works with a patient.
doctor is about understanding relationships.
How do organs
work together to function properly? How do medications interact with
one another? How do underlying conditions affect overall health?
Being a doctor
is about relationships, too.
patients. Using technology. Navigating the changing health care
doctors have to balance it all, as Ashley Quinn already knows.
Quinn is a
second-year student at the Medical College of Wisconsin ó busy with
classroom work, up to 12 hours a day of studying, volunteer work,
friends, a long-distance boyfriend and even intramural softball.
"That was a
big life lesson for me the first month I was here, to know my limits
ó ĎOK, thatís too much studyingí or ĎI should probably be
studying more,í" she says. "Finding that balance is
definitely very tricky."
Quinn, who turns
24 in March, grew up in Verona, the younger of two daughters of a
kindergarten teacher and a printing business owner. She played soccer
and volleyball as a kid and landed a job at a movie theater when she
pretty well for myself in high school, but I didnít know what I
wanted to do," says Quinn. "I knew I liked science, and I
thought math was really cool.
has their own story of how they got to medical school. I came to the
realization on my own. Maybe thatís why I enjoy reaching out (to
high school girls) so much. I want to make it easier for other people
to know what they want to do."
skills set Quinn apart and will contribute to her success as a
physician, according to Todd Hoagland, associate professor of cell
biology, neurobiology and anatomy at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
what separates the best doctors from the really good ones ó not only
having the technical savvy and expertise to solve the patientís
problem, but also the bedside manner," he explains.
Quinn arrived on
the MCW campus in 2013 just months after earning a bachelorís degree
in biomedical engineering from UW-Madison. Not all med school students
come directly from undergrad ó many donít get accepted right away
and re-apply the following year, some come after getting a masterís
degree, others start med school after working for a while.
Even in a
difficult economy, would-be doctors line up for the privilege of
paying about $260,000 to attend four years of medical school. For its
200 slots per year, MCW receives more than 7,000 applications.
steep odds, Quinn was too scared to pick up when she saw a 414 area
code on her phone, just days after her admissions interview in the
fall of 2012. "I was getting off the bus one night in Madison,
walking back to my apartment, and I thought, ĎI donít think I can
answer this,í and I let it go to voice mail," she relates.
"They left an acceptance voice mail and it was really exciting
ó I still have it."
offers a career counseling center devoted to pre-med students, and
Quinn is glad she took advantage of it. Another factor that helped her
decide to pursue medical school was her two-plus years of work
experience in a research lab in Madison. "I loved the science and
being able to do things with my hands," she explains, "but I
felt it kind of fell short in the aspect of being able to help people.
I wanted to do things that more directly affected people."
are opting for MCWís accelerated medical school program in Green
Bay, scheduled to welcome its first students this July. (A similar
program in central Wisconsin will launch in 2016.) Completing a
medical degree in three years rather than four saves a student about
$65,000 in tuition and fees and gets him or her into practice and
earning a salary that much earlier.
Itís not for
everyone, though. "If youíre a mediocre student, youíre going
to get crushed," cautions Hoagland.
At the satellite
campuses, instead of filing into an auditorium for classes, students
sometimes will listen to lectures by MCW professors in Milwaukee via
live video or podcast. Instructors will be adding Skype office hours
so students can get questions answered.
to have live meetings with groups of students who are maybe 50 or 100
miles apart," says Hoagland, explaining yet another planned use
of technology. "Theyíll be Skyping or in Google chat rooms
where everybody can see everybody in Milwaukee, with a preceptor
talking to them about patient experiences."
soon: a video system allowing out-of-state students to transmit images
from their cadaver dissections to professors in Milwaukee, and a video
library of studentsí clinical work to help confirm diagnoses and
teach other students.
students are running faster than the faculty when it comes to the
adoption of technology," says Hoagland. "The 50-year-old
physician who is teaching in medical school didnít even grow up with
computers. Itís a radical change." MCW is on the forefront of
that technology. Quinn calls it "the coolest thing Iíve ever
seen." Itís an oversized computer tablet called an Anatomage
Virtual Dissection Table. MCW got one in 2013; worldwide, only about
110 medical schools, simulation centers and physician assistant
programs have them, according to the California company that invented
and sells them.
Data from actual
CT scans and two-dimensional images render a life-size interactive 3-D
model of the human body. With the touch of the screen, students can
isolate the bones, circulatory system and organs to identify problems.
The model can be rotated, sliced or segmented.
first-year gross anatomy class, minus the cadaver and smell of
similar apps on our iPads that I use frequently to study," Quinn
says excitedly. "You can add or subtract layers of muscle, and it
really helps you to understand the 3-D relationships that you need to
know for anatomy."
And study she
does. Four mornings a week, Quinn is in class for four hours. She
usually walks back to the apartment she shares with another medical
student, four blocks away, for a 40-minute lunch break. Then, itís
time to hit the books until about midnight, though she does take
breaks to avoid losing her motivation. She enjoys cooking and usually
watches one episode of a TV show while making dinner.
On weekends, she
also studies, but fits in shopping and workouts and goes to the
movies. She ran the Brewers Mini last fall, her first half-marathon.
undergrad, I was doing engineering and math, and it was conceptually
difficult but not real time-consuming," she says. "In
medical school, I feel that the concepts are more straightforward, but
there is just so much of it and itís very time-consuming. There is
some memorization, just understanding all of the words. The drug names
ó just being able to say them ó is a feat in and of itself."
students at MCW take exams about every five weeks. The pace picks up
in second year ó there are quizzes or midterms about every two
makes time for volunteering. Sheís helped out school nurses at
nearby elementary schools and worked at a clinic for the uninsured.
She helped organize a daylong program with the American Medical Womenís
Association for high school girls to promote careers in science,
technology, engineering and medicine.
to interact with the community, to give back to them, helps motivate
you and reminds you what you are here for," says Quinn.
thereís an old joke among medical school faculty, that they can
already see at orientation which specialties a student might be
interested in. Quinn is a long way off from needing to decide, but is
thinking about cardiology.
Affordable Care Actís impact still revealing itself, Hoagland says
some specialties might not pay as well as they have in the past. But,
he adds quickly, money isnít the reason people are in medical
last decade, students have been choosing fields that have better
lifestyles, like emergency medicine where you donít have a patient
workload. You work 9-to-5, or a 12-hour shift, and you leave," he
Quinn says the
ACA comes up sometimes at family gatherings, so she is trying to
understand it better. Then again, her family also watches "Greyís
Anatomy," leaving her to explain that to them, too. "When I
watch it, I see things they should have diagnosed in five minutes
instead of an hour, and Iím thinking, ĎIím pretty sure it doesnít
work that way,í" she says with an easy laugh.
"I get a
little numb to all the perfectionism when it comes to academic
transcripts, because almost all the medical students you see are darn
smart," says Hoagland. "What really shines and sets students
apart are those who do all that and are pillars of the community.
"We have a
lot of great students who try to motivate young kids. We keep going,
and we try to inspire the next generation to be better than we