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Syed Osama Ahmad – Alfaisal University College of Medicine (Saudi Arabia)

MEDI406 – Cardiovascular Critical Care

What did you most enjoy about your elective?

There were several things I enjoyed about my elective – the most important was that it was not only the residents but also the attendings that were very accommodating to the students. They were easily approachable, I would ask questions during rounds and right on the spot, they would be more than happy to explain it to me. Other things I really enjoyed was they let you choose how much responsibility you want to take. I could carry 4-5 patients when we had straightforward cases and when we had complicated cases, I would just follow up on 2 patients at max. Additionally they allowed me to attend several different clinics, providing me with a comprehensive inpatient and ambulatory learning experience.

Other than that, of course the campus is nice to walk around. Chapel Hill being a college town has plenty of social activities to offer.

What was your favorite thing about UNC?

There were quite are a lot of things – It’s hard to narrow it down to one favorite thing. I would have to say attending clinics and getting to talk to the local people was an interesting experience. Learning the intricacies of the US health care system and experiencing how physicians work around the bureaucratic hurdles to help patients was a great learning opportunity. Another thing that I realized is that clinical practice isn’t always similar to the textbook medicine, insurance limitations often require us to utilize less than ideal medications.

For instance, today, we had a patient with atrial fibrillation, we usually give the NOAC anticoagulants based on his risk assessment, but his insurance wouldn’t cover that, so we had to start him on anti-platelet therapy (Aspirin), which is not the ideal or best thing to do but that’s better than having nothing. These experiences allow me to understand that I need to learn not just the ideal management but also a practical approach. The medicine of the future may be replaced by AIs but the humanistic element of being able to tailor your management plans to a patient’s background is not something AI can do.

Do you have any advice for future students?

My advice for future students is to finish off USMLEs and all other exams before you come over. You want to be able to enjoy the full elective experience and the weekend experience without worrying about taking exams. That’s something I felt in my previous elective, I had to go back, and study and it prevented me from spending time digging into patient histories. Here I have had nothing else to do, so I can focus on learning and getting everything, I can out of this elective.

What do you wish you had known before coming to UNC?

I wish I had known to carry an umbrella! Anyone coming in the summer should probably bring an umbrella with them, it rains a lot here! On the weekends, there are less buses, so you need to plan well or walk. Anyone doing CICU rotations I suggest they should live really close by since the buses don’t start until 6am and you might be required to come much earlier.