One thing NJMS is particularly known for is early exposure to clinical medicine. At many med schools, you don't actually see a real patient until you begin rotations in your third year. Here, there are many opportunities for shadowing physicians or volunteering in a clinic right away in your first year, and for those who are too busy (lazy) to participate in electives, we are forced into patient interactions anyway through preceptorships that started in the beginning of January.
There is a list of participating family medicine specialists, internists, and pediatricians throughout NJ who agree to take on a first year med student, and it is a lottery system for who gets paired with whom. Then for the next 13 weeks for about 3 hours a week, we shadow our doctor and hopefully as we learn more, get to be involved with the patients' care by starting to take histories and soon, performing basic physical examinations.
Right now we're two weeks in, and I'm pretty excited about it. Everyone is going to have a completely different experience based on the doctor that they shadow - the types of patients they see plus what each doctor actually allows us to do. I'm trying to keep a really open mind and take every experience, whether positive or negative, as a learning opportunity. The doctor I'm shadowing is incredibly nice and so far has been an excellent teacher. I know I will be able to learn a lot from him and from the experience in general - hopefully by the end of this I won't be so uncomfortable in front of patients and won't be so afraid of things like stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs!