From the classroom to the clinic

           Catherine Maldonado is ready to test the future.

            Medical student Maldonado, a member of the class of 2013, received an armful of new books and a large helping of advice last week at this year’s Student Clinician Ceremony. The event marks one of the biggest transitions in medical school: as students move into third year this week, they start spending most of their time with patients.

             “This is what we’re really going to be doing for the rest of our lives,” Maldonado said. “Now we’ll get our feet wet and see what our future looks like.”


Members of the class of 2013 recite the Oath of Commitment.

           Students expressed a mix of excitement and nerves as they talked about beginning to take care of patients and trying to translate their classroom learning into practice.

            “”The biggest thing is that the first two years laid a great foundation for our transition into this year,” said Alex Wang, another new third-year student. “I feel ready.”

              Students were warned by faculty members and older students Friday that third year ushers in both a difficult change and a tough schedule. Rohini Komarla joked that perhaps she should just skip over that part.

             “I hear it’s a huge learning curve, so I’m ready to be a confident 4th year,” she said.

             Really, Komarla said, she’s looking forward to it. One of the best parts, she said, is that up until now, she has met with patients a few times, but that contact has been scattered rather than sustained. She wants to get to know her patients and be able to help them over the course of time.

              “I’m just excited to be able to participate in patients’ care directly, and to build relationships with them,” she said.


The Class of 2013 enters for the Student Clinician Ceremony.

            Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health, expects to see that kind of excitement from these students about seeing patients.

            “This is probably the only time in your career you’ll love having your pager go off,” he joked to them.

             Now is a pivotal point in their education, he told the class of 2013.

            “It’s not just about the science anymore,” he said. “It’s about communicating with patients.”


Students receive advice from Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health.

             Third-year student Joshua Robertson was selected by his class to give an address. He joked about the rigors of medical school.

            “When a medical student opens a Power Point and sees it’s ONLY 20 slides, you almost start weeping” for joy, he told the group.

             Fourth-year student Kevin Mitchell Jr. talked with the class about humanism in medicine.

            “Remember that your patients are not disease states, but people who happen to have disease states,” he said.  “Humanism is always knowing that you don’t know. …It’s a smile. It’s a handshake. Sometimes, it’s a hug…Humanism is a nervous third-year medical student taking on the business of healing people.”


Fourth-year student Kevin Mitchell Jr. focuses on humanism.

           Dr. Louis Saco, a member of the USF Board of Trustees as well as CEO and chairman of the board of the Watscon Clinic, presented gifts of clinical pocket books to class members.

             “When you start on Monday, each and every day is going to be a learning experience, and a unique one,” Dr. Saco said. “Intelligence. Courage. Hard work. Bring those to work with you each day, and you’ll just do great.”


Third-year students congratulate each other during the gift portion of the ceremony.

          Third-year student Kyle Plotts, 32, comes to this week with a different perspective from most of his classmates. Plotts brought along his wife, his mother, and his 8-month-old son, Josiah, to the ceremony. He also brought along a wealth of past clinical experience as a physician’s assistant.

            “I’ve already seen a lot of clinical disease,” he said. “So I’m really anxious to see how my clinical skills have improved.”

            The ceremony included a word of friendly advice for family members: Third year is hard. Don’t expect to see much of the students. But Plotts’ wife, Courtney, said the couple is ready for the challenge ahead.

           “This is what he’s called to do,” she said. “So you support him in what he needs to do.”

— Story by Lisa Greene; photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications