by Rebecca Gao
THC: Do you think that USC prepared you for medical school? What aspect prepared you the best?
Hao-Hua Wu: USC prepared me pretty well for medical school. In terms of grades, I’ve done well on all my tests so far, and I’ve had time to pick up a lot of extracurriculars in the process. Classes at SC that were most helpful were the following: Physiology, Genetics and Biochem. The most important thing is to cultivate a strong work ethic because that’s your best defense against the onslaught of info thrown at you in basic science courses. But know this: if you can get an A in classes like physio, genetics and ochem, you’ll do fine in med school classes. Whatever study skills you’ve developed will translate nicely to the next level.
THC: If you could go back and change one thing about your undergrad at USC, what would it be?
Wu: I would take advantage of more study abroad and scholarship opportunities offered at USC. I feel pretty fortunate to have partaken in Global East Asia Japan and Korea but I still regret not doing something fun the summer after my freshman year. If I had to go back in time, I would apply for one of the problems without passports trips or prepare myself for scholarship opportunities such as the Truman scholarship or maybe get a grant from the global health department to conduct research abroad. Medical schools like Penn look for students with tremendous curiosity and drive, and nothing speaks to that more than participation in programs that make for a great story.
Also, there are a ton of things that USC offers now that weren’t available when I was a freshman. The pre-health office does a tremendous job of constantly emailing out research, volunteer, scholarship and summer opportunities which I never knew about four years ago. I know this because I still have the pre-health newsletters forwarded to my gmail account. I point this out to show that there is no excuse for anyone at USC right now to be sitting on their ass doing nothing during the course of the summer/school year.
THC: Along the same lines, what do you wish you knew as an undergrad?
Wu: I wish I knew how to study for the MCAT so I didn’t have to retake it. For anyone who wants to know the secret to doing well, study the list of all the topics that AAMC puts out. I guarantee you that you’ll get no nasty surprises come test day.
THC: If you were to describe medical school in 1-2 sentences….?
Wu: Medical school is your opportunity to prepare yourself for an excellent residency. It will also bring back a lot of memories of high school, oddly enough.
THC: Do you have a life outside studying/how many hours or pages do you study a day/week?
Wu: Surprisingly I do a lot of stuff besides classwork. I study about 4-5 hours a day, but most of it is watching lectures on double speed that I had missed earlier. Right now I’m involved in two clinical research projects (orthopedics if you’re interested in the field), teach for Kaplan (classes start in a month or so), volunteer at a student-run clinic, quarterback the MS1 flag football team and go to the gym pretty regularly (which I would’ve never had time for in undergrad). I’m also taking a bioethics class on top of my med school classwork.
THC: What’s the toughest part of medical school?
Wu: The toughest part is just being yourself and finding your comfort zone. I was really worried coming to Penn that I’d be overwhelmed by how smart and amazing my classmates are, and that I would be forced to transform into some crazy studying machine just to keep up. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case, I’ve had tremendous success so far in terms of personal well-being and happiness just doing all the things I loved to do in undergrad (like playing sports and teaching) and hanging out with people who share my interests. The members of my class who stand out the most are the ones with the most positive attitudes, and that’s something you can only achieve by continuing to explore the passions and interests you’ve had throughout your life.
THC: What’s the best part of medical school?
Wu: The best part about Penn is the team-building focus that the curriculum offers. At Penn, our class is broken up into “Learning Teams” of 7 and “Doctoring Groups” of 14. Before school started, we did a two day team bonding retreat organized by Wharton, and I got to know the members of my team on a really deep and personal level. One of our tasks at the retreat was to tell our life story to each other and share things that we don’t normally talk about. The experience of hearing others open up and opening up myself made me feel as if our med school class was a group of close friends rather than 166 adversaries gunning for the same top residencies. It’s very hard to find that same level of camaraderie at the pre-med level. Also, our curriculum is designed to foster collaboration so we often take exams in our learning teams and do problem-based learning problem sets together. It’s great for learning and fantastic for maintaining your sanity.
THC: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the USC premeds?
Wu: Enjoy your time in undergrad because you don’t know where you’re going to end up for med school. Penn is great, but there’s nothing like SoCal weather and Asian food.