Chuck Chan, OSM1

Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine
From Cerritos, CA
UC Berkeley, B.A. Public Health
Age 25

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

Typically we have 4-8 hours of class per day depending on the day of the week. 4 hours a week are spent learning to prepare for patient encounters and another 4 hours a week are spent on learning principles of OMM.

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

In general, I don’t find the material to be harder to grasp than in undergrad, but the pace is significantly faster. Each course will be integrated with several professors teaching us their specialty in a given course. For example, in our neurology course, we had different professors for neuroanatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, microbiology, etc. We tend to have a lot of lecture hours per science course and people tend to like to webcast all of them to save time. There is a focus on clinically relevant material and board material.

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

Definitely switched my approach to getting information that is high-yield only. There is so much information in medical school that it is hard to learn everything so I usually spend time trying to decipher what is going to be tested on, whereas in undergrad I would just study everything and try to understand it in depth. I supplement my lecture powerpoints with board materials like Pathoma, Sketchy, and Boards and Beyond to know what material is the most important. Also, I use Anki to retain information better.

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?

The most important things to me would be putting myself in a situation where I could succeed. That includes having established curriculum, P/NP courses, going to a school with a good match history, location, presence of a teaching hospital, board scores, and research opportunities. At the time of my application I didn’t really have the luxury of choice to hit all of these criteria, but definitely chose based on what other people said about the school.

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?

School is located in Pomona, CA. Typically known for a medium level of crime, but have not experienced any negative experiences myself. Bad thing is that there aren’t very many good food options compared to the OC or LA but is close enough in distance to travel to after exams. Homelessness and poverty is fairly prevalent in Pomona, CA and there is not much to do in the city itself. I personally don’t feel unsafe because I usually drive places, but it would not be safe to walk the streets alone at night. I feel bad for the city sometimes and try to give back through volunteering at clinics when I can.

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 involved in a medicine track called Lifestyle Medicine. We have sessions where we learn about diet, physical health, mental health, etc. I really like it because I do feel it to be important to be well informed to teach future patients about ways to manage their health and I want to learn for my own health as well. I don’t know if there are organizations that are unique to my school itself, but being a DO school we do have a lot of osteopathic specific clubs. Some of these clubs hold workshops with physicians to teach us how to treat low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, etc using OMM.

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

Physiology and biochemistry were probably the two most helpful classes for the MCAT and medical school. Several molecular biology class were helpful as well as endocrinology. I did not take a microbiology class, but I think it would have been helpful. I took anatomy in undergrad and it felt like I had never taken anatomy before when going through the med school version. Useless.

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

We have about 8 patient encounters per semester which initially sounds annoying, but is such good practice to deal with patients later. Not sure if this is unique to my medical school, but we recently had a psych focused OSCE where we diagnose a patient with either bipolar, depression, panic disorder, PTSD, etc. and really got a chance to practice empathy and how to ask questions for a difficult patient.

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

There are some days I think I would never encourage someone to go to medical school then there are days I am like wow this is really a blessing. I find it pretty hard on average to enjoy learning every detail about some obscure disease or histology, but every now and then I get to reflect on how much I’ve learned so quickly and how incredible these tools are going to be after preclinical years and in practice. I struggle mostly because of the lack of weekends and breaks we are given and often think about long term consequence of being a slave to medicine (such as having less time to start a family, being too busy for anyone), but am genuinely grateful that I have this opportunity and the challenges it poses in so many ways in my life that will hopefully make us all better doctors.

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?

I would tell them to pick whatever major they like the most, but to take science courses as electives to fill their schedule. I don’t think there are too many courses outside of the prerequisites that are essential before starting school. College is there to learn cool shit that they will never take a course on again – not reinforce all the courses you will already learn in medical school

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

In general i think it is good to take advice with a grain of salt. I probably sought advice too frequently while taking everybody’s advice without considering my own needs. If I stopped to think about what I do best, I think I would have had more success

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?

It seems like the best route would be to not be pre-med in college and fully immerse yourself in the college experience would be the best way to go. Then take a post-bacc and kill it so you get into med school. But this option is expensive.

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