Steven Tohmasi, MS2

UC Irvine School of Medicine
UCLA, B.S. Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Age 24
From La Verne, CA

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

During first year, we usually have our basic science classes from 9-12 with afternoon classes on occasions. We also have mandatory small group sessions (either clinical foundations, ultrasound, or simulation) once a week for 3 hours. These sessions are where you learn clinical skills (i.e. how to interview a patient and perform a complete physical exam) directly from a preceptor. Our school also uses an online podcast system, so every lecture is recorded and can be viewed at home whenever you want. This is a nice tool for independent learners or those who simply prefer to watch lectures from the comfort of home. If you commute, having the option to podcast helps a lot because you are no longer obligated to come to campus every day.

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

In regards to class structure, the first two years of medical school feel pretty similar to undergrad. You attend lecture and learn material from a PhD or MD who has done work in the subject you are being taught. You also have access to lecture slides and textbooks to help prepare you for exams. The critical difference between undergrad and med school is the volume of material you are responsible for knowing. You will often hear the analogy of med school being compared to drinking out of a fire hose. This could not be more true. Despite this, the workload is definitely manageable if you work hard and manage your time wisely.

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?

At the end of the day, getting into any medical school is an achievement to be proud of. Any med school in the US will put you in a great position to pass your boards and become the physician you dream of being. But if you are fortunate enough to obtain multiple acceptances, I believe that some of the main things you should consider are:

Tuition/cost of living, location, interview day impression (did students seem happy here? Could you see yourself succeeding here?), are 1st and 2nd year pass/fail, recorded lectures (is class attendance mandatory?), potential student organizations/research/community programs that you are interested in joining.

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?

Located in sunny Southern California, Orange County offers endless opportunities for fun. When we aren’t studying for exams, my classmates and I enjoy soaking up the sun as much as possible! Our med school campus is less than 15 minutes away from the ocean. Even if you’re not an avid beachgoer, there are tons of other outdoor activities near the Irvine/Newport Beach area. There are many great hiking/running trails (Crystal Cove ~10 mins) and many restaurants/bars nearby. Also, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Big Bear are only 1.5 hours away and are great destinations for weekend trips!

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?

UCI is at the forefront of incorporating ultrasound education into the medical school curriculum. Each year, around 30-40 med students will spend the summer between their 1st and 2nd year teaching ultrasound internationally and conducting ultrasound-related research. This year, we have teams traveling to Panama, Tanzania, Switzerland, and Indonesia to teach medical professionals how to use point-of-care ultrasound. I am personally very excited to be spending Summer 2018 in Switzerland where my team and I will be teaching an ultrasound course at the University of Basel Medical School.

How much/well have you been able to develop clinical skills alongside your classroom work first and second year? What does your institution do to help you develop clinical skills before the clinical years?

One thing that stood out to me about UCI during the application process was the PACE program, a longitudinal clinical experience during 1st and 2nd year. In PACE, med students spend one half day a week seeing real patients with a preceptor in clinic. It serves as a great opportunity for us to strengthen our clinical skills before we start 3rd year rotations. I feel that the extra practice we gain interacting with patients in PACE will help us excel during our clinical years.

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?

It’s simple, choose the major that interests you the most. We tend to perform at our best when we are fascinated by the material we are learning. At the end of the day, admissions committees don’t really care about what you major in as long as you perform well in your classes. Also, everything you will need to know to become a great doctor will be taught to you in medical school. So, take advantage of your opportunity in college to explore your existing passions or discover new ones.

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

As an undergraduate, the prospect of getting into medical school seems like a daunting one. Most premeds are constantly misled to believe that it takes a spotless GPA and perfect MCAT to even get one’s foot in the door. While grades and MCAT scores are highly important, they are not the be-all and end-all of med school admissions. In fact, most med schools have now incorporated a holistic review of all applicant files. So, in college make it a priority to create the perfect balance between school and those things in life that you’re truly passionate about.

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