Dr. Erica Davenpoirt, an OB/GYN, reflects on her experience as a first-year student in the Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM).
Here’s her advice for first-year medical students.
Balance work and play
"It's important to find a balance between medicine and school, volunteering and work," Dr. Davenport says. "As a type-A personality, we're used to having tunnel vision with one goal in mind. We focus on school, because it's all our hard work and persistence that helped us achieve that goal. However, it's important to enjoy life outside of school, and find the balance that works for you during those early years. The goal should be to have at least one social event in a week to reward yourself for all that hard work."
Surround yourself with positive people
Dr. Davenport considers cultivating relationships with fellow students essential for first-year medical students. "One of the best things about this experience are the people at your side," she says. "You invest so many hours, and there are times [when] it is difficult. But in the end, if you have really positive people in your life, the challenges are surmountable."
Many of Dr. Davenport's closest friends came out of her medical school career, and they continue to support one another despite being spread across the country.
Ask for career advice early on
Dr. Davenport always knew she wanted to enter into the field of OB/GYN, but when the time came to apply for residency, she sought unbiased advice to guide her in the next steps of her career.
"My advice for first-year medical students is [to seek out] mentorship and [shadow] professionals in many fields early on if you're unsure about specialty. For me," she recalls, "I wish I had cultivated a stronger relationship with my mentors to specifically help me with advice about choosing residency programs. Someone [with whom] I could openly share how I feel ... ask the tough questions regarding what I should look for in a program and the importance of location. UCLA helps students find mentors through interest groups and preceptorships; however, my focus was on extracurricular activities."
Strive to be your best self
"Never settle for mediocrity," Dr. Davenport says, encouraging students to embrace self-reflection and solicit feedback whenever possible.
"At the same time, however, "[don't allow] negative people to make you question your ability to succeed. I was lucky to surround myself with positive people who helped me be the best person I could be. They supported me and challenged me to be better by reminding me who I am and how far I have come."
Dr. Davenport takes the time to be kind to everyone and maintains meaningful relationships with family and friends.
“Part of being your best self is understanding that your success isn't defined by just the way others perceive you, but also by personal challenges that you overcome," she says.
By Kyleigh Roessner