HMX Moderator Profile
Jakub Glowala has dedicated much of his time at Harvard Medical School to thinking about medical education – helping to teach first-year courses and provide feedback to faculty on the curriculum. He extends that work as a moderator for HMX Fundamentals courses, helping students understand key concepts. He’s interested in pursuing a residency in emergency medicine or internal medicine after graduation.
What made you want to pursue a career in medicine?
I studied biology at Villanova University. I met some great mentors and got involved in some genetics research and work in that field, and really was debating between medical school and pursuing a PhD.
Ultimately, as much as I enjoyed my research work and as incredible as my mentors were, a lot of the experiences I was having outside of the lab I was finding a lot more fulfilling. I was doing a lot of volunteer work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Jett Foundation, some organizations that are doing a lot of work generating awareness for patients suffering from muscular dystrophy. I also worked as a patient care assistant, where I would go to camps for a week or two at a time, helping patients in and out of wheelchairs, [assisting with] personal care needs, or organizing activities that were accessible and interesting for them. Through doing these sorts of things, I felt like some of the more social aspects of medicine, and understanding what’s going on with patients, appealed to me most.
What made you want to work with the HMX team?
I’m involved in a lot of committees at HMS discussing what’s working in our new curriculum, what’s not working, what changes can be made. I think it’s an exciting time in that realm given all the changes that are happening nationally with standardized exams, residency applications and so forth. As I’ve become more senior in medical school, I’ve had the opportunity to teach more junior medical students on the material we’ve learned; I taught homeostasis, which is a first-year medical course, as one of the student teachers. I’ve also been involved in student advising throughout medical school.
I think HMX fit very naturally into that, both with helping medical students but also students and professionals in other realms that are also using these courses. It’s really helped me expand the way that I think about this material, explaining it to people that have very traditional scientific backgrounds but also that have less traditional backgrounds. I’m always amazed by the diversity of questions and thought processes that I see when answering questions in the forums, and the way some people ask questions that I’d never thought to ask. I’ve found it very fulfilling work.
What would you tell aspiring medical students about the value of HMX courses?
I think one of the perpetual difficulties of medical education is that there are so many steps along the path, and at every given step, it doesn’t seem clear how those things fit into the long-term picture. You often have students who express concerns, do they really need to learn this basic science material, is it really conducive to their long-term medical education?
The funny thing is, the further along you go, the more you realize those things do complement one another and help. Looking back at the HMX material, now that I’m in a more clinical role, I realize just how thorough the materials were, and how many of the questions I didn’t realize would come up in medicine were answered during that time. Maybe I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but there were a lot of very clear clinical correlates in the material we learned.
What’s particularly special about the HMX curriculum is that it’s not so much a focus on listing all of the facts, it’s really a focus on getting a good framework and understanding why things are happening and what the big picture is. Often I’ll encounter something new that I haven’t seen before in a clinical setting, and I’ll start to read up about it, and I’ll see how it fits naturally into the schema and frameworks that I teach in other capacities. I think it can feel frustrating to students who enter medical school, or are about to enter medical school, and are so ready to see patients and think about clinical medicine, but I encourage them to realize that these basics are the first step in a series of steps, and those of us who have gone through it and have seen the next steps, we value that stuff much more than we did at the time.
What advice would you give to students who want to get the most value out of HMX courses?
Often students come in with either preconceived notions about certain topics that may or may not be true, and I really encourage them to use the forums for clarifying that information. What’s wonderful about having faculty and students involved is that I very often have a student ask a question saying, ‘I understand X topic, but why is it that Y happens, that seems to contradict this concept?’ Often that can help us cement exactly what the concept is getting at, and if there is discussion we can touch on some of those things and really cement the understanding.
I think what does happen in a lot of other curriculums is that you learn all these facts and you put it together in a way that makes sense to you, but may not actually be factual. It may lead you to the right answer in one case, but then when you extrapolate to related diseases or different contexts, you may realize that the framework you’re using is incorrect and leads you to incorrect conclusions down the line. Having someone you can bounce ideas off and make sure you’re understanding it properly and you’re not making some of those errors, is a really powerful thing. I’d recommend really taking advantage of the opportunity to interact.