Student Life

Introducing Time Out Tuesdays

M2 Raphael Crespo at Time Out Tuesday petting Charlotte, certified service dog and therapy dog.

Waiting at the end of every student’s second year of medical school is part 1 of the 3-part United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). The Step 1 exam assesses a student’s knowledge and ability to apply it to patient care. It is a pass/fail exam, and while a student can retake it, a failed attempt could impact their chances for residency.

The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine gives its M2 (second-year) students five weeks of dedicated study time (class time off) to prepare for the test. “I’ve been studying for three weeks straight. There are so many resources to go through,” says student Chelsey Ameda. 

Research shows a correlation between excessive studying and increased levels of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. And students who stay on campus during intense study periods may feel more isolated. “Isolation can be detrimental to our mental health, and poor mental health may negatively affect academic function,” says Nathaly Shoua Desmarais, assistant dean for Student Success and Well-being.

To address the issue, the wellness team organized a new initiative this year, Time Out Tuesday, a 2-hour get-together that allows M2s to take a time out from studying to destress and socialize.

Chelsey took a break from studying at home to spend time with her classmates. “We don’t get to see each other as much right now. It’s nice to be able to come here and play some Jenga together.”

Time Out Tuesdays were held twice during the 5-week study period in the Panther Commons, a large medical student lounge that welcomes relaxation. The large space features kitchen areas, a treadmill, a ping pong table, a cornhole, board games, bean bag chairs, and various spots to chill. During the time-out events, uplifting tunes play as students gather to enjoy free food, play, and cuddle with our favorite “dog-tor,” Charlotte, Desmarais’ personal pet, who is a certified service dog and therapy dog. Charlotte visits when medical students need her services most.

“These events are phenomenal. We get to relax, and the free food is very nice, especially since we don’t have time to cook right now,” says student Sebastian Alarcón, who advocates having more of these events. He’s been studying for three weeks, with days starting as early as 6 a.m. 

Based on the turnout and student feedback, Desmarais says the Time Out Tuesday concept has been a success. “It’s nice seeing the students interacting and smiling. It’s been well received, and we plan on continuing with these events moving forward.”

In addition to Time Out Tuesdays, second-year medical students preparing for Step 1 receive support through virtual and in-person workshops, Supplemental Peer Instruction (SPI) sessions, a mandatory practice exam, and a follow-up meeting with an Academic Enrichment Consultant (AEC) for those who perform poorly on the practice exams.