Student Voices

Student bloggers

January 2015

My friends and I joke that every medical student has some sort of hidden talent.

Take for example one of my classmates who can beautifully play the violin to any song she hears…or my friend who is an incredible photographer…or his brother who is an unreal singer. Most of these talents stay hidden as we get swamped with school work, but the MAC Gala allows these treasures to surface.

MAC is one of the largest, and probably my favorite, annual events on campus. It is sponsored by the Multicultural Awareness Club, and it helps showcase the incredible talents and diversity that exist within our medical school.

Some of the acts have become tradition—for example, the energetic, ballyhooed dance number, performed by approximately two dozen students (some are professionals and others are new to dancing). But my favorite act this year was the whip demonstration. One first-year student who collects whips, from Indiana Jones to Zorro to Cat Woman, performed some targeting whip tricks. He was able to cut off a tip of a flower with a whip! It's nice to be reminded of the many talents my classmates have.

In addition to being a fun event for students, faculty, and physicians, this year's gala had a silent auction that raised over $1,500 for Global Medical Brigades (the audience had the opportunity to vote among various organizations).

by Mona Lotfipour


It's a pretty great feeling the first time you realize you're actually helping to make decisions in a patient's care. Recently during my Family Medicine rotation, my plan for a patient was slightly different than my attending's. Instead of telling me that I was wrong and explaining the reasoning behind his plan, he thought for a moment, nodded, and told me we would go with my plan, adding that "often, there's more than one way to treat someone."

Useful learning point aside, this moment stood out to me. For the first time, I felt as if I had tackled a patient's problems all on my own, from start to finish.

For the first time, I felt like a doctor.

It's hard to recognize your own progress during third year. Often, by the time you start to gain some confidence in a rotation, you're already moving on to the next one. It's easy to feel a bit off kilter all the time because you're constantly trying to adjust to a new field of medicine, or a whole new medical team with people you've never met before. For a while, it was discouraging to be reminded of how little I knew each time I moved on to another service. It made it pretty hard to gauge my own progress.  But you know what? Maybe there's something to this whole medical school thing.

Recently I've felt more confident about my level of medical knowledge, and I feel more composed in front of patients. I'm starting to feel a little less like a lowly medical student and more like a member of the medical team who can actually contribute something. I'm starting to notice my own growth. Half way through third year, I can finally see myself as a physician one day, and it's a pretty great feeling.

by Kevin Moser


October 2014

Think back to before you received your medical degree. Think back to when the mental anguish of the USMLE Step 1 was still relatively fresh, and you were just a few months into your clerkships. If you're anything like me, you often felt semi useless in your third year. Sure, you could get a patient's history and relay that information back to the physician, but usually all you could do for your patient was offer them a smile. Well, whether you thought anything of it or not, that smile mattered.

I was recently in clinic on my surgical oncology rotation and was sent into a room to collect a patient's history. She reported doing very well, and we spent most of the time just chatting about her quality of life this past summer, with me asking the occasional question, probing for any symptoms of recurrent cancer. I left clinic that day just like I would have any other day, not thinking twice about any impact I might have had.

A week later, I received word that a package was waiting for me in the surgical oncology office. It was from my patient. Inside were two jars of her homemade grape jelly and peach jam, along with a wonderful note. She thanked me for my encouragement and told me that my bedside manner had made her feel calm on her clinic days for the first time since her diagnosis. I was stunned. After all, what had I really done? All I did was talk to her.

Hearing that I had made a difference, however small, was confirmation that what I'm doing as a medical student really does matter. Though I had no part in the medical treatment of her cancer, I was still able to leave a positive impression on her patient care experience. This proved to me that a seemingly insignificant gesture can go a significantly long way.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, the homemade treats were delicious!)

by Kevin Moser


August 2014

The Global Health Scholars Program at Penn State College of Medicine was one of the main draws for me as I was applying to medical schools. At the time, however, I never imagined the breadth and depth of research that I would have the opportunity to work on.

This past summer, two research projects took me to Iquitos, Peru. I set out to help determine whether sanitation in restaurants is indicative of the prevalence of foodborne, enteric pathogens (such as Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, E.coli). I also worked on a project that looked at the determinants of household drinking water quality and diarrheagenic infections.

In Peru, we had a fun and lively team made up of Global Health Scholars and researchers from the United States Navy Research Unit (NAMRU-6). We gathered participants, did inspections, collected samples, and conducted all sorts of microbiology tests for each restaurant. Needless to say, it was a busy and exciting summer.

The diversity of our work kept things interesting, although some days my partner and I would get in before 7 a.m. and leave after 8 p.m. The long days felt rewarding, however, as we were able to finish the project in our final week in Iquitos.

Our hard work was also accompanied by a good amount of fun, like exploring the Amazon River. Each weekend, our team went on a number of jungle expeditions; we saw monkeys, piranhas, anacondas, and so much more. After we completed our research, we were all able to travel around Peru. Visiting Machu Picchu was an unforgettable experience!

Soon, I will be back to reality starting second year and prepping for the boards. I'm so glad that I spent my last summer off exploring and learning in a new community.

By Mona Lotfipour


August 2014

Probably the most exciting time in medical school is the transition between the second and third years, when the clinical experience really begins. So far for me, third year has started off with a bang.

In the course of a few months, I've gone from lectures and test taking, to writing this article at 3:00 a.m. after just assisting with a C-section. In the few short weeks that I've been a third-year medical student, it's already been one of the coolest learning experiences I've ever had, and while I'm definitely learning a lot of medicine, the learning goes far beyond the required curriculum.

Here are a few of the extra-curricular things that I have discovered so far:

One of the things I gleaned early on is the importance of getting to know residents. While every attending I've met has been extremely helpful, often it's the residents who can more easily relate to medical school and help me with the basics. They are especially helpful when I'm reading a patient's note and have no idea what many of the acronyms mean. I've learned that acronyms are a part of life.

I've learned that some of the battle is knowing where to be and how to get there, especially when my student ID badge doesn't let me through half the doors in the hospital. This has helped hone my interpersonal skills, as I have perfected how to ask whoever is at the nurse's desk to please let me through the door for the 10th time that hour. Speaking of nurses, I've learned they are all fantastic resources.

Since I am starting out on a surgical specialty, I've also learned how to wake up before the sun does, and that it is never ever alright to disrupt a sterile field. Seriously, I have gained a very healthy fear of the color blue. On that note, I have also become a pro at retracting.

Finally, and most importantly, it seems the more I learn about medicine, the more I realize how far I have yet to go. I'm just beginning on this life-long journey, and I'm ridiculously excited to see where it will take me.

By Kevin Moser


May 2014

Most current students and recent alumni are familiar with Problem Based Learning (PBL) and Mediasite, two newer components of Penn State Hershey's medical school experience, which I wrote about in previous entries. One thing that is brand new, however, is the creation of societies. 

The societies program was formed to provide learning communities for underclass students so that they can foster stronger relationships with their peers, fourth-year students, and their advisor, who also serves as their clinical skills instructor. Each society was named after an influential physician in the Penn State community: Dr. Judith Bond, Dr. Rodrigue Mortel, Dr. John Waldhausen, and Dr. Al Vastyan. In true "Harry Potter" fashion, these houses, um…I mean societies, were assigned the colors red, green, blue, and yellow, respectively.

One of the greatest benefits of the societies program is the increased level of student involvement. In the spirit of friendly competition, students participate in different activities or events to earn "wellness points" for their society. Just to prove that the "Harry Potter" analogy was not lost on the administration, the four societies competed in the inaugural Society Cup in early May. Activities ranged from athletics, a talent competition, trivia, and art exhibits to a medical jargon spelling bee and even a game of Quidditch. Those alumni who are "Harry Potter" fans will remember that this is essentially the plot of the fourth book.

In addition to being fun, these societies really serve to improve upon an already great community within the medical school and cultivate relationships among students of all years. As the societies program continues to grow, be sure to stay tuned for more student wellness and Hogwarts-inspired news!

By Kevin Moser


January 2014

A few months ago, I told you what a typical day is like for me as a medical student. But lately, I've been thinking about how new technology has transformed the "typical" into a more unique experience for each student. Instead of a "one-size-fits-all" educational model, Penn State College of Medicine has evolved and implemented current technologies to provide the best education possible for its students. Whether it is new equipment in the simulation lab or integrating social media into a course, technology has become an important part of our medical education.

One of the most obvious uses of technology today is Mediasite. Some of you might be familiar with Mediasite, but others might not. Coming from college, it was certainly new to me. With Mediasite, every class lecture is recorded and then uploaded to a website so that students can view and listen to the lecture at any time. The ability to watch any lecture online allows for much more freedom and individuality in each student's education. Rather than adhere to a set schedule, students can now benefit from watching lectures on their own time and in the environment of their choosing.

For some, it can be easy to lose concentration in a large lecture hall, but Mediasite offers a solution. Now, students can pause, rewind, and jump between sections of the lecture, or even re-watch old lectures if some concepts were confusing the first time. With the ability to choose when and where to watch lectures, students can take control of their own education and experience medical school in the way that helps them learn best—whether that includes using Mediasite, attending class lectures, or a combination of both. By employing new technology, each student can choose his or her own unique pathway to success in medical school.

As for me, my coffee is ready and my couch is calling; time to catch up on today's lectures.

By Kevin Moser


October 2013

8:00 am

I start my mornings the same way just about every day. I drive to the hospital, walk down the long main hallway past the Nittany Lion statue, pick up a coffee from the cafeteria, and make my way around the Crescent over to the lecture hall. To you alumni, this might seem like the average routine you had in medical school as well, except there's probably one major difference: as a second-year medical student, after two hours my lectures are over. Instead of sitting in a classroom for hours hearing lectures about basic sciences or organ blocks, three times a week we meet in our Problem Based Learning (PBL) groups and work through a patient case.

10:00 am
The next two and a half hours are devoted to hearing a chief complaint, developing a differential diagnosis, and discussing the details of that case. You may be familiar with the idea of PBL. After all, PBL started way before my time here at Penn State, but over the years its prominence in our learning has increased.

12:30 pm
Classroom time is now over, and my classmates and I focus the rest of our day on researching and learning about what we have come across. Instead of hearing someone tell us the properties of a disease, we're discovering them for ourselves.

My average day in medical school might seem like a far cry from what some alumni remember, but I think these changes are for the better. We are encouraged to think clinically from the very moment we enter medical school. There's a sense of pride in figuring out a diagnosis and then spending hours at home delving into the details of a case. As students, we own our education, and in many ways set the course for our future development as physicians.

It's all in a day's work…

By Kevin Moser