In the Journey of a Medical Student series, six to-be physicians in the Class of 2025 talk about their experiences as they enter the mid-point of their medical school educations and reflect on where Pillar 2 has taken them.

What’s the best thing about Pillar 2?

Nadya Ekhteraee-Sanaee: My favorite aspect of Pillar 2 has been cultivating my diagnostic skills and becoming more confident with patient interactions.

Andrew Reuter: My favorite part of Pillar 2 has been getting to apply some of the knowledge I gained in Pillar 1. Evaluating a patient and successfully making the diagnosis is pretty rewarding as an inexperienced clinician.

A headshot of Andrew Nerland.Andrew Nerland: In Pillar 2 I have gained competency and confidence through my clinical experiences. Transitioning out of the traditional “lecture hall” format of Pillar 1 into the clinical realm is a uniquely overwhelming and rewarding experience. Rather than spending all our time in the books and engaging in hypothetical cases, we are given our first opportunity to actively participate in the medical care of real, living patients, each with their own unique story and health history. It is an incredible privilege to be able to participate in a patient’s medical care for the first time.

A headshot of Bailey Pickering.Bailey Pickering: I love the hands-on learning that comes with patient care in Pillar 2. I have really loved learning in a smaller, rural setting because I have gotten to know the clinic and hospital staff I work with very well. The smaller setting has also allowed me to see patients multiple times. I have especially enjoyed this with obstetrics – getting to participate in mothers’ prenatal care, the delivery and then getting to see the baby at their well child checks. I love being able to have that continuity of care.

Nicholas Looby: I enjoy applying all the things I’ve learned this far to help people. I also really enjoy getting to know my attendings and patients.

What is an accomplishment you’re proud of?

Nadya: I diagnosed a pneumothorax in a family medicine clinic with my stethoscope. I have been using my stethoscope since the first year of medical school, but I have learned that it really does take years to train our ears to identify what is abnormal.

Andrew N.: When I reflect, I am simply proud of getting to where I am in my medical school experience. I feel that my career in medicine is starting to truly grow roots, and that is something I am very proud of.

A headshot of Andrew Reuter.Andrew R.: I completed a half marathon last spring. It was a humbling (read: miserable) experience, but I’m glad I did it. Going forward, I think I’ll stick to 5Ks. I’ve also worked on a variety of research projects and have some case reports and manuscripts that I’m hopeful will be published soon. Participating in research is a fun way to learn about a topic while bolstering my academic record.

A headshot of Jerica Muzik. Jerica Muzik: I just gave birth to my third baby on Halloween. That is probably what I’m most proud of in Pillar 2, along with the strong relationships and continuity I’ve gotten to build with so many patients in Yankton.


A headshot of Nicholas Looby.Nicholas: I’ve made a call and brought up points to a physician that ended up steering the patient in the right direction for treatment. I’m also proud of how far I’ve come and how much I have changed for the better.


Bailey: I am proud to be working with the Milbank High School HOSA (Future Health Professionals) program and helping come up with different ideas to engage students. I have also really enjoyed occasionally teaching various dissections and health related topics to the high school health careers class or anatomy class. For example, last spring we dissected cow hearts, sheep brains and fetal pigs. More recently we went over suturing basics and how to start an IV.

What about Pillar 2 has surprised you?

A headshot of Nadya Ekhteraee-Sanaee.Nadya: I have been surprised by how fast the 9-12 months have gone by and how much I have grown as a physician in training. A year ago, I was studying for my weekly endocrinology quizzes. Now I am independently seeing patients in the hospital and presenting to an attending physician on rounds.

Andrew N.: It’s incredible how much growth medical students can achieve in such a short period of time. While much of the growth experienced in medical school is purposeful and directed, I think just as much occurs indirectly and subconsciously. Around the halfway point of Pillar 2, I started to really appreciate a sense of my own clinical identity for the first time. Becoming a physician doesn’t feel like such a lofty and abstract goal anymore. I’m starting to be able to truly envision a place for myself in medicine and the phrase “my patients” is beginning to feel like a reality, which is a really cool feeling as a student. It is also a cool feeling to know that this is only the beginning, and I will soon look back and realize how much I have grown and experienced since beginning clinicals.

Nicholas: I was surprised by how little I still know about medicine. I’m learning new things every day with basically every patient I see.

What have you narrowed your area of specialty to?

Nadya: I am leaning toward emergency medicine, which is something I never thought I would hear myself say. I love the acuity of the ER as well as the variety. I love that you see patients of all ages and from all walks of life. I also love that you have the capability to stabilize and comfort patients in that critical moment when they are severely ill.

Andrew N.: I think the mission of the FARM (Frontier And Rural Medicine) program has been even more influential on me than I initially anticipated. My experience in Spearfish has strongly influenced me toward pursuing a career in family medicine, in large part due to the guidance and support from my attending physician, Dr. Jason Knudson. He has been an excellent teacher, and it has been a privilege to work closely with a mentor who I can both relate to and aspire to be like in my own career. Most physicians can probably remember a mentor who had a defining impact on their medical journey, so I’ve been fortunate to experience that at this stage of medical school.

Andrew R.: I’ve recently settled on diagnostic radiology as the specialty I’ll pursue in the residency match. I’ve participated in clinical experiences in radiology, and I’ve found the discipline contains most or all the qualities I desire in a future career.

Bailey: I want to practice rural family medicine, likely with obstetrics. I love the full spectrum of care you can provide as a rural family medicine physician and the continuity of care. I love caring for all ages and the variety family medicine brings each day.

Jerica: I plan to pursue family medicine and am really enjoying getting a full breadth of training for it.

Who have been your biggest supporters?

Nadya: My primary role model this year has been Dr. Mark List, who is my family medicine attending. He takes the time to discuss high yield topics with me that not only show up frequently in clinical practice but also appear on boards. He makes a significant effort to stay up to date with changing clinical guidelines, which has set an example for me. He has had a tremendous positive impact on my confidence practicing in a clinical setting by encouraging me to see patients and independently develop an assessment and plan.

Andrew R.: My family, friends and girlfriend continue to provide me unconditional support. Dr. Meredith Hayes, Dr. Matthew Hayes and Dr. Drew Erie have been awesome mentors in the field of radiology. They demonstrate how rewarding a career in radiology truly is. All my clinical attendings have been great mentors and role models as well. I’ve been very fortunate to be paired with them.

Bailey: I have had incredible mentors in Milbank. I cannot express how grateful I am to all the physicians, APPs, clinic staff and hospital staff for continually supporting me by engaging me in patient care, being willing to teach and seeking me out if there is an interesting case or procedure to do. I’m also very grateful that the community is so welcoming to students and allows me to participate in their health care.

What are you looking forward to in the next stages of your educational journey?

Andrew R.: I’m looking forward to the start of Pillar 3 in the next few months. While I’ll certainly miss Pillar 2 and its diversity of experiences, having the opportunity to choose rotations and narrow my focus will be a fun, new challenge.

Bailey: I am looking forward to focusing on rotations in Pillar 3 that will continue to help me learn and grow as a future physician. Throughout Pillar 2 I have mainly seen primary care, so rotating with different specialists will be fun!

Andrew N.: I most look forward to continuing to develop my clinical identity and finding my unique path in medicine. Pillar 3 is an exciting process because, for the first time, we have the opportunity to customize our clinical experiences going forward. Some of the electives I look forward to taking in Pillar 3 include rotating through the IHS (Indian Health Service) in Rosebud, inpatient pediatric psychiatry and geriatrics in primary care.

Nicholas: I’m looking forward to getting married in July and being able to take my future wife on a nice honeymoon.

Read part one of the Journey of a Medical Student series.

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