CSGA Connection: Fiona Axelsson

Helping Students through Irma from Afar

Fiona.jpgAs a third year medical student, I had just started my internal medicine rotation at Wexham Park Hospital in Wexham, UK when word started to spread that a major hurricane was headed towards St. Maarten. Over the coming days, those of us in clinicals were glued to our computers, waiting for news of where Hurricane Irma would hit and hoping that our island home would escape its fury.
With heavy hearts, we began to realize the destructiveness of the hurricane, and in the days that followed Irma, we could do nothing more than wait for news that everyone was safe.

The day after Irma, our site director and clerkship directors called a meeting. We all gathered for lunch and answered questions about the storm: Was everyone okay? How badly was the school hit? Did we have loved ones or friends still down there that we hadn’t heard from? What could they do to help us? How were we handling it? We proudly told them of the stories we had heard of students helping those in need during the hurricane. They were in awe that students, who had just been through a catastrophic hurricane, could find the energy to rescue and aid those in need. And we agreed, the bravery shown by the students who survived Irma was a testament to their character and would one day make them great physicians.

My thoughts went out to the students who were just beginning their journey with AUC, who had not yet formed a tight-knit group of friends that they would soon call family. Would they stick it out, after witnessing such devastation to an island they had barely just begun to know? Or would they move home and re-think their choices? I was amazed to hear that more than 90 percent of students chose to stay on and finish the semester—students were still clearly dedicated to continuing their medical education. This, of course, did not surprise me, because AUC trains some of the most determined and strong-willed students I’ve ever met!

With the successful move to Preston, I’m hopeful that the clinical students in the UK, like myself, will have opportunities to join forces with medical sciences students. I’m also optimistic that we will be able to provide a smooth transition for students in 5th semester—who will be joining us after they complete Step 1—and guide 1st through 4th semester students who are still working their way up to clinicals. Earlier this month we took the first step in that collaboration when several UK clinical students attended a UK hospital fair to share our experiences with medical sciences students.

To those students who are struggling with the recent events, don’t be afraid to reach out to the Clinical Student Government Association. We may not have experienced the hurricane, but we remember how difficult medical sciences was, so you always have our support—in however you may need it! And don’t forget, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

Fiona Axelsson, MD Candidate

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