Yuliya Zekster at the Ceremony of Thanks event on May 9th, 2015
On the one hand, you're en route to living your dream as a medical student, working your way toward becoming a physician. On the other hand, however, it's easy to wonder how to manage the "fire hydrant flow" of information your professors want you to master in a few fleeting years.
Although life as an MS1 has certain qualities regardless of where in the country you study, Yuliya Zekster of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA was gracious enough to provide a glimpse into her life as an MS1 in her program.
Work for the week
A good amount of life as a first-year medical student revolves around independent study, but every week, first-years in DGSOM can expect to start classes — or peer-based learning sessions — at 8 am Mondays and Fridays and 10 am any other day. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays may also have afternoon lab activities. According to Zekster, most students find it ideal to invest four hours in studying the day's lectures each evening. However, she's also quick to point out that it's important for MS1s to realize they also have the weekends to get caught up on things if they need to. Like in undergraduate school, some days are simply busier than others; covering all of your class material doesn't always happen on that day.
Balance between classes
This study schedule might sound exhausting, but Zekster adamantly assures prospective students that she and her classmates still find time to enjoy activities outside of classes — something she credits at least partially to the location of the school. "Even though you're in class all the time, you still get to take part in the LA lifestyle," Yuliya says. "Everyone here is really active and finds a way to be balanced between the amount of time they spend in classes and the amount of time they spend enjoying their hobbies." Whether it's working out, doing research, volunteering or even singing in the school's own a capella group, she and her classmates find a way to keep themselves refreshed before and after sessions of coursework.
Don't memorize everything
For undergraduate students who are wondering how to keep balanced in this way, Zekster suggests keeping a regular schedule of activities and sticking to it as much as possible. "Be realistic with your abilities and time management," she advises. "Getting used to medical school takes some time, but you eventually learn how to get better and better at studying efficiently. When you start, you think that you have to memorize absolutely everything, but that's not the case. As the year goes on, you get better and better at teasing out the important information; you realize how to recognize what is clinically important and what isn't."
One of the unique factors that attracted Zekster to DGSOM was the closeness of its students. According to Zekster, about 90 percent of the first-year class all lives in graduate housing. "It's really a win-win situation; we all live close to campus and we all live close to each other, so it makes getting to hang out with your classmates really easy — even if that just means spending the time walking to or from classes together."
By Carolyn Mau