Brian James, MS2

Brian James
From Laguna Nigel, CA
UCSB
USF Morsani College of Medicine

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

On a typical day (Mon, Wed, or Fri) I’ll wake up at 5:30 and go to the gym from 6:00-7:15. I’ll shower there and then head to class as 8 AM. There are usually 4, 50-minute lectures: 8:00-9:00, 9:00-10:00, 10:00-11:00, 11:00-12:00. We get 12:00-1:00 off for lunch every day regardless of what’s happening. Then there will usually be a 1:00-2:00 lecture. Then I go home and am done for the day. Once a week we’ll have a 2-hour anatomy lab, either Monday or Wednesday from 2-4, switching days each week. And on Thursday from 2-5 (Tuesday for the other half of the class) we drive 10 miles south to downtown Tampa for “Doctoring” in which they teach us the basics of patient interaction and how to conduct an H&P. We also have a class called Evidence Based Clinical Reasoning Tuesday’s from 9-11 where they teach us about academic research and how to read and write papers.

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

All of our lectures at the medical school are given via PPT and are also recorded. Lecturers post their lecture beforehand. Only about 1/4 of the entire medical school class goes to lecture and then rest watch the lecture from home. We also have “Turning Point” in which we can real-time answer multiple choice questions to see how the class is doing. Exams are on our computer in the main lecture hall. Each hour of lecture corresponds to 2-3 questions on the test, each test about 120 questions. Each exam is non-cumulative but the final exam for each course is cumulative for that course. We have 4 courses in our first year.

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

I am definitely studying more frequently. I would slack and weekend-before-the-test-study in undergrad but now I rewrite all of my notes the day of and review them almost everyday. I study about the same net hours but more spaced out.

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 the requirements. My GPA was a bit low and my letters of rec were limited so I needed to find schools that fit my requirements. I wanted to be somewhere near family, but honestly anywhere that took me I was going to go.

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?

Tampa is an amazing city. The medical school is moving downtown which makes it a bit more crowded with downtown Tampa but away from the main campus. All Major sports are here, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are only a few blocks away. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 10 minutes away, and the Tampa Bay Rays are 30 minutes West in St. Petersburg. Tampa is one of the fastest growing cities in the USA so it’s very exciting. Good bar scene, Ybor City has a great nightlife and is the cigar capital. St Petersberg and Clearwater are only 30 minutes away and have beautiful beaches and nightlife. Florida is nice and warm. Orlando is only 1 hour easy so Disney and Universal are close.

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?

USF offers the Scholarly Concentration Program, which is super cool. All CORE Students (130 CORE, 40 SELECT) are a part of 1 of 11 total and they all have cool focuses, like “law and medicine”, “business and medicine”, “nutrition and medicine”, “gender and medicine”, etc. also the SELECT program is super amazing. You have to apply specifically for it but it’s super nice for medical leadership and patient-focused values. There are a ton of Student Interest Groups and other clubs too. USF has its own Bridge clinic for the underserved, there’s Tampa Bay Street Medicine, and many others.

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

Biochemistry, Genetics, Pharmacology, Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Cell Biology.

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

The faculty here are very receptive to feedback and will accommodate almost immediately. Also we have a lot of standardized patients to prescribe with to help hone in our skills. We are organ-based (I know most but not all schools are).

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

It’s super important to have a basics in all aspects of medicine for any specialty you go into. Even if you are a hand-specialist orthopedic surgeon, you still need to know the basics of medicine and how to conduct H&P. You have to know of cardiology and basics in all other disciplines. It’s not as much learn-and-dump like undergrad.

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?

Anything science related. If they are super passionate about something else I would recommend it since undergrad is the last time to take things that interest you. But learning science in medical school is hard. It’s much easier to learn the background in undergrad and then apply it to medicine aspects in medical school. For USCB, I’d recommend Cell and Developmental Bio or Biochem.

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

Create an Excel doc with all the school you wanna apply to and keep track of ALL information there. Include in it the school’s portal, your usernames and passwords, their letter of rec requirements and app fee plus due dates. It’s SO important to submit everything early or on time.

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?

Of course I’d study harder. Not that I would want another medical school but it’s much nicer having options to chose from (I only got into USF). I had an amazing time and got all the fun outta me but I wish I realized that unlike most other majors I would actually be using a lot of the info I learned for medical school and beyond. Also I wish I shadowed more different types of doctors to get a general feel for medicine.

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