By Bethanie Le
In the series “the First 50,” we follow members of the inaugural class of the UCR School of Medicine through the challenges they face.
Ever since they slipped into that white coat three years ago, the Class of 2017 has worked hard toward the ultimate goal: graduating from the School of Medicine. That day is now closer than ever.
For the past three years, the students have honed their clinical skills working with their physician mentors and, last year, completed “clerkship” rotations that gave them experience in a variety of medical specialties. They’ve passed rigorous science courses and learned the ins and outs of the hospital setting. Now on the last leg before they can officially add an M.D. to their names, most have found their calling in medicine.
In med school, the fourth year is the most flexible. Students are able to create individualized schedules depending on their field of interest. For students Rafael Ornelas and Diana Tran, this means choosing electives geared toward internal medicine, the specialty that they both hope to pursue into residency.
“If there was a rotation that I didn’t like so much, I don’t have to go through it again,” Ornelas says. “I’m looking forward to learning in a more focused way since now I get to pick electives I really enjoy.”
Still, their days are constantly packed, considering what’s involved in applying for residency programs. After students secure their letters of recommendation, write personal statements, and apply to the programs of their choice, the waiting game begins.
Like their classmates, Ornelas and Tran are waiting patiently for the programs to contact them for interviews, a process that will last from October to January. This will all lead up to Match Day in March — the day when these soon-to-be doctors are notified which residency program they have been “matched” into.
“I’m nervous and kind of scared, but I feel ready,” said Tran. “Our mentors and patients have taught us so well.”
For Tran, some of these lessons learned include giving back to the Inland community. She’s one of the clinical directors for the San Bernardino Free Clinic.
A partnership between UCR School of Medicine and the Lestonnac Free Clinic organization, the SBFC is a full-service primary care clinic that serves patients the first Saturday of every month.
“San Bernardino is one of the biggest communities in the nation, yet they rank at almost the bottom of the list in terms of health,” Tran explains.
The clinic has a holistic approach to patient care; it offers not only free medical treatment, but also health and wellness education for this underserved community. “There is an overwhelming need there so we don’t want to just treat the symptoms; we want to actually try to attack the root of the health disparities,” adds Matt Gomez, second-year UCR medical student and the clinic’s co-founder.
“It’s very bizarre to think that we’re graduating at the end of the year,” said Ornelas. “It seems so far away, but I know that it is going to come a lot sooner than I think.”