Alexa Lucas, MS1

UC Irvine School of Medicine
From Thousand Oaks, CA

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

Going to a coffee shop to watch lectures/study, going to meetings for groups I am involved…..and the occasional trip to Disney!

How do your classes and lectures compare to those at your undergraduate institution? 

For some courses you have different professors for 1-2 lectures, which makes it a bit hard to adjust to lecturing/powerpoint style. Also, there is no better phrase for the amount of information we face than the “drinking from a firehose” analogy. It is fast and very in depth. That is why I like to podcast more than go to class. That way, I can pause, rewind, fast forward as needed! I do really like the way UCI course is outlined. Normal function of all systems 1st year and then pathology of all the systems 2nd year. I feel it is a good way to be exposed to every system twice before studying for boards.

How has your approach to learning or studying changed since you were an undergrad?

I used to be much slower at studying (I still am slower than my peers). But, I used to make beautiful hand-written study guides, fancy flash cards, etc. Pick one thing and stick with it. I have really had to learn to co-study. I make my study guides (typed and quick) and share those with friends who share their flashcards. You have to learn to be efficient and flexible. Your study habits have to constantly adjust, but trust your process. No two people study the same.

Looking back on when you were applying to medical schools and deciding which school was the best fit, what do you think are the most important things to learn about a medical school when you are deciding which school is right for you?

For me it was location, opportunities, and cost. I don’t think I really understood what I was looking for originally. At first, I just wanted to go anywhere and become a doctor. But, as I had more choices and more opportunities, I started to realize that I needed to study somewhere with a friendly, laid-back environment and I needed to be around an area that made me happy. There is nothing like a walk on the beach to destress.

Can you give us a brief description of the area surrounding your school? What are some things you like and dislike about the city/town you are located in as a student?

Irvine itself is suburbia AKA not much going on. But, the surrounding areas are incredible. Irvine is safe and has every store or type of food you need within a 5 mile radius. When I want to have fun, I can go to the beaches in Laguna, Newport, Huntington. I have an annual Disneyland pass for some after class decompression with a group of classmates. I am close to LA and SD. I really love the location. Also, I am obsessed with coffee shop studying and I have a long list of incredible places.

What organizations or activities are you involved in outside of your regular classwork? Additionally, are there any organizations (even if you aren’t a part of them) that you think are unique to your school?

 I am VP of Education for the Emergency Medicine Interest Group, team leader/fundraising coordinator for a global health/research/ultrasound education trip to Tanzania, group leader for Elephant Mentors (mentorship program for underserved high school girls), student government education policy student representative, and participated in the ultrasound and culinary medicine electives on campus! I think the global health aspect is super unique and incredible (but a lot of work!)

In retrospect, which classes in undergrad do you think were the most useful coming into medical school?

Honestly, I feel that I forgot so much of what I learned in undergrad, and because I never learned in this much detail I think the basics were important for foundation. I really can’t think of a specific class that I felt prepared me for medical school. I think my clinical experiences (ambulance/medical assistant) really were the most helpful in setting me up for success in the clinical aspect of medical school in terms of comfort around patients. Still, plenty of my friends have developed incredible skills in this arena without prior experience.

What is a unique aspect of education at your medical school that has been valuable to you thus far as a medical student?

I think just the curriculum has been helpful. UCI does their best to overlap courses. For example, you are learning about the physiology, anatomy, histology, etc of the heart at the same time. The redundancy and different angles of the material have helped me learn.

What is one way your outlook on medicine or understanding of medicine has changed in your time at medical school?

I think medical school has really exposed me to how multi-faceted and intense medicine is. I always knew it was a complex field, but every day I discover a new aspect of the moving parts of medicine and even though at times it is scary, it keeps reminding me that this is the path I am meant to take!

If a young undergraduate interested in applying to medical school came to you seeking advice about ‘which major is best,’ what would you tell them?

Personally, I felt like the best major is a major you ENJOY and a major that you can get GOOD GRADES IN! I was in a really difficult major at UCLA that I LOVED, but I knew it was so difficult that I would not have the GPA I needed for medical school. I switched into an easier major that included all the necessary pre-requisites. I still loved the easier major and was able to petition in order take interesting classes from the other major as my prerequisites. Unfortunately, numbers are important, so don’t set yourself up for a bad GPA.

What do you wish you had known as an undergraduate and/or as a student in the medical application process?

Enjoy. Relax. Trust in the process and trust in your abilities. “This too shall pass.”

What is one thing you would do differently if you could go back to your undergraduate years or the time between undergrad and medical school? 

RELAX. If I studied like I do now in undergraduate, I would have had a better GPA. I think I stressed too much and spread myself too thin. I would have taught myself to use my time more wisely and efficiently. Worrying is just forcing yourself to face something twice. Enjoy the ride, make memories, work hard and things will work out.

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