Dominic Carusillo, MS1

USC Keck School of Medicine
From San Diego, CA
UCSB, B.S. Biochemistry-Molecular Biology
Age 24

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

Medical school is pretty varied in terms of scheduled, but I can always guarantee I will be studying for most of the day. If i had to put a “typical day” down on paper, I’d say i wake up at 6:30am, get ready and go to campus, hit the gym and finish around 9:30am, study from 10am to 12pm, eat lunch, go to any required afternoon sessions I might have or if I don’t I get back to studying, finish studying around 5pm, head home and eat dinner, start studying again at around 8pm and finish at around 9:30-10pm. Then i relax and do whatever I want till about 11:30pm.

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

One of the biggest differences is you can’t blow off class as much as you could in undergrad. a week in medical school is a ton of material compared to undergrad. So you just have to be diligent and get your work done each day. Another big difference is that while there’s an insurmountable amount of information to know, you learn to distill concepts and facts to their bare essentials. In undergrad, you had to know each lecture very in depth and be able to thoroughly explain every concept, medical school is very much more understanding a concept at a more superficial level and then knowing associated facts or key details within that concept. So there’s a lot more information in medical school, but to be honest, you don’t have to know it as well, if that makes sense.

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

I’ve just become much more consistent in my studying. I treat school like its a full-time job with overtime hours. I also use 3rd party resources a lot more in medical school. Efficiency is the name of the game when you’re studying this much and if you can nail down a concept more quickly using a Pathoma video than reading lecture handouts or watching the lecture for example, then that’s what you should do.

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?

I think webcasted lectures are a must. You save so much time and energy not having to go to class. I think another thing is if the school has a good relationship with a large hospital nearby. The amount of research and shadowing experiences I think are directly related to this. Other than that, I think most medical schools are probably pretty similar (aside from maybe the top 10 research institutions.) There are tons of other things that make a medical school (your classmates, free food/lunch talks, student interest groups, study spaces/libraries, anatomy labs) but most of these are less important and some can’t be really identified until you’ve matriculated.

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?

Directly surrounding my school is a fairly economically impoverished area. That is typical of most medical schools. To be fair though, I don’t spend much time in the area around campus. I’m either at campus or at home or doing something fun in LA. I like that LA has a bunch of things you can do because it is such a big city (shows, hikes, bars, beach, etc), but the traffic and number of people here is absolutely exhausting. Plus the air quality can be pretty gross. Overall though, pretty happy with where I landed.

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’m in several student interest groups and I’ll be a board member on two of them next year. I’m not sure if there’s any one program here that other schools don’t have…. maybe the HTE program (health, technology and engineering)?

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

Biochemistry was very useful in the beginning, and will probably help with Step 1 prep. I took a cancer/neoplasms upper-division in undergrad and that helped give me a foundational understanding of cancer which helps a ton since every organ system spends a good chunk of time talking about neoplastic pathologies. I think doing research in undergrad helped me a good deal in reading scientific papers and being comfortable/familiar when basic science research is brought up in our lectures. I’m not totally at a loss when we talk about immunohistochemical staining for example because I’ve done some of that before.

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 shadowing has been the most valuable extracurricular thing ive done so far. There are so many resources and opportunities to see really cool specialties, and as a med student, attendings are very excited to show you all the cool things they do and why their specialty and practice are so awesome. I can’t emphasize enough how important shadowing as been for me.

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

It hasn’t a ton really. I guess maybe I have a better idea of how different two specialties can be, even though they are both ‘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?

Do the major you’re interested in. I think too many people try to game the system and do things only to make their resume better or put themselves in what they think is the best position. Find something you enjoy studying and make sure you satisfy med school course requirements through it or some other way. With all that being said, I wouldn’t pick a major i didn’t think i could get mostly A’s in if I were 100% serious about applying to medical school. Electrical engineering is awesome, but it doesn’t usually leave you with the most competitive GPA. So there’s a balance to be struck. Don’t pick the “easy” major because you think it make you more competitive GPA wise, but don’t pick a major that’s going to make admissions an uphill battle because of your GPA. Follow your interests and try to align them with your end goal of med school acceptance

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

How much of a pain in the butt getting letters of recommendation could be. Try to talk with professors early in the fall before the June you apply. I was stressed that some of my letters wouldn’t be ready in time for my secondaries, which was not fun!

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?

I probably would’ve studied more in my first two years so I wouldn’t have had to work so hard to make up for my low GPA in my last two years. But…… I did have a ton of fun and I got to where I wanted to be so maybe not haha. I wish i would’ve talked with and met more professors at undergrad. I was always anxious talking to them, and looking back, I probably missed out on a lot of great conversations and learning opportunities. Being in medical school has taught me that Impostor Syndrome is something that a lot of smart, competent people have. I used to be self-conscious that I didn’t know anything or that in talking to a professor my lack of intelligence would be exposed somehow. I wish i would’ve just gotten over this anxiety and engaged more with the faculty.


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