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Pandemic calls Upstate Medical Students to the frontline

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Adriana Loh
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The sign at Upstate Medical University greets visitors

A hands-on learning experience for medical students has put many of them at the frontline. A field that prepared many of its students to face endless hours of clinical rotations and stressful medical situations had made or break their future in medicine.

Fourth-year student Natasha Pandit has always anticipated working with medicine as generations of her family have done the same. Always looking up to doctors as problem solvers and always having the answer to everything, she too would hope to acquire the same knowledge and capability they have.

“I find being in the role of service to others, and being able to have the knowledge and capability to help others inspiring,” Pandit said. “I was unsure at first but then I realized I guess there was something in me that could hopefully handle it and it's still scary but there’s a reason I came this far.”

The Coronavirus hit in March of 2019, during Pandit’s second year of Medical school. During the state-wide order to shut down, medical students had to go remote and not be involved in patient-care activities.

“I was fortunate in a sense to be in my second year and have a bit of clinical experience, so the stress was not as intense learning remote,” Pandit said. “Returning back to school it was definitely chaotic as we experienced watching people and families suffering during this crisis.”

After returning five months later from the initial shutdown, they returned to the most intense moments during COVID. With full in-person learning once again, they were placed at the frontline with the virus still being a risk factor for many students observing and practicing with patients.

“A lot of people have left the field which is understandable given the circumstances and stress people have faced,” Pandit said. “But, there is also a bigger passion from staff and students to be in the field of medicine than they have ever been because of the importance of their role in the community to be of service.”

Despite having to learn to care for patients remotely, Natasha took this as a learning opportunity for not only students but for professionals as well.

“I will make it a point to be familiar with the most up-to-date knowledge, be a good role model for my patients, and to be a service of trust,” Pandit said. “Being a doctor is a job that's always on the clock as you set an example within the community or your own personal circle.”

Adriana Loh is a graduate student in broadcast journalism at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications and shares reporting time at WAER Public Media.