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Medical Mission Trips

At the end of each year, a number of freshman medical students go on medical mission trips. Looking back on my summer, I wish I had gone on one of these trips.

As I mentioned in another post, I often get asked what Loma Linda University is like. In a previous post (What is Loma Linda University really like?), I mentioned that service is really emphasized here.

The Class of 2010 put together a couple videos to show the types of things they did during their first summer. Below are the two videos telling the stories of these students and the patients they met.

Disclaimer: There are a couple graphic photographs (medically related). Be warned.

Part 1

Part 2

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Loma Linda University Centennial Complex

Loma Linda University is undergoing some major construction work. Scheduled for opening in 2009 is the Loma Linda University Centennial Complex. It will house a number of things including an amphitheater for freshman medical students and the Anatomy Lab. Honestly, I’m a little jealous of the students that will be using these facilities. I heard that the Anatomy lab will be one of the largest Anatomy labs in the country.

Click here to visit the project’s homepage. As of today, there is a video tour available (although it is a few months old since the building does not yet have walls in the video).

Below are artist renditions of the final project. At the very bottom is a picture I took today (on my phone) of the building — well at least part of it.


Front

Back

Centennial Complex (9/26/08)

Centennial Complex (9/26/08)

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What is Loma Linda University really like?

Related Post: Loma Linda University: Perspectives from non-Adventists

Important Note: This post was written near the beginning of my second year.

In this day and age it’s really easy to become cynical about what is printed in brochures. We all know what it’s like to buy into some sort of hype and become disappointed with the end product. So we all learn that it’s best to do some research — that we shouldn’t believe everything the salesperson tells us.

Choosing a medical school can be tough. It’s like shopping for something very, very expensive. In a way, you’re shopping for four years of your life and an education that will hopefully launch a long career. And every once in a while I get questions about what Loma Linda is like.

Well that’s a fair question and I’ll try to give my perspective on the school in this post. I will say, however, I don’t have any strong negative opinions about the school. I do have some strong negative opinions about the summer heat, though.

With that said, here’s what I think about Loma Linda University School of Medicine:
*****
Location
Loma Linda University is located in the San Bernardino County, about an hour east of Los Angeles. We have mountains, desert, ocean, and a large metropolitan area nearby. It’s got something for everyone. The only complaint I have about this place is the summer weather. It can get uncomfortable hot in the summer so you might want to invest in one of the recommended AC’s for your apartment. The heat can be really annoying when you have to walk around in a tie and white coat.

The area also has a pretty bad smog problem. Clear blue skies are not the norm. Don’t expect a San Diego blue in the sky.

Facilities
This is probably LLUs weakest area. While the Medical Center is state-of-the-art, the educational facilities are not. The school, founded in 1909, is old. And the building with the freshman amphitheater and anatomy lab feels just as old sometimes. It is better for the sophomore medical students who have classes in one of the newer buildings on campus, Alumni Hall. But as a Freshman, I really found it hard to enjoy sitting in lectures. However, it should be noted that the university is undergoing major construction work and soon the incoming students will have a brand new amphitheater and one of the largest anatomy labs in the country to use. The simulation center will also be moved to this brand new building. (See my post: Loma Linda University Centennial Complex.)

The main library could also use a new building. When exam week approaches, it can get hard to find a spot in the library. I would consider it small relative to other university libraries. Fortunately, medical students have access to other study areas on campus.

Faculty
It is not unusual for a professor to have prayer before beginning his or her lecture. As far as I remember, a faculty or staff member said a prayer before almost every exam. When a faculty or staff member didn’t, a student had volunteered.

They faculty here have been very friendly and inviting.

Anatomy can be a tough course. One thing I appreciated from our anatomy faculty was their willingness to come into the lab to conduct reviews for small groups. We would schedule a review with one of the professors and they would meet us in the Anatomy lab (sometimes as early as 7 AM or as late as 9 PM) to answer questions and point out important clinical structures that are difficult to explain in a lecture or during lab sessions when the labs are crowded. One PhD or MD, a cadaver, and about 8 students is a pretty good learning ratio.

One of our Biochemistry professors also has done reviews before each exam where he will take an hour to quickly go over the high points. It’s usually very high-yield.

One of our Pathology professors also records an audio review for each lecture (lectures are 50 minutes long) that can be downloaded by the students. These reviews are typically about ten to fifteen minutes long.

There are lecturers that I don’t particularly like for one reason or another. It might be the pace or their style of presentation. Sometimes I choose to skip those lecturers. Some of my classmates never go to lecture. Others have perfect attendance. So I guess this is a personal preference.

The school does not record the lectures but does provide a syllabus with notes. The notes are prepared by the lecturers. Some are very detailed that it feels like reading a text book. Some are abbreviated and presented in the form of an outline. And the worst ones (for me) are the handouts that only have the powerpoint slides printed out. I prefer highlighting written text than scribbling something next to pictures.

Pine Springs Ranch
Each year the School of Medicine plans a retreat to Pine Springs Ranch. It is held at the end of September and is a great time to get away from school. The two-night stay and meals at the camp cafeteria are all paid for by the school. The highlight of the weekend is the talent show on Saturday night that showcases the talents, or lack of talent, of students and faculty alike.

Students
The students, on the whole, are friendly. Admittedly, I’m not buddy-buddy with everyone in my class. But I also haven’t ever had a confrontation with anyone, verbal or physical.

I don’t feel like I am in a cut-throat environment. People freely help each other. This may be a result of the school’s grading policy (Pass/Fail). It might also have something to do with the fact that most students, if not all, are attending Loma Linda because they want to be in a Christian environment.

Curriculum
The School of Medicine is currently transitioning to a system-based approach. We still have individual classes like Pathology, Pathophysiology, etc., but when possible, they are coordinated so that they are discussing the same organ system at the same time. I like this approach. It feels like you’re attacking the same topic from different angles. It’s a good reinforcement.

Religious Affiliation
The school is run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I have no problem with that, although I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I have many other classmates who are not Seventh-day Adventists and I have not heard any complaints from them.

The school does require religion courses. But they don’t try to convert the students to Seventh-day Adventism. Religion classes include courses like “Medicine, Humanity, and God,” “Wholeness for Physicians,” “Medicine and Ethics,” and “Art of Integrative Care.”

First and second year students are also required to attend weekly chapel services every Wednesday. The hour-long chapel services is held at 11 and so Wednesdays usually have 3 lectures instead of 4.

As a Christian school, Loma Linda expects its students to live according to traditional Christian principles. For some that is a ridiculous expectation and they choose to apply elsewhere.

Service
Loma Linda University has a long history of being involved in the local community. The San Bernardino County has a shortage of healthcare. School drop-out rates are one of the worst in the state of California. There are a couple of programs that were started by medical students to help the children of the surrounding community. One program utilizes medical students as tutors for local schools who need help. Another program mentors pregnant teens. Another program is aimed towards mentoring young men in high school. There is another program called STATS which stands for Students Teaching AIDS To Students, which should be self-explanatory.

During the summer, the school usually organizes medical mission trips. These trips have participation from all the University schools including the schools of medicine, dentistry, and nursing. This past summer there were trips to both Africa and South America.

These summer mission trips draw interest from many students who are between their first and second years of medical school. The Class of 2010 created a video to share their experiences from their first summer. You can see the videos here.

If one is interested in service, there are plenty of opportunities for that.
*****

Hopefully this gives a little bit of a picture of what Loma Linda University is like. Choosing a medical school is a personal process. Loma Linda University is not for everyone, but I’m glad it was for me. If you have specific questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me.

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Bye bye, excitement

I predicted that my excitement at school starting wouldn’t last very long. Well it’s gone. After 3 weeks of lectures and a week of exams, I don’t have much excitement left.

I had four exams this week: Pharmacology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Pathology. I did not perform anywhere near what I would have liked. (And I’ll just say I’m not a gunner. I’m not the kind of person who would get upset about scoring in the 80s instead of the 90s.) Needless to say, stress levels are up. I’m gonna have to buckle down.

One would think beginning second year shouldn’t be that hard after completing first year. Maybe for most of my classmates that was the case. But I seemed to struggle getting into the groove of things when we started. No, let me rephrase that. I did struggle getting into the groove of things. The frustrating thing is that I felt I was ready to start after a summer off.

It felt like there was a lot less time to study after lectures. I think its the afternoon labs.

But enough excuses. I need to get things together.

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Audience Interaction Requested

My response card

Our microbiology course director decided that he wants lectures to be more interactive. So each medical student has been given a personal response device (a picture of mine above). The little card is an RF device. During lectures the professor will occasionally have slides with multiple choice questions based on the information covered thus far. We then have a short period of time to enter in our answers. After polling closes, a graph is produced and it shows the breakdown of how many in the class chose which answer.

The thing I don’t like about the device is that it’s linked to a student. So it isn’t exactly anonymous. But so far its been fun to use and see the results. The novelty of it might be the cause of the “fun,” though.

I remember watching America’s Funniest Home Videos when I was a little kid (the one hosted by Bob Sagat). I thought it was so cool how the audience all had their little controllers with which to punch in their votes.

Going to microbiology lectures is like going to a game show now. Except there are no cash prizes. Oh, and nobody really wins. And its not really as fun (as a game show). But we do have audience participation…

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We’re Baaack!

After a summer off, the class is back together. It’s a bit strange. I was actually pretty excited about school starting up again. Reminded me a little of the elementary school excitement.

Orientation was interesting. They went over policy again (briefly). I think a lot of the orientation part could have been skipped. One professor decided to use the orientation to talk to us about what we should do the succeed. Another professor gave us a “Survival Guide” for his class and his staff compiled advice from the class above us about how they prepared for the shelf exams and Step 1.

Well my excitement was pretty high on Monday night (the night before the first day). Now, it’s gone down. Anxiety has gone up. They say the year will go by fast and soon I’ll be taking the Step 1 exam. That’s a bit scary. Nine months isn’t that long. I mean, a baby can be formed in that time. And in 10 months, my 3rd year should be starting (God-willing).

Today I had my first Microbiology lab. It was pretty simple and consisted of things I had previously done in undergrad. We streaked (bacteria on agar), and then stained bacteria. Nothing terribly complex. It just took a while to do. They had a video showing the whole process before we were allowed to begin.

As I’ve written before (at least I think I have), the curriculum is designed to accommodate non-science majors. So even the so-called “simple” stuff gets explained in detail. It’s helpful for those of us who weren’t Biology majors.

*****
On another note, be sure to check out The Differential where I, along with other med students, also blog once a week. A posting of mine, summarizing the lessons of year one, is currently on the front page. If it’s not there anymore, here’s the permalink: Lessons of Year One.

It’s different from what I post here. They get exclusivity. It’s filled with great info from people farther along in training than I am.