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Published August 27, 2020
The University of Wyoming’s WWAMI Medical Education Program welcomed its 23rd class of new medical students Monday, Aug. 17. The medical students are among one of the first cohorts of students coming to the Laramie campus as part of UW’s phased reopening during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
During the group’s first week in the Wyoming WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) program, located in the College of Health Sciences, the E-20 (2020 entering class) students participated in the medical school’s orientation/immersion schedule of events. The medical students are all from Wyoming.
Students received a welcome from faculty and staff, followed by an overview of the foundations phase of their education, presented by WWAMI Director Tim Robinson.
“We are excited to welcome our E-20 medical students to campus during this unprecedented time in WWAMI’s history,” Robinson says. “Our faculty and staff have worked incredibly hard over the summer to prepare two curricula -- one involving primarily face-to-face learning and a backup plan involving 100 percent online learning that will only be needed if there is a spike in COVID cases.”
He adds that “we feel awfully blessed in Wyoming to be in a position to start the school year with face-to-face learning.”
“We recognize that this would not be possible without the careful planning of the governor and the administration at the University of Wyoming, as well as the support of our local clinical providers,” Robinson continues.
The orientation/immersion program included an introduction to the foundations of clinical medicine, presented by faculty members Drs. John and Yvette Haeberle, college mentor and clinical curriculum director, respectively; Dr. Julie Carlson, assistant clinical curriculum director; and Dr. Tracey Haas, college mentor.
The students also were given a tour of Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie.
“I have really enjoyed that we jumped right into the curriculum with foundations of clinical medicine, gross anatomy lab and research methods,” says WWAMI student Grace Nicholas, from Cody. “We also were introduced to our college mentors who will follow us throughout medical school. After meeting my mentor, Dr. Carlson, I felt reassured that she will help me through whatever pitfalls I may experience and celebrate my accomplishments throughout, even after graduating medical school.”
“We have had the opportunity to learn how to best navigate medical school and to learn skills that will benefit us in our medical career -- from learning how to interview patients, to reading radiographic imaging to interpreting research papers,” says Luiza Bosch, a first-year medical student from Laramie. “One of the highlights of the week was receiving our white coats, as we have all dreamed about this moment for a very long time.”
Students were presented with their white coats and stethoscopes by their respective college mentors at the medical school’s stethoscope ceremony during the orientation/immersion week. They were then able to meet with their mentors in their respective mentor groups. Receiving their first stethoscopes, along with white coats, signifies the beginning of their journey toward becoming physicians.
“I think we were all very excited to begin our medical journey even though everything is a bit different during COVID times,” Bosch adds.
Dr. Yvette Haeberle says that she looks forward every year to welcoming a new class of first-year students and getting to know them on an individual basis.
“Having the small cohort of only 20 students here in Wyoming allows for faculty, staff and students to really get to know one another and form long-standing relationships,” she says.
Mentors will work with five students each, and will be available for students to discuss goals and challenges they may face in the classroom or with their clinical experiences.
The students also were divided into two groups, with each group entering for the first time into the WWAMI anatomy lab, located in the UW Physical Sciences Building. For some students, the anatomy lab can be a challenging experience the first time.
“I walked into medical school anxious about my history of passing out around medical stimuli,” says Jackson McCue, from Cheyenne. “I was particularly concerned about the anatomy lab. I can’t say enough about how welcoming, comforting and instructive our faculty was during our first dissection experience. This warm welcoming can be said of all of the faculty all week long. Before showing us how much they know a subject, our faculty has demonstrated how much they care about our success as a class.”
Dr. Alison Doherty, clinical assistant professor and anatomy lab director, along with Dr. Mike Meyer, lecturer, and Lydia Jorden, lab manager, talked with students during their first visit about back and spinal cord dissection.
“The anatomy experience has been completely reorganized to reduce the amount of students in the lab at one time. The cohort has been thoughtfully divided into smaller subgroups for group activities to reduce the possibility of COVID transmission,” says WWAMI student Maison Furley, from Sheridan. “Students and staff are pleased to comply, so we can experience our education in the most normal fashion while also staying healthy and protecting our community.”
While UW has structured a phased return plan for students, Wyoming WWAMI staff also made certain all safety measures were in place prior to the E-20 group’s arrival.
“As a cohort, we are all very cognizant of how privileged we are to be able to meet in person,” Bosch says. “We are all taking the necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of not only our faculty and students, but the community as a whole.”
McCue adds that there was uncertainty about what the learning environment would be like due to mitigation policies.
“Our faculty and administration have done twice the work to be sure that we are prepared to learn in person and online, if needed later in the semester,” McCue says. “The first week of WWAMI orientation/immersion could not have gone better. Our lectures, activities and schedules felt seamless. I’m confident that one day, when we are on the right side of this, we’ll look back with nothing but gratitude for the folks who made it possible for us to learn in person during this pandemic and be a part of the solution moving forward.”
The WWAMI students will begin the wilderness medicine portion of their immersion curriculum Aug. 27 (today), where they will obtain their Wilderness First Responder certificates. The students will resume classroom instruction Monday, Sept. 7.
E-20 students (listed by their hometowns) are:
Byron -- Austin Ellis.
Casper -- Bret Andrew, Joseph Keating and Dane Patey.
Cheyenne -- Jackson McCue, Rikki Nelson and Bryce Snow.
Cody -- Grace Nicholas and Taylor Thompson.
Gillette -- Ariel Rap.
Green River -- Holly Huber.
Laramie -- Luiza Bosch, Madeleine Isler and Sierra Levene.
Moran -- Cade Budak.
Powell -- Blake Hopkin.
Sheridan -- Drew Adriaens and Maison Furley.
Thermopolis -- Cody Abbott.
Wheatland -- Audrey Lucas.