.

After dinner, a group of my friends from school take the CTA bus (all Feinberg students have a yearly pass so it’s very affordable and convenient) to a local bar to participate in its weekly trivia night! One of my favorite aspects of Chicago is the endless, diverse supply of amazing restaurants and bars. There’s nothing I enjoy more than trying out new places and getting to know the unique character of its many neighborhoods. Since it’s earlier on in the module and we have a little more free time, it’s really nice to relax on a week night and catch up with friends over a beer. We walked home and it's time for bed! Thanks for spending the day with me.