“Some Say Marry Money But My Brother Says Big Brains Matter Most.”
If you read that sentence and automatically thought, “function of intercranial nerves,” you, like Megan Fritz, have been a medicine student.
Like the high schoolers she helped as a teaching assistant for NEOMED’s Anatomy Academy this summer, Fritz, now an M2, also completed a session in the Academy.
When she started in the College of Medicine in fall 2020, says Fritz, “I shared one of the most common fears of incoming medical students: how to pick up so much material in such a short amount of time. It really helped that going through the Academy, I had learned study strategies and the countless – and entertaining – mnemonic devices that medical students use to consolidate the vast information we are expected to know.”
Fritz, who grew up in Massillon, Ohio, entered NEOMED through the accelerated BS/MD program at the University of Akron. Participating as a student in the Anatomy Academy gave her a preview of the fast pace of medical school, as well as medical school-level anatomy and cadaver experience. (Fritz also chose to take a third year to do cardiovascular research and complete additional courses to prepare for medical school.)
From student to teacher
After her first year in the College of Medicine, Fritz was eager to return to the Anatomy Academy as an instructor. She and many other medicine students, along with new recipients of master’s degrees from the Modern Anatomical Sciences program (who were about to start their first year in the College of Medicine), jumped at the chance to serve as teaching assistants for the two sessions of the program in summer 2021. Altogether, about twice as many NEOMED students as in previous years took the opportunity to be TAs.
Why? The Academy offers medicine students an excellent platform for teaching experience, which is highly sought after by residency programs, says Fritz.
“Incredible and an honor” is how she characterizes the chance to learn from and collaborate with the Academy’s instructors, Catherine Mattinson, Ph.D., assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology, and Erin Franks, Ph.D., assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology.
And the interactions with students were hugely rewarding. One student asked her to stick around after an exam had ended, so they could go over the material. “There we were, tracing neural pathways and drawing out schematics of blood flow and innervations, after all of the other students had left for the day,” says Fritz, impressed with the high schooler’s drive.
It was also exciting to be able to say the right thing to help a student who initially struggled with a concept. “Seeing that spark when they got it was exhilarating,” says Fritz.
Early plans set in motion
Neurology was an early interest for Fritz. Today, she plans to enter the field of pediatric neurology or pediatric neurosurgery. She credits her undergraduate experience in the Anatomy Academy with solidifying her direction.
“Being in a lab where I was able to hold a brain and see its pathologies and structures in detail – that made me sure that neurology was the field for me.”