A new program provides a social orientation to medical school.
I vividly remember my first day of medical school two summers ago: the anxious drive to the Jewelry District
with my roommates, the nervous chatter with new classmates as we waited to take our ID photos, the overwhelming kickoff lecture about how the preclinical years would be like drinking from the proverbial firehose.
While I initially thought it was “just me,” I soon learned that those first-day of school jitters were nearly universal among my classmates. Inspired to change the tone of this sometimes rocky and anxiety-prone transition, four members of the MD Class of 2020—Sarah Bourne, Esther Henebeng, Sugi Min, and I—pitched the idea of a three-day pre-orientation program for the Warren Alpert Medical School.
We launched the FOAM, First-Year Orientation to Alpert Med, with the mission of easing the start of medical school by providing new students the opportunity to bond with their classmates, connect with upperclass mentors, and explore the surrounding area through a weekend of fun, non-academic activities.
After nine months of partnering with the Office of Student Affairs, recruiting and training leaders, advertising to accepted students, and coordinating logistics, FOAM launched in July 2017 for the MD Class of 2021. In our inaugural year, an impressive 60 percent of the first-year class participated, led by 25 upperclass team leaders.
The program provided two options: FOAM-Out, a set of backpacking and camping trips around New England; and FOAM-In, a three-day exploration of Providence and Rhode Island (for those who prefer sleeping indoors!). In both programs, first-years spent the weekend with a small group of classmates led by two second-year leaders. After three days of hiking, swimming, touring Newport, and exploring the RISD museum, all participants concluded the weekend with an all-FOAM wrap-up dinner at the Medical School.
First-year participants reflected on the positive impact the program had on their transition to medical school in our post-FOAM survey:
- “Getting to know a handful of classmates was an essential lifeline during the first week and a good way to enter school in a non-stressful way.”
- “I had an absolute blast, and I’m sure that the friendships I formed during FOAM will be long-lasting ones.”
- “What I liked most was meeting and bonding with classmates before the start of classes. Starting school tomorrow, I feel so much less nervous than I did before knowing that there will be familiar faces on the first day!”
After such a successful inaugural season, we are excited to plan for next year—and are already working with the incoming FOAM directors to continue developing and expanding FOAM for the MD Class of 2022. We are grateful for the support of the Office of Student Affairs, the Brown Medical Alumni Association, the Admissions Office, and our dedicated student team leaders.
Visit www.foamatbrown.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.