VT Carilion Students Enter Clinical Rotations for First Time

Left to right: Dr. R. Allen Blackwood, director, Internal Medicine Clerkship, Christopher Vieau, Caroline Osborne, Rebecca Kirschner, Matthew Joy, and Sean Fletcher.

by Beverly Amsler

Five doctors-to-be toured the Internal Medicine Department at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital earlier this week.  They looked like any other doctor but this was a big day . . . a “monumental day,” said Dan Harrington, VP for Academic Affairs at Carilion Clinic and the senior dean for Academic Affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.  “It’s because it’s the transition from being in the classroom to all of a sudden working with patients.  And in every medical student’s life, the first day of clerkships is a huge deal.”

These five are part of the third-year class of 42 students starting their clinical rotations for the first time in the history of the school, which opened its doors two years ago.  They’ll spend six weeks in internal medicine before rotating to various hospital departments.  And with this step comes a lot of responsibility, says Harrington.

“A clerkship is where the medical students rotate throughout the third year on core rotations such as pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, psychiatry, OBGYN, pediatrics – and here we also do neurology and radiology to learn the basic skills of taking care of patients.”  He says they’ll be examining patients, taking care of them, and participating in rounds.

Rebecca Kirschner is a VTC student from Winterpark, Florida.  “I’m a little nervous. We’re going to be getting a lot more responsibility now moving from our second year of medical school into our third year.”  She says she’s excited to get started.  She’s interested in pediatrics, but says “everything that we are going to learn here for the first six weeks is going to be applicable later.”

Christopher Vieau from Syracuse, New York, says he was overwhelmed by the move to clinical rotations.  “It’s a brand new environment and it’s amazing to see everyone at work.”

He hasn’t decided on a specialty and is considering everything equally at this point.  “My goal is just to be like a sponge and learn as much as I can and to get my hands on as many patients as I can and to see as many patients as I can and to see as many procedures as I can and to read as much as I can about my patients.”

Matthew Joy from California is the third-year class president. He spent part of the first morning in rotations learning where to go and where to find things.  “We actually have the chance to work with real patients in real time and are responsible for their care to a certain extent.  So it sort of brings meaning to all the book learning we’ve done to the point where you have to apply your knowledge and also apply your personal skills to interact with patients and establish relationships with them so you can treat them as best as possible.”  He’s leaning toward specializing in surgery but said he too is open to all areas.

While the third-year students begin their clinical rotations, VT Carilion is getting ready to welcome its latest set of first year students next month.