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:
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. And that is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.