Learning moves outside the lecture hall

Beth Seagraves Brooke, MS1

Along with a systems-focused curriculum, this semester brings new learning experiences. Though most days are still spent in our lecture hall, we now have days when we learn outside the classroom.

In problem-based learning (PBLs), groups of students gather to discuss clinical cases. The first dealt with an aortic dissection. Using information we learned in class, we discussed the patient’s vital signs, lab tests and scans. We arrived at a diagnosis and differentials. After listing several learning objectives, we agreed on a handful that we researched on our own that evening.

The following day, we shared what we learned and discussed the original diagnosis and eliminated differentials. We listed what symptoms were common among aortic dissections and aneurysms and what we, as future physicians, needed to be thinking of when ordering urinalysis, blood tests and X-rays.

I found the PBLs a laid back, fun way to practice using the information we’ve been learning this year. It’s also a great way to practice working with a team to arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan for a patient. We have another PBL in a couple weeks integrating information on respiratory and renal systems.

We’re also spending more time in the Paris Simulation Center, which houses the school’s simulated patients. In small groups, we work with a Ph.D. and a M.D. to discuss a clinical case. The simulated patient’s physical status changes to mimic worsening conditions or improvement as we progress through the case.

Last week, since we were learning respiratory, we discussed pneumothorax.


Caption: Dr. Matthew Bozeman walks first year students through treatment of a pneumothorax.

The case centered around a patient who was struck in the chest during a soccer game. His blood pressure was dropping, his respiration rate was elevated and his O2 levels were down. Through each step, we discussed arterial blood gas (ABG) levels, metabolic panel and vital signs. We also used a stethoscope to hear diminished lung sounds on the simulated patient’s left side and discussed his X-ray.

The purpose of the simulations (SIM Lab) is to show us how the concepts we learn in class apply to clinical situations. It gives us an opportunity to think through the physiology of the patient’s case and gain a better understanding how the body responds to an injury, pathology or treatment.

Next to clinical rotations and preceptorships, it’s hands-on learning at its best.


Embarking on new paths

Beth Seagraves Brooke, MS1


Hi! I’m Beth, a first-year medical student here at University of Louisville School of Medicine. I’m one of more than a dozen non-traditional medical students in the Class of 2018. Non-traditional usually means people aged 27 and up who are making a career change. My first career was in journalism. I returned to school in 2011.

For me, the first semester was a struggle to balance home and school life. Though I succeeded in passing my courses, I did not succeed very well in life. As many faculty members have said repeatedly, “Medical school is a 60-70-hour-a-week job.” They are not exaggerating. Sometimes it’s more.

It was hard to keep up with all the material. I could barely find enough time to prep for class, review notes and study for quizzes, lab practicals and exams. Task after task began falling off my schedule. Eventually I didn’t even use a schedule. I knew where and when I needed to be and that’s all I could manage. Chores piled up until after each exam, time to call friends and family began to disappear and I did not make time for myself.

But, don’t fear. This is common. And most first-year students experience it. We’re blessed at U of L to have wonderful faculty who are aware of the difficulties we face and are always available for advice and help.

I debated whether to share my struggle with you, but if I can’t be honest what would be the point of this blog? Right?

This semester started four weeks ago and I am happy to say that I’m on top of things. I’m exercising a few times a week, I’m able to balance home life a little better and I’m even enjoying weekly dates with my husband. The pressure has eased up a bit and I’m getting a better handle on things.

I’m also beginning to enjoy some of the many extracurricular opportunities at U of L, such as an interactive wellness session with the Kentucky Center’s Arts in Healing program held in early January.

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This month brings with it decisions and deadlines for summer activities and opportunities for next year. I’m excited to see what I’ll get into in the next few months. Stay tuned!