by Janie Chen
Bogart: I was in the Baccalaureate/MD program at USC, so my experience was slightly different from the experience of someone who didn’t go into freshman year knowing that she had a spot in med school with her name on it.
THC: What did you not know as a freshman at USC that you wish you did?
Bogart: I think students really need to know how privileged they are attending such an amazing school. “Ask (the right person) and you shall receive,” should really be blazoned on every archway and emphasized, because there really is someone willing to help you achieve anything…during your four years. Students are rewarded for great ideas and have plenty of support to realize them, but sometimes you just have to dig a little to find that contact person. If you’re proactive about your goals, you’re set at an institution with this many people whose only job is to help you get there.
I also didn’t know how much “LA” there is outside of the USC/Downtown Area until I had a car (2 years later). USC students now have fairly easy access to the west side by the train and Metro. As a non-Californian without a car, my understanding of how amazing Los Angeles is and what experiences it has to offer was very limited. I think freshman students, especially those from out of state should really be encouraged to enjoy on- and off-campus opportunities. Of course now I’ve been in Los Angeles for 7 going on 8 years, so I’ve had time to catch up on living in such a wonderful city.
THC: What advice did you hear that isn’t necessarily true?
Bogart: I think the USC pre-med advisors generally do a wonderful job in making recommendations for students based on their interests. I think students just really need to be told that almost anything is possible in your 4 years if you plan ahead.
THC: Research– is it a must? How do you get started?
Bogart: I am definitely not a bench-researcher, and I never wanted to spend an extra minute with a pipette or Erlenmeyer flask unless I absolutely had to. My research experiences were more social medicine and biostatistics. There are a number of USC associate professors and staff involved in various kinds of research who can always use another student in their lab or office. A good start is emailing or making an appointment with your advisor and asking for information. Alternatively, the USC website is surprisingly robust in terms of its faculty directory and who-does-what information.
THC: Did you take a gap year?
Bogart: I did not take a gap year, but I think taking time off at some point between starting college and finishing graduate school is very important. For me, spending 6 months in Australia (studying abroad for 4 months and traveling/backpacking for the remaining 2) was my “time off.” I think rushing into medical school without a “time out” can backfire at two points. One- while you’re in medical school and on the verge of burning out because you literally haven’t stopped working this hard since you graduated from high school. But two, and probably most importantly, when you’re about to graduate from medical school and realize that you’re about to be a non-student adult for the first time in your life age the age of 25-26. My classmates who took 1-3 years off to work, earn money, travel, get married/start a family, etc. are less concerned about adjusting to adult than my classmates who went straight through their education.
THC: How much of your social life did you have to sacrifice as a Pre-med? How did you do it/stick with it? Any tips?
Bogart: Again, I was in the Bacc/MD program, so maybe this should be taken with a grain of salt, but I did not sacrifice much at all. I had a great core group of friends who were not pre-meds (major contributor to maintaining a life outside of studying), and was in a sorority at USC. I also had a work-study job for 20-30 hours/week all 4 years, and double majored in biology and linguistics. If I could handle all of that, I’m sure most students can maintain their social lives and do well in school. The trick is surrounding yourself with people who also take their school work seriously, but know when to take a break. I think a key factor for me was working particularly hard my freshman year to buffer my science grades and getting used to the work load, and then gradually taking part in more social activities. There are so many student organizations on campus, and I think students are better prepared for good bedside manner if they’ve done more than just study while in college.