Resources for Family Members
Thank you, family members!
Congratulations on your student being accepted to WVSOM! Family members, including parents, spouses/partners, children and others, have a critical role to play in supporting their student’s success in medical school.
The transition from college to medical school can be a challenging one for many students. Some students struggle to make the transition, and nearly everyone experiences a bad day here or there. We know that you are experiencing these bumps in the road right along with your student, and you want to be there for them when they become stressed and overwhelmed. But with their grit, determination and resilience and your support, the vast majority of WVSOM students experience success and graduate as Osteopathic Physicians.
This page is specifically for you. We hope that it will provide some strategies that will be helpful to you, as you continue to support your student through their medical school journey and beyond.
- What should I be talking about with my student?
Many WVSOM students are the first in their families to attend medical school. Even if you can’t help your student with the academics, you still play a critical role in supporting them in their lives. They most likely will appreciate your advice as they negotiate establishing new friendships and adjusting to a new town. They’ll need creative ideas for quick, easy and cheap recipes. Most of all, they’ll need your understanding when they don’t have as much time for family activities as they did when they were in college. The rigors of medical school demand that they focus most of their time on their studies.
Lots of students experience what is known as imposter syndrome – the feeling that they don’t actually belong in medical school and, at any moment, someone is going to figure this out and tell them to leave. You can help your student in those moments of self-doubt by reminding them that everyone sometimes feels this way, especially when they are in a new situation.
Sometimes, your student just needs to hear that you are proud of them and they absolutely deserve to be in medical school.
And sometimes, they just need to vent. You don’t have to have all of the answers, but it is a huge help to them if you can listen.
Some signs that your student may be struggling include: irritability, increased worry or anxiety, difficulty sleeping, withdrawing from others, changes in eating habits, neglecting personal hygiene or self-care, lack of enjoyment in activities, and feelings of low personal accomplishment. Please see the section on helpful resources below for ideas on where you can refer your student.
- What is my student learning?
WVSOM’s curriculum is organized around patient presentation. This means the framework for the content that students will be learning is based on real life symptoms that patients bring to their doctors’ offices. Classroom learning is complemented by lab courses during which students have the opportunity to: practice the skills needed for patient interactions (Clinical Skills Lab) as well as interact with actual patients (Early Clinical Encounters); learn and practice osteopathic manipulative medicine (Osteopathic Principles and Practices lab); and develop an in-depth understanding of human anatomy (anatomy lab). Also in the first year, all students receive instruction important to WVSOM’s mission of training primary care physicians for rural medical practice, including a focus on the special health care needs in West Virginia.
- How much time does my student need to spend studying?
A lot! Most students find medical school to be significantly more challenging than college, in part due to the sheer amount of information that they need to understand. The good news is that we know that success in the WVSOM curriculum translates directly into success on the board exams that students will take at the end of their second and third years in school.
Because the content learned in the first two years of medical school is so critical to a student’s success, you may notice that your student doesn’t have as much time to spend with you as they did previously. Giving them the space that they need to fully engage in their studies can put a strain on relationships, but it is a great gift that you can give your student.
In total, your student is going to have an approximately 60 hours per week commitment to school. And if they are doing it right, will have a schedule to keep to stay on track. It can be difficult to understand what this time commitment really looks like if you are not present with your student. Please be considerate of how hard they are working. Know that family/relationship time is important, and a place for communication should go on the schedule so relationships aren’t neglected, creating an added, unnecessary stressor.
- Where can my student find help?
Many students have the experience of not doing as well as they would like on an exam. This can be difficult for them to deal with, but it is a normal experience. Your positive attitude can help them to get through this. Even though you likely won’t be able to help them with the academic content, you can encourage them to seek the assistance that will benefit them.
Everyone at WVSOM wants to help your student to be successful! Some of the resources that you can suggest for your student are:
Faculty, including their assigned faculty coach: your student can meet with the professor during office hours for assistance with any questions that they might have;
Peers: your student may benefit from tutoring, study groups, or advice from their year 2 peer mentor;
ASPIRE: the ASPIRE learning specialists/counselors can help students to hone their study skills and/or with any mental health concerns. Learn more about ASPIRE
- What is the financial impact for my student?
Higher education, including medical school, is an expensive endeavor that is not undertaken lightly. The majority of WVSOM students finance their medical school education, at least in part, through loans. In order to determine their financial aid eligibility, your student should complete the Federal Application for Student Federal Aid (FAFSA) on an annual basis at www.fafsa.gov.
More information is available on the Financial Aid webpage, and the Financial Aid staff are available to answer any general questions that you might have. If your student has specific questions regarding his/her financial aid package, they can contact the office directly.
Because loans need to be paid back, encourage your student to make wise choices with their money, including not borrowing more than needed and limiting their spending.
- What about activities outside of studying?
Most WVSOM students are the kind of people who like to stay busy with a wide variety of activities. Although free time is limited in medical school, many WVSOM students still make time to stay involved with activities that they care about.
WVSOM has a wide variety of student organizations. Many have a pre-professional focus that allows students to learn more about a specific specialty, like pathology or pediatrics, that they might want to consider as the focus of their careers. Some student organizations focus on a social identity that is common to the members. To learn more about student organizations at WVSOM, you can visit: https://www.wvsom.edu/OMS/clubs.
WVSOM students also like to stay active. Intramurals are organized annually by the Sports Medicine club, and WVSOM has an on-campus gym.
The ASPIRE Counselors host programs throughout the year, including art studios, yoga, wellness lunches and more.
If a student qualifies for a work-study position, they can work up to 15 hours per week on campus. Available positions vary year to year but may include positions in the Library, at the tutoring center or as an AV assistant, just to name a few.
- What will my student be doing next?
In Year 3, your student will be traveling to one of seven regions in West Virginia to undertake clinical rotations in a variety of medical disciplines. They will do the same at locations of their choice throughout the country during Year 4, as they decide which programs to apply to for residencies.
The Office of Graduate Medical Education can help prepare your student for residency, starting in Year 1.
- Are there specific resources for partners/spouses?
Yes! We believe it is critical that you are able to make friends and social connections of your own and that you practice good self-care. WVSOM has a chapter of the Student Advocate Association (SAA) so you can start to make connections to other medical student partners. Members range from first years to fourth years so you can ask questions about each stage of your student’s medical school career and find support and share experiences. You can join our local group on Facebook by searching for “SAA-Lewisburg” to see updates on things happening with SAA and events in the area. For more information on upcoming meetings and events, you can contact the SAA advisor, Kristin Stover, at 304-793-6598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep in mind that transition times are difficult. The entire family is transitioning and this naturally causes more stress than baseline. The transition to medical school is especially high pressure, which adds to this intensity.
A good tip to help relieve some of this pressure is to take some time, before the coursework becomes intense, to discuss with your partner the top three needs for each of you that will help you both to feel supported this year. Schedule time for regular check-ins to assess the health status of your relationship/communication.
If you feel that you could benefit from further conversation with a mental health professional, a local resource is Seneca Health Services.
- My student is in the military. How does that change things?
Medical students in the military may have to complete one or more additional training commitments depending on their particular branch. These often take up any school breaks, such as the summer after their first year of medical school. Your student may also have additional financial hurdles to navigate with government agencies as they begin their medical school career. During their fourth year, audition rotations for residency programs may be on active duty bases. Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) students may have other options before residency, such as a being a General Medical Officer for a year or two, and the Match process can be different as well. It is a good idea for your student to get in touch with our current military students, including those in the WVSOM chapter of the Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (AMOPS), who are navigating this path. As they will tell you, networking is crucial.
We are always happy to hear from you, and can share more information, in general, about any of the topics listed above and more. Because your student is an adult, their privacy rights are protected under the Federal law known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA. Because of this, we unable to share with you any details about your student’s experience in particular. We do encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your student, and let them know that they can reach out to us directly with any questions or concerns.
Please feel free to contact Rebecca Morrow, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, if you have any questions about these or other topics. I look forward to talking with you!