At orientation, faculty take a great amount of time introducing new medical students to the Student Affairs office staff who support them during their career at DGSOM. "It was impressive how much time was spent introducing the staff and support teams," Azim says. "We even played a game to really get to know each person and their role. I was thinking, 'man we are spending a lot of time on this.' But then as I continued through my first year of school, I realized that they are an integral part of our education. I felt so incredibly supported even from that first day, I knew all of those people were in my corner."
Team up and sing
After these Student Affairs introductions, orientation helped new students create a peer-driven support system with a musical bent. Having been grouped into teams, DGSOM students are tasked with writing and performing a song in front of their fellow first-years. Azim recalls the event being "so valuable because those students have become such great friends of mine. Immediately we had integrated and created partnerships, so we already had classmates that we could rely on for support."
Seeing yourself graduate
Another part of orientation was a tour, and the students were led to the area of campus where graduation is held. "They asked us to look around and then close our eyes. Then they painted a vivid image of us four years from now — after four years of the difficulties of medical school, that we would walk across this stage and graduate. From then on we would be entrusted to care for the lives of perfect strangers. I remember that so vividly," Azim explains, "because they said, despite the challenges, they would provide us with all the support that we would need to help us get across that stage. So when things get hard, I imagine that moment at orientation, and it helps me every time I get nervous."
The White Coat Ceremony
The white coat ceremony marks the transition into medical school, an event wherein family and friends are invited to celebrate the newest chapter in medical students' lives. For Azim, the white coat symbolized being welcomed into the medical profession, and the responsibility, duty and respect it requires. "The white coat ceremony didn't change who I was, but people's perceptions changed," he remembers. "It impressed on me that what I say and do can have an impact on the people around me. People look at me differently and because of that, I would always be careful to practice with humility and humanism."
The Ceremony of Thanks
Every spring, first-year medical students organize an event to honor the individuals who donated their bodies to education. Family members of the deceased are invited to a banquet reception where poems are shared, songs are sung and deep appreciation is expressed for the selfless donation of the people whose final wish was to improve medical training for future physicians. Azim describes it as an unforgettable experience: "These people, they are instrumental in your learning. They are as much a part of our education as the professors. The ceremony reminded me about how important that person is, that this person donated their body to learn, they wanted us to improve medicine and they live on in us as we apply our knowledge in our care for others."
Soon, Azim will participate in a couple more David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA traditions: Residency Match Day and Graduation. He plans on pursuing a surgical specialty and integrating research and patient care to continue pushing the boundaries of medicine.
By Kyleigh Roessner