By Natalie Chen (’23)
“How’s medical school?” I was asked repeatedly during the holiday season after a long hiatus from seeing friends and family. At first it was hard for me to answer; there was so much to unpack and share while at the same time knowing what was expected was a light, cheerful answer. After all, I had finally achieved my goal of getting into medical school, so why did I have mixed feelings? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have doubts about my path, but it would be a lie to say it hasn’t been a challenging transition. Like many premedical students, I spent so long focused on getting into medical school and achieving the end goal that I overlooked preparing myself for the challenges that lay ahead.
I wasn’t oblivious to the arduous journey toward physicianhood, but I thought I had prepared myself by talking with physicians and students who had gone through it themselves. However, looking back, few expressed their vulnerabilities or divulged the details of their struggles and least of all, gave advice on how they overcame them. In fact, most physicians barely acknowledged having difficulties and simply summarized any trials by stating, “It’s all worth it!” So when I started feeling overwhelmed with the coursework and feeling isolated from family and friends, I began to question my resilience and my ability to achieve such a distant goal. Shouldn’t this be easier if this is what I was meant to do?
This is why I am so grateful that God led me to Loma Linda University. When the interviews were all over and I was deciding which medical school to attend, I ended up choosing Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLUSM) because of countless feedback from current students and alumni of its remarkable support system. At the time I didn’t realize how important this would be, and having not grown up in the Seventh-day Adventist community, I was not sure what to expect at a faith-based university.
Within the first few weeks though, it was clear what others were raving about. We were quickly paired with a personal physician faculty mentor, a “life community” of fellow classmates, and an upperclassman “sister” or “brother” to help guide us. We had countless social events held by the school, from visits to amusement parks to beach days as well as treats, such as boba, provided at the end of exams by an involved Alumni Association. Furthermore, we had psychiatrists, counselors, and even students come to talk with us about the common struggles medical students encounter but fail to address and to inform us of the easily accessible and confidential resources provided by the school to help. Most importantly, we were constantly reminded that those who face trials along their journey are in the majority, and there should be no reserve in reaching out for help.
Now when people inquire about my medical school experience, I no longer feel conflicted about revealing my struggles because I have a school that is dedicated to helping me succeed. Thanks to LLUSM, I was able to have the courage to ask for help and transform my first-year experience to an enjoyable and memorable one!