2020 was a year filled with uncertainty and instability. I began the year with a trip to San Diego to present research I had started the previous summer. In February, more people started talking about a virus that was rapidly spreading, and the initial consensus was that it would not be any worse than the seasonal flu. In early March, after completing my last preclinical exam, everything shut down as we moved into our dedicated period of step 1 studying.
This is where the uncertainty started.
The school sent out emails regarding a delayed start to third year for our class, requiring that our lottery for the sequence of third-year rotations be re-run.
Next came the instability.
Prometric began canceling step exams without warning. I was optimistic that I would be able to take step 1 on my original date because it was less than a week away, and I had not received any notification. Inevitably, the dreaded cancellation email came. I, like many of my classmates, started scrambling for Prometric testing dates with great frustration as the website was not equipped to handle such high traffic. I got another test date a couple of months down the road. However, that got canceled as well when Prometric decided they would move to 50 percent capacity and cancel half of their testing slots at random. Eventually, I secured a spot in May a few days after Prometric decided to reopen and was luckily able to get it over with.
I spent the first summer months completing online coursework for rotations around which time multiple unjust murders of Black Americans by police gained national attention. This sparked emotional and necessary conversations within a variety of groups and unfortunately worsened an already polarized climate amidst the continued pandemic. The school had decided to start slightly shortened in-person rotations in June so that we would finish the year on time. Later in 2020, the uncertainty returned when our class started thinking about how much of the fourth-year format, including step 2 CS, away rotations, ERAS, and residency interviews, would be continued from the previous cycle. It was not until well into 2021 that we got the answers we were looking for.
Looking back on 2020, one of my recent realizations was that practically all of our clinical training has been done through masks. It even seems odd to think that people used to deliver babies and conduct virtually all patient interactions and examinations without a mask on. I believe that my class has become more resilient after all the obstacles we faced and overcame in 2020. A major lesson I will take away is that, even with uncertainty and instability, life will keep moving. It is easy to spend countless hours worrying about what is to come, but the only result of that is wasted time. If there is anything that this pandemic has taught me, it is that life is unpredictable and oftentimes shorter than we anticipate. Therefore, regardless of circumstance, we should find time to do what we enjoy with those that matter to us while we still have the chance.