Becoming a physician is rarely a road taken on a whim. For most students, reaching medical school takes years of careful planning.
That's what led psychiatry professor Dr. Rimal B. Bera to create UC Irvine’s High School Medical School Forum. The half-day program gives high school students from around Southern California the opportunity to tour UC Irvine Douglas Hospital, get their first taste of a medical student’s life and begin to understand how to navigate the road to becoming a doctor.
The students are on more than just a tour, however.
Between glimpses of the emergency department and the neonatal intensive care unit in action, aspiring physicians glean bits of wisdom and valuable information. Doctors, nurses and current medical students are all eager to share what they know about qualifying for medical school and what it’s like to work in a hospital: the hours, the demands, caring for patients and the rewards of the job.
Bera gave attendees at a recent forum at UC Irvine Medical Center plenty of food for thought about what medical school would require of them and what they should consider when deciding whether medicine is the right path for them.
Good grades and a background in science and math are a great foundation, but they aren’t the be-all, end-all, Bera says.
A desire to help others get and stay well and the drive to continue one’s own education long after the white coat has been donned is equally important. Although the pay and social status are nice, they shouldn’t be the only reasons to become a doctor.
One thing that became clear during the course of the forum, however, was the importance of education far beyond medical school.
Dr. Behnoosh Afghani, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases who accompanied the students on the tour, told them that a doctor’s education never ends. Physicians must stay on top of the latest research and technologies to give their patients the best care.
The High School Medical School Forum attracts students of all ages and backgrounds. Some are more certain about a career medicine than others.
Tayler Walsh, a junior at Orange Lutheran High School, says she was drawn to medicine after her grandmother had four surgeries at UC Irvine Medical Center. The forum further confirmed her decision to enter medical school and pursue prenatal medicine.
For others, the forum was a way to get the ball rolling. “I’ve been looking for things to do to get prepared for medical school,” says Elyse Frydendall, also a junior at Orange Lutheran.
Cerritos High School seniors Nathan Lin and Curtis Yu attended the forum to see whether a medical career was the right step. Lin, whose counselor tipped him to the forum, will attend Biola University in the fall as a biological sciences major, the most common one for students preparing for medical school. Yu plans to attend UC Irvine this fall as an undeclared major.
“I’m still not sure,” Yu says. “I’m keeping my options open.”