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University of Southern California April 11, 2012 Volume II | Issue II


Clinical or Research? County or Private? How to pick the right medical school | PAGES 4-5


USC Hosts Annual Global Health Awareness Week By LESLIE WU Editor Last week, USC hosted events on both the University Park Campus and the Health Sciences Campus for the 4th annual Global Health Awareness Week, titled “To Nutrition & Beyond,” which called attention to malnourished populations, growing epidemics, and rising obesity rates around the world. The week was coordinated by seniors Michelle Hyunh and Bonnie Chen, who oversaw committees responsible for allocating resources to the various events. The kick-off event was a networking luncheon where guests interacted with faculty, pre-health students, and health care business professionals. Among the attendees were Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, Director of the USC Global Institute of Health, as well as Dr. Gene Bickers, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs. Said Bickers of the networking opportunity, “The luncheon was terrific. I enjoyed getting a chance to talk with students from a variety of different majors and I also got to meet a faculty member from [the Physical Therapy program]. I took away a lot of useful information myself.” The “What’s for Lunch” event on Wednesday allowed passing students to

Writer Michelle Chong

Global Health Awareness Week The “What’s for Lunch” event featured meals from around the world. sample international cuisine by spinning a wheel with different countries, and learn about the various problems plaguing each country. The underlying message, however, was that the majority of people in third-world countries “don’t get to choose what they eat,” said Huynh. Global hunger was also an important emphasis of the “Nutrition Around The World” series, which took place on the Health Sciences Campus. HSC graduate students formed a panel and spoke about issues affecting a particular country. The aim was to bring awareness to these global issues, and also to inspire thought. “In Mexico, it’s more affordable to

Pre-Health Week Kicks Off

statement, Nanes advocates a three step process: digging for details, selecting deEditor tails, and arranging details. USC’s Office of Pre-Health Advisement “The first things you think of when you kicked off Pre-Health Week 2012 with a are brainstorming to come up with ideas workshop on “Writing Effective Personal for a personal statement may not always Statements.” be the ones you stick with,” said Nanes. The workshop was led by USC Associate After digging for details, “Careful seProfessor of Writing Erika Nanes. lection of details is important,” said Nanes recommends creating an imNanes. Students participated in an acplied argument in a personal statement. tivity in which they learned how to pick Within this argument, ethos, pathos, and which activities to discuss based on what logos should all be present. type of school they were applying to. “A lot of times people say that they want Nanes then discussed structure and to help people,” said Nanes. “But why do the importance of theme/focus, frame, seyou want to help people in this particular quence, transitions, and concluding obcontext, or this particular way?” servation. When it comes to actualSophomore and pre-medical student ly writing t h e Abhishek Verma said, “What was really helpful was that we went over a sample essay,” said Verma. Pre-health week events continue for the rest of this week. Monday also featured Dr. Kenneth Geller’s “Joys of Medicine” lecture event. Tuesday was "Interviewing for Health Professional Schools," and today, Wednesday, from 2-3:30 PM is "Prep for Entrance Exams: MCAT, DAT, etc." n



consume beer and soda than to consume water. We have to ask why? What is this doing to the population?” said Huynh. The committee also collaborated with UCLA and Western University to provide free health screenings by doctors and pharmacy students from USC in an event entitled “World Health Day: Go for the Gold.” Drawing inspiration from the upcoming London Olympics, the joint effort brought together the Los Angeles community with Olympic-themed events, including a race for children where former Olympians appeared to hand out medals. Though entirely student-run, the week also received support from a variety of

organizations on campus, including Globe Med, the Global Health Club, and the USC Institute of Global Health. Ivette Flores Guintu, program manager for the Institute of Global Health which helped fund the week, said that the goal was to “engage students from across USC [on both campuses] in discussions around these important issues.” Though a new initiative, Global Health Awareness Week continues to grow. “We hope the tradition continues so that we can build partnerships that encourage the diverse, multi-disciplinary and innovative approaches that are needed to address the challenges we face,” said Guintu. n

Career Spotlight t Occupational Therapy By JESSICA FRANKEBERGER & ROBERT HA Writers Many students planning on entering a health profession may usually only consider medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy. However, other allied health professions are becoming increasingly important in today’s health care industry. One of these professions

is occupational therapy. According to USC professor and occupational therapist Kimberly MorrisEggleston, occupational therapy is a rehabilitation profession interested in helping people fulfill their potential by helping them engage in their meaningful occupations. In the field of occupational therapy, occupations are not jobs or careers, but are defined as

meaningful activities that occupy one’s time, according to Morris-Eggleston. These activities could be anything people do for themselves, such as cooking, developing healthier lifestyles, learning to write, socializing with others, brushing your teeth, working, and so on. According to MorrisEggleston, the goal of — see THERAPY, page 7

Offbeat Courses for Pre-Health Students By FAIZAN MALIK Editor Choosing which classes to take at USC can be challenging given the wide selection. While many students want to sample the variety of fun and interesting classes at USC, they should also consider classes that also teach them skills they may need

along their health careers. For those who are new to the healthcare and are interested in acquiring a broad overview, MDA 110 and BISC 194 are a good start. MDA 110, Contemporary Issues and Cases in Healthcare, is a twounit course directed by Dr. Kenneth Geller, the Director of the Pre-Health

Advisement Office. Each week, a different health professional visits and talks about his or her field and what the job entails. The lecture lasts about one hour, after which the class breaks up into teams to discuss a simulation case study. Danny Lee, a junior at — see CLASSES, page 2

Featured Club: African Americans in Health | Volunteer Opportunity: UMMA Clinic | Article Exclusive: How to Pay for Medical School

April 11, 2012

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Follow Us on Twitter! @THCatUSC REBECCA GAO & JESSICA KUO Editors-in-Chief EDITORS


GURLEEN CHADHA Research Editor FAIZAN MALIK Leadership Editor


LESLIE WU Feature Editor ANJLIE GUPTA Global Health Editor PAVITRA KRISHNAMANI On-Campus Editor CHRISTINE LEE Allied Health Editor JACQUELINE DINH Layout Editor



Letter from the Editors-in-Chief D ear Reader, Welcome to our second spring print publication of Trojan Health Connection. As USC’s pre-health newspaper, we strive to provide informative articles for those of you pursuing or considering a career in health. Many allied health professions do not get the credit and recognition that they deserve, and it is our mission to spread more awareness. Last issue, we had a spotlight on optometrists and compared ODs to MDs. This issue, we have a special feature on both occupational and physical therapists on page 7. In the future, we plan to bring you more indepth coverage of the wide variety of different careers available in the health care field. Go online to to vote for the next career we’ll feature in the fall. As for the premeds: you’ve finally made it. You’ve taken the MCAT, all the prerequisite courses, and now you are deciding which medical schools to apply to. Check out our centerspread on pages 4-5 for pivotal factors to consider when deciding on a med school that’s the “right fit” for you. Or are you thinking of taking a gap year? Many students opt to take a gap year between college and professional school to fully develop their applications and explore other interests. Flip to the back page to discover various opportunities including traveling abroad, volunteering, or conducting research. In honor of Global Health Awareness Week, organized by USC’s Global Health Institute, we provide general coverage of the week on page 1 and feature prominent global

health issues on page 3. Page 6 will be permanently dedicated to student organizations on campus and updates on up-and-coming activities. In this issue, we feature a quartet of new organizations including FISH, FUELS, iGEM and the Pre-Med Mentoring Club. This issue also marks the one-year anniversary of our print publication. Our paper would not be possible without our hard-working staff writers, many of whom have never written a single newspaper article prior to this issue, but are now writing front-page feature pieces. We are very proud of their growth this year. We also greatly appreciate our skilled photographers who make our paper all the more readable. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the efforts of our dedicated editorial board and our talented group of managers. To our founders, Hao-Hua Wu and Takanori Ohkubo, thank you for your hard work and effort spent into producing Trojan Health Connection. You have started a legacy which we will uphold for the future of our paper. We wish you the best in your future endeavors and hope you will visit often. Finally, we would like to thank you, our reader, for your continued support. We strive to provide you with the most credible and informative pre-health news, and we appreciate your continued feedback and patronage.

Jessica Kuo


Rebecca Gao Editor-in-Chief

Jessica Kuo Editor-in-Chief

Rebecca Gao

For more articles or to apply for our staff, please visit

Free Beauty Treatments for Patients By KRISTEN CHEN

Writer Beauty Bus, a non-profit organization that provides in-home beauty treatments to terminally and chronically ill patients, began in 2009 to raise patient’s spirits. Since Beauty Bus provides services throughout Los Angeles, USC students can volunteer to visit and interact with patients. Melissa Nealy, who passed away at the age of 28 from a degenerative neuromuscular disease, serves as the inspiration behind Beauty Bus. Founders Alicia Marantz Liotta, Nealy’s cousin, and Wendy Marantz Levine, Nealy’s sister, noticed how a simple spa treatment provided happiness to Nealy and started Beauty Bus in hopes of lightening the lives of other patients. Beauty Bus provides complimentary haircuts, facial treatments, manicures, pedicures, and makeup application to men, women, and children. But to those involved in Beauty Bus, their work means more than a day at the spa. “It’s not just a manicure or makeup, it’s so much more. It’s bringing hope to people whose worlds are isolated and are constantly looked upon as patients rather than people,” Jacylyn Rosenson, Director of Program and Development, said. Beauty Bus clients can attest to the power of pampering amidst many hospital visits and bills. “It is the simple idea of someone coming to your home to pamper you at a time when all your energy is being expended to fight a

personal battle. It is much more than just feeling good about how you look,” Karen O., a breast cancer survivor and former client, said. “Beauty Bus gives its clients renewed internal strength to keep fighting.” Ronsenson recounts a particularly touching experience at a couple’s home. “The husband was about fifteen years younger than his terminally ill wife. While they were there, the husband kept telling his wife how beautiful she was and how much he loved her. But his wife kept on brushing the comments aside and saying that she was not beautiful,” Rosenson said. “But by the end of the visit, after a facial and makeup, she told everyone that she felt beautiful again.” In order to fulfill their mission statement, Beauty Bus is looking for compassionate and energetic people for their team. USC students can get involved as either Beauty Buddies or Beauty Ambassadors. As Beauty Buddies, students accompany Beauty Professionals at in-home visits and help create a warm environment where the clients can relax. Students may also serve as Beauty Ambassadors who volunteer at fundraising events and increase awareness about Beauty Bus. “For our clients, our Beauty Bus visit was a break from the hardships of disease, from doctors’ visits, and insurance paperwork; for me, it was a magical day, a day that reminded me how simple acts of kindness go a long, long way,” Lindsay M. said. Visit for more information. n

Accent Reduction Now Work with Calif. licensed speech pathologist, Derra Huxley, M.A., to reduce your accent Improve your intelligibility Increase confidence in your speaking ability

call Derra Huxley for more information (818) 385-1716 A wealth of offbeat pre-health classes offer students many opportunities for learning

Nontraditional Pre-health Classes — from CLASSES, page 1

USC said, “After a pathologist came to speak to us one week, I realized that I’m really interested in that specialty and I plan on pursuing it.” “If it weren’t for this class, I wouldn’t have known maybe until much later,” Lee said. “There aren’t many classes you can take as an undergraduate that directly deal with medicine or case studies like this. It’s a nice taste of what medical school may be like and could help undergraduates decide if medicine is right for them,” he said. BISC 194 is similar to MDA 110 and is directed by Dr. Rahul Jandial, along with several guest lecturers. The class begins with a question and answer session in which Dr. Jandial either asks students questions or picks students to ask him a question to get the class comfortable with public speaking. Victoria Chien, a USC sophomore said that Jandial presents about a wide range of topics, from neurosurgery to international medical work, his research, and even lectures on how to get into medical school. He tries to keep the class informal and emphasizes questions and speaking over note-taking and tests. “I liked learning about the different surgeries Dr. Jandial lectured about. He made it easy to understand what was going

on and explained what it’s like to work as a neurosurgeon” she said. “Dr. Jandial’s lecture on how to get into medical school was really insightful as well and full of good tips.” PPD 330 is called “Introduction to Health Care Systems.” The course goes over the major topics in health care economics. Neil Bhattacharya, a USC senior said, “Students in PPD 330 learn about all aspects of healthcare economics and learn in depth about the major issues facing the United States. Even though some students may think they have a good grasp on how things work, many have a hard time articulating their opinions and showing they have some insight.” REL 360, Medical Ethics is another class worth considering. Lee has taken this course as well and recommends its in-depth and informal style. “REL 360 is great because you’ll most likely be asked questions about ethics in at least some interviews” Lee said. “In this class you go over ethical theories in detail and learn how to speak and write about controversial topics such as insurance and abortion.” While USC offers more classes than any student can fit into a couple years, it is never too early to begin experimenting and tailoring your education to match your goals and dream careers. n

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and positions of Trojan Health Connection or its funders, advertisers, and sponsors.

April 11, 2012

Global Health

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Obamacare Mandates Employee Health Insurance Coverage of Contraception of serving the customer [employee] in the most comprehensive way.” Editor Other students believe that, just as The Patient Protection and Affordthe religious views are taken out of secuable Care Act is a controversial piece lar contexts, secular views should be takof legislation. Among its most controen out of religious contexts too. versial aspects is the mandatory cover“I don’t think they should be mandatage of contraception without charging ed to have it in their health plan because a deductible, co-pay, or coinsurance, by they are privately owned,” says Sophoall new insurance plans provided by all more Awadi Rathugamage. employers and educational institutions, A large part of these diverging views excluding houses of worship. lies in whether this decision is secular Even though this contraception or religious. Each person’s personal bewould only have to be provided through liefs may be his/her moral compass, but insurance, should religiously affiliated should not be that of the nation. organizations The Paand businesses tient Protecbe held to the tion and Afsame standards fordable Care as other emAct allows employers in proployees to get viding health contraception insurance that at an affordincludes the opable price, but tion for contrait doesn’t force ception? anyone to use S o p h o this benefit. more HemalIt excludes atha Bhamidi, houses of worsaid that they ship, the only should because institutions “a woman guaranteed Loeb/Getty to solely have should have access to birth Obama signs the health-care reform bill into law. employees control to prethat believe in vent the feeling that she made the wrong the faith they directly work to preserve. decision after an abortion.” However, these institutions bring toOthers, like sophomore Katrina Kaigether communities that are as diverse ser, say that although contraception is in values those of other employers. advised against by some religions, “it’s Hence, religiously-affiliated organibest to not play moral politics with womzations should be held to the same legal en’s health, especially if the idea behind standards in health care as other, secua lot of these religious institutions’ core lar, companies and should be expected principles is taking care of the family. If to provide their employees with health choice and freedom are so important, I insurance that allow for the optional don’t see why anyone would restrict the obtainment of contraception without ad[right] to get contraceptives.” ditional deductible, co-pay, or coinsurSophomore Bhavan Desai said that ance. “Religious beliefs should be put aside in Anything otherwise would be an imsecular decisions like this in the interest proper divide between church and state.n


Journal Brasileiro de Pneumologia Chest x-rays of patients with various stages of tuberculosis.

Resistant Strains of TB By KRISTINA CHIU Writer Drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) has been sweeping across international borders and is a critical global health concern in the world community. In Los Angeles alone, six patients were diagnosed with drug-resistant TB in 2010. Although drug resistant TB is not as prevalent in the U.S. as it is in other countries, steps can be taken to make sure it doesn’t spread. Drug-resistant TB is caused by mutant strains of mycobacteria, which also cause regular TB. In many cases, drugresistant TB can prove deadly because it cannot be treated with the usual antibiotics. Drug-resistant TB is divided into two categories: multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB). MDR-TB is resistant to two of the most effective anti-TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin, often the first go-to drugs. XDR-TB is resistant to both isoniazid and rifampicin along with at least one of three second-line drugs, which are less effective against TB than firstline drugs. Patients infected with XDRTB don’t have many treatment options available to them, and the options that they do have aren’t very effective and have other side effects. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, in 2010, there were 650,000 cases of MDR-TB worldwide. Approximately fifty percent of these cases are said to be in India and

China. A high burden country is one that has more than 4000 new drug resistant TB cases each year or one in which ten percent of all new TB cases are drug resistant. MDR-TB has become a problem in high burden countries, many of which are developing nations, due to a lack of available funding. “There is often a lack of laboratory support to help diagnose drug resistant TB in high MDR-TB burden countries,” said Dr. Brenda Jones, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine. “Also, a lack of resources to pay for TB medications might prevent the use of the appropriate drugs and adherence to treatment regimens.” Treatment for regular TB requires patients to take anti-TB drugs for six months. However, MDR-TB and XDRTB require treatment for at least two years. Patients must also take TB medications for two years, even if they recover within that time period. Otherwise, the disease may come back even more drug resistant than before. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the most important thing a person can do to prevent the spread of MDR-TB is to take all of his/her medications exactly as prescribed by his/her health care provider. Doses should not be missed and treatment should not be stopped early. “It is important to provide resources for TB control and public health,” said Jones. “We also need to increase TB awareness and education in healthcare workers and patients.” n

Examining Case Studies in Public Health Careers By SEHAR SALMAN

Writer USC offers a Masters in Public Health (MPH) which Dr. Stan Azen, Professor and Co-Director of Biostatistics at the USC Keck School of Medicine, describes as “attractive to people from across different disciplines and because of the track based system, everyone can choose their courses and a practicum that keeps with their interests.” Azen and Dr. Tess Boley Cruz, Assistant Professor and Director of Health Communications track of the MPH program, along with Dr. Genevieve Dunton, an Assistant Professor of Research, demonstrate the diversity of interests in public health. Epidemiology and Biostatistics: Dr. Stanley Azen Azen originally wanted to be a musician. However, his parents told him to get a degree in “something that pays.” And so he became a mathematicia n and worked on the precursor to the internet. He became interested in Biostatistics and eventually came to USC and to develop the Biostatistics Dr. Stanley Azen, Professor and Co-Director of Biostatistics. program here. “Biostatistics and epidemiology are closely linked,” Azen said. Biostatistics determines that there is a problem and epidemiology helps to figure out the risk factors behind the problem. In his most recent studies funded by the NIH, Azen is looking at eye disease. He found that “there was a

prevalence for glaucoma [among Los Angeles Latinos] and then located what caused the prevalence. These are risk factors, including age, gender, whether or not you have a doctor, insurance, emotional support, and etc.,” said Azen. He is carrying out multiple studies related to eye disease among ethnic groups, and is working with a colleague on a genetic study. Azen enjoys his career and feels that an MPH is a very versatile and successful degree. Health Communications: Dr. Tess Boley Cruz

Cruz started out in counseling services working with adolescents who were having problems with the court system. She then decided to take a civil service job in community health communication and family planning. Eventually, after earning an MPH and a PhD, she came to USC. She began by doing research on Dr. Tess Boley Cruz, Assistant tobacco advertising Professor and Director of Health and mass media Communications. influences. Her interest in Health Communications “stemmed out of [this] early work on tobacco industry marketing” and now she is trying to make health issues “more accessible to low literate communities” by “looking at medical literacy and how to communicate health issues.” Her advice to students is to “cross the sidewalk, and get out into the community. Do volunteering work and do practical internships. Once you run up against the problems – the major challenge is to work with populations that are needy. Once you experience firsthand how tenacious their lives are, you become very dedicated to the field of public

health. It’s very humbling.”

Building Healthier Communities through Nutrition and Physical Activity: Dr. Genevieve Dunton Dunton worked as a behavioral therapist in an outpatient treatment center for mental illness and became interested in “applying social psychological theory to understanding how people make decisions in engaging in healthy behavior and motivational factors – health behavior promotion.” She then went back to school for an MPH and PhD. When she Dr. Genevieve Dunton, Assistant was young, she was Professor of Research. a competitive figure skater and so has always had an interest in physical health. Her degree was a “great marriage of overall interests in physical activity and living an active lifestyle and trying to understand how we can get others to do that.” Her research here is on obesity prevention, physical activity, and diet. She collects her data on a more individual level with mobile devices to learn “where an individual is, who they are with, and how they feel before, during and after eating and physical activity.” Dunton said that to “stop the spread of obesity, it will take a coordinated community effort that involves multiple organizations, government agencies, and policies. It is a public health problem that must be dealt with at the public health level.” Dr. Dunton describes Public Health as “the science of preventing disease and promoting health at the population level”. For those of us who had and have dreams of “saving the world,” a career in public health seems to come pretty close. n

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Choosing the Ri

April 11, 2012

Growing number of medical schools increase Dual efforts to integrate humanities into curriculum By

that offers cross disciplinary areas of study between medicine and a topic in humanities. Currently, thirteen Editor concentrations are offered including Advocacy and AcProvidence, RI tivism, Caring for Underserved Communities, Medical re-med students interested in the humanistic Humanities and Ethics, Medical Technology and Innoand artistic aspects of medicine such as writ- vation, and Physician as a Communicator. ing, fine arts, and activism may want to conFor whatever subject is selected, a student collabosider a medical school’s focus on these studies when rates with a faculty mentor and builds a four-year plan applying to medical school. An increasing number of to create a final product. Examples of final products are medical schools are integrating humanities and arts pieces of literature, development of a bioengineering in their curricula including Brown University, Univer- tool, or evaluation of an outreach program. sity of Iowa, and New York University (NYU). NYU School of Medicine also has a program that enAs a liberal arts college, Brown University’s em- courages medical students to delve into intellectual and phasis on the humanities extends into the curriculum artistic interests outside of the core medicine curricuof its medical school, Alpert Medical School, with a lum. The Master Scholars in Medical Humanism Prorequired course for first and second gram provides several opportunities for years called Doctoring. This course students to converse about medicine and provides students with an early ophumanities through seminars, lectures The act of writing portunity to observe and practice by writers and artists, concerts, and film helps you build patient interviewing, history-taking, screenings. New York University reflective capacity and professional conduct alongAs another medium through which New York City, NY side a physician mentor. medical students can connect in the arts, so you can better Doctoring also requires stu“Agora,” an arts and literature magazine understand the dents to engage in reflective features the fine arts, photography, and patient’s story... writing about their experiences writing of medical students. with patients, uncertain situations, Although humanities courses current-Dr. Hedy Wald and ethical dilemmas. This course ly remain as electives at Brown UniverAssistant Professor of Family aims to foster not only empathy but sity and NYU, some medical schools are Medicine at Brown University also a habit of thinking critically making humanities a mandatory part of about diagnoses and ethics. their curricula. At the University Of Iowa According to the article “Poetry, Painting to Earn Carver College Of Medicine, students taking a humanian M.D.” in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Hedy Wald, ties course are required to submit works to the medical a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at school’s literary journal called “The Examined Life.” Brown, thinks that the writing component to this This literary journal is published biannually by the program is crucial in the development of a thoughtful, Writing and Humanities Program at the Carver College patient-centered physician. of Medicine. The journal can be found online at its self “The act of writing helps you build reflective capac- titled “blogspot,” and according to the blog, “the journal ity so you can better understand the patient’s story intends to deepen and complicate our understanding of University of Iowa and integrate it with everything you know as a doc- healthcare and healing, illness, the human body, and Iowa City, IA tor to have a more patient-centered-care relationship,” the human condition.” Wald said. These three medical schools signify the growing tranThese colleges are including humaniIn addition to this program, Alpert Medical School sition of medical school curricula. Pre-med students ties courses in their curricula to help develop offers more humanities courses with its Scholarly may want to consider humanities as a decision-making critical thinking skills and create a more wellConcentration Program, which is an optional elective factor when applying to medical school. n


Brown University



or most ing thei fulfillin however, who s for subjects like sion for medicin degree program PhD, MD/MPH, One of the be MD/PhD degree ance medicine w completed MD/P physician-scient universities, me tutes. On averag to complete, as o

By C


lthough tain cha differenc medical schools to obvious difference vate medical sch public medical sc According to Medical Colleges the 2010-2011 sch lic medical schoo stitutions. Other the total cost of 2011 school year schools and $66,9 For nonresiden of-state tuition a is about $2000, a

rounded education.




any premeds are so focused on getting into a med school that they overlook which medical school is right for them. “It’s important to learn about the character and personality of different medical schools before you apply” said Alex Ung, a junior at USC. “But it’s hard to do that when you’re busy studying for the MCAT, writing a personal statement, or getting all of your letters of rec.” While prestige, cost of attendance, and location are some of the more obvious characteristics, there may be other factors worth considering. Dr. Rahul Jandial, neurosurgeon and professor at USC, believes medical schools have differences that might mesh better with certain applicants.

“Though the curriculum is basically the same, medical schools do have different personalities” he said. One example would be whether a school has a research or clinical emphasis. “I know the US News Rankings are split into two lists, one for research and one for primary care” said Danny Lee, a junior at USC. “I’m interested in forensic pathology possibly with a research focus because I’m not sure I want to be dealing with patients constantly.” Another point to notice is whether MD/ PhD programs require research rotations. On the other hand, some students applying for medical school may feel they have had enough of the research world. In this case clinical exposure and hands-on experience are key. While nearly all medical schools require clinical rotations or clerkships during their third and fourth years, some place a greater emphasis on early clinical exposure.

Medical schools vary in the amount of research and clinical experience offered; (From left to right) Keck School of Medicine, Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Geffen, Stanford University Hospital.

Schools like Loma Linda University and Drexel University provide clinical experience within the first year. The Emergency Medicine Student Interest Group (EMSIG) at the Keck School of Medicine allows medical students access to the emergency department at the LA County Hospital during their first and second years. There, medical students can experience medicine at a level one trauma center, the largest on the West coast, and learn techniques like suturing and airway management early on. “Most American schools offer a reasonable balance of both. I think the goal should be to get into an American medical school” said Dr. Jandial. “After that, one should try to get into the best school that fits them. Once you’re in medical school you will be exposed to all types of clinical practice. After this exposure, you’ll be positioned to best decide what to pursue in residency.” n


by the numbers

Top Research

#1 Harvard University 709 enro #2 Johns Hopkins University 455 enro #2 University of Pennsylvania 636 enro

Top Primary Care

#1 University of Washington 951 enro #2 UNC – Chapel Hill 771 enro #3 Oregon Health & Science University 499 enrol

Statistics courtesy of U.S. News World Report (2012

ight Med School

April 11, 2012

Page 5

l degrees allow med students to explore diverse fields GURLEEN CHADA Editor

t pre-medical students, dedicatir lives to medicine is incredibly ng in itself. There are others, seek to combine their passion e law or business with their pasne through medical college dual ms, the most common being MD/ , MD/JD, and MD/MBA. est-known dual degrees is the e, ideal for people looking to balwith research. Those who have PhD programs (also known as tists) often become faculty at edical schools, or research instige, the degree takes eight years opposed to four years of medical


all medical schools share ceraracteristics, there are enough ces between public and private o warrant discussion. The most e is the cost. At face value, prihools tend to cost more than chools for in-state residents. the American Association of (AAMC), the median tuition in hool year was $28,685 for pubols and $46,899 for private indata from AAMC showed that medical schools in the 2010was $49,298 for public medical 984 for private medical schools. nts, the difference between outand the private school flat rate according to AAMC.








& 2)

school and four to six years of graduate school. It is offered at over 80 universities, including the Keck School of Medicine. The majority of these institutions fully fund program participants, many providing a monthly stipend in addition to a full-tuition scholarship. A dual degree in medicine and public health is for people looking to work in community medicine or public health. MD/MPH programs are offered at over 70 universities, including Keck. The curriculum usually takes around five years to complete and is made up of four years of medical school and one year focusing on public health. Depending on the institution, students either apply concurrently with their medical school application or after they are admitted into medical school. While somewhat less common, combined MD/JD programs are offered at just over 20

Private medical schools offer to cover as much as 18% of the financial aid while public medical schools offer about 12%. The median debt upon graduation was $150,000 for public medical schools and $180,000 for private medical schools, according to AAMC. Apart from cost, a medical school’s philosophy should be a factor when applying. According to Dr. Antonio Funches , a recent graduate of Howard University’s College of Medicine, medical school philosophies do not depend on whether a medical school is public or private. “Underlying every medical school’s philosophy is a theme of a commitment to do no harm and seek to improve the health of our respective populations,” said Funches. “Exactly how this particular theme is played out in schools’ philosophies does differ.” Acceptance practices might also differ, as private medical schools are more open to alterna-

schools in the United States. A dual degree in law and medicine can prepare the bearer for several careers, from hospital legislation to medical malpractice, and programs take on average six years, as opposed to seven if the degrees were pursued independently. While curricula varies from university to university, a general course plan may include a year studying law, two years studying medicine, completion of law curriculum in the next one and a half years, a half year of research, and finally, a year finishing medicine-based courses. All programs require applicants to gain admission from the institution’s law school and medical school. At over 60 institutions, students can apply to joint MD/MBA programs that prepare students to work for venture capitalists interested in the health field, to work at health care firms,

tive systems of admission policies whereas public medical schools tend to accept residents of the state. According to Dr. Kenneth Geller, director of USC’s Pre-Health Advising Office, “A public school has to toe the line on laws that are established by the state.” Therefore, public schools have less freedom to use demographics as factor for admission, if doing so is expressly against state law. Furthermore, public schools tend to favor state residents over nonresidents. According to the Amherst College guide for pre-medical students, “you should apply to the state medical school(s) in your home state, since your chances of acceptance are usually higher…It is futile to apply to state schools outside your own state of residence.” However, “Some nominally private ones, e.g. Baylor and the University of Miami, receive state funding and therefore favor residents of

or allow students a myriad of other opportunities. At Keck, the program takes five and a half years to complete, with students applying after completing their second or third year of medical school, taking a year to focus on businessrelated courses, and finishing with two years of medical school and half a year to finish the business curriculum. At the majority of universities that offer it, the program takes five years to complete. The majority of these programs are highly competitive and include additional essays and letters of recommendation. Many of them also include additional test requirements, such as the LSAT or the GMAT, or require schooling during summers. They can, however, be perfect for students who see themselves combining medicine with a different field and taking healthcare to new heights. n

Texas and Florida respectively. Some nominally public ones, e.g. the University of Michigan, Penn State, and the University of Vermont, accept substantial numbers of out-of-state residents.” For students interested in research, private medical schools tend to rank higher than public schools. In the 2012 U.S. News and World Report rankings of the best medical schools in research, 16 of the top 25 medical schools were private medical schools. “Generally speaking, most of the colleges of medicine that are highly ranked in the area of research medicine are private institutions. That being said, there are exceptions to that rule,” said Funches. “For students interested in clinical medicine only, their options are wide open.” “Research is a big part of medicine but not for everyone,” said Geller. “As an MD you are required to still know how to take care of the patient.” n

Schools outside US offer nontraditional alternative By KAUSAR ALI



ell, if I don’t get in to medical school in the United States, I can just go to the Caribbean.” Many have heard this thought floating around the pre-med sphere at least a few times. The practicality of medical school abroad in comparison to U.S. schools, such as cheaper tuition and relatively easier admission, may entice many pre-meds into considering it. The two most popular places students consider are the Caribbean and China. The Caribbean houses numerous medical schools which have more lenient entrance requirements and later admissions deadlines than U.S. medical schools. The tuition is $10,000-$15,000 cheaper and the acceptance rate is about 15% higher according to the National Association of Advisors for Health Professionals. China has similar programs, but there are a smaller number of medical schools that grant a transferable medical degree to the U.S. Although training in medicine abroad is a viable option due to cost-efficiency and accessibility, the primary reason many students consider it is as a backup option. Sophomore Matthew Chen says, “My biggest fear is

being rejected by all medical schools in the country. I don’t want to go to the Caribbean, but it is still an option so I can pursue my passion for medicine.” Despite the perks of lower price and easy admission, American students can encounter tremendous challenges when attending these foreign medical schools. Some overseas medical schools are not accredited by the U.S. because the schools do not offer the complete training required to obtain medical licensure in the U.S. Thus, students attending these colleges are not able to practice medicine in the U.S. since their degree cannot be transferred over. The level of medical training offered by foreign schools can also be questioned, which is an important point brought up by senior Jenny Adams. “I’m not sure if Caribbean and Chinese medical programs are up to par with the level of training and skills offered in the U.S.,” she said. The biggest challenge that American medical students face after studying abroad is matching to residency programs in the U.S. About 16,000 residency spots open up each year, 12,000 of which are given to graduates from U.S. schools. That leaves only 4,000 spots for roughly 30,000 foreign students. To beat out other foreign-trained applicants and be

seriously considered by admissions committees, scores on the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates Exam (ECFMG) and United States Medical Licensing Examinations (USMLEs) must be high. These exams are required for all foreign-trained graduates who want to be eligible for a U.S. residency program. Overseas medical schools may not be as highly esteemed by residency admissions officers. Hospitals would much rather hire doctors graduating from the U.S. rather than foreign-trained candidates. However, it is important to note that overseas medical schools, such as Ross University in the Caribbean and the Chinese Medical University, have recently developed more rigorous and reputable training programs. In fact, students at these schools can complete their third and fourth year clinical rotations in the United States. Essentially, they obtain training from U.S. teaching hospitals while having the opportunity to study abroad. Despite the unfavorable opinion of overseas medical schools, there are upsides. Encountering a new culture and lifestyle opens graduates up to new life experiences. Furthermore, graduates from international programs can establish practices in developing countries. In the end, pre-med students must make a significant life decision on where to attend medical school. n

Colleges in China and the Caribbean may present an appealing alternative to some students due to the competitive nature of the U.S. medical school application process.

All photos courtesy of


April 11, 2012

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Pre-med Mentoring Club Brings Keck Physicians to Campus By DIANA CHUNG Writer The newly-formed Pre-med Mentoring Club allows undergraduates to gain a more hands-on approach to practicing medicine before entering medical school. Formed by USC Junior Michael Cooper and Arielle Sommer, a second-year student from the Keck School of Medicine, the club invites guest doctors and medical students to explain basic procedures in general medicine, specifically emergency medicine cases. A distinctive feature of the club’s first general meeting was the firsthand account from a medical student on how to apply for medical school and a general layout of what to expect from each year.

“Arielle is mentoring on the part about the medical school because she is a student and did very well. The first time was just a brief overview, but we’ll go into primary and secondary applications and then interviews, such as on what you should be doing. But we’ll also keep the clinical side too because I know students aren’t only interested in what [they] have to do to get into medical school but also what [they are] looking forward too,” Cooper said. The first general meeting also featured two doctors from the Department of Emergency Medicine of Los Angeles County, Kim Newton and Maureen McCollough, who lectured on common medical terminology and described their experiences as emergency medicine physicians.

FUELS s Supports Women in Science By PRAGATI MAMTORA Writer Since its founding three years ago, FUELS (Female Undergraduates Educating and Leading in Science) has achieved its goal in developing a close-knit environment for women in science and engineering to bond through their common interest in science. According to FUELS’ Vice President Harmony Huyn, a USC sophomore, the club is a support group equipped to provide females the resources they need to be successful in their science career paths. “We’ve been really focusing on social events this semester, [events such as ice cream at Coldstone’s Creamery, frozen yogurt at Yogurtland, and a dinner at the Lab to welcome new members] because we want to develop a community outside of just seeing each other in lecture,” says Huynh. FUELS differs from other clubs focused more on specific career paths such as pre-medical, pre-dental, or pre-pharmacy in that it offers diverse resources for people interested in many fields. In fact, each semester they hold an Alumni Speakers Panel which features professors and doctors from various fields of marine biology to researchers from the Health Sciences Campus. “[The club] really inspires everyone, including young children, that they too can pursue science and engineering [if they have the passion],” says Huynh. The club hopes to inspire its members to pursue research. They hold events such as a visit to a HPV (Human Papillomavirus) lab in which the professor gave a speech about females in science. Members learn about lifestyle challenges in women who are considering starting a family and getting a Ph.D simultaneously. “I went there as a freshman...and that really opened my eyes to research and that’s why I’ve been involved in research ever since,” says Huynh. Besides social, educational, and research events dispersed throughout the semester, FUELS meets regularly every 2 weeks. The club’s membership requirement develops a close-knit family of female science and engineering majors educating and leading in science. To find out more about FUELS or to learn how to get involved, readers can contact FUELS at fuels.usc@ n

Cooper said, “We have two physicians who are willing to not just give a short presentation on what to do to get into medical school. In effect, what they’re telling you is exactly what they do every time a person comes in the ER: immediately check the vital responses, check your air, breathing, circulation, etc. You’re actually kind of simulating cases.” Using the information given in the lectures, the club plans on providing first-hand practice of common medical methods. “I wanted to do a suture day using oranges peels...I want to do more practical stuff like splinting, which is a really useful skill, or tourniqueting...We also want more medically-oriented [material] too, like a brief overview on a part of a system,” Cooper said. By showing the types of work doctors

Photographer Shoko Oda perform after undergraduate work and medical school, the speakers provided an extra incentive for students learning material in their prerequisite classes. For more information, contact the club at n

FISH Performs Medical Screenings in Mexican Communities

of authentic Mexican food and return underserved populations in nearby Los Angeles areas, attract more volunto USC. Writer Zikry said, “The people there are ex- teers, and hold an annual fundraiser. USC students have taken a great- tremely kind and welcoming. They are Kausar Ali, FISH Chief Operations er role in global health care through all so appreciative of the work and ef- Officer, considers her experience with the efforts of a new organization, fort the students provide them… Just FISH rewarding. She said, “The most Fellowship for International Service lending an ear to someone who may important thing I learned … is to nevand Health (FISH). Founded last se- have a health concern or a family con- er take anything for granted. There mester, USC FISH has been collabo- cern goes a long way.” are so many opportunities given to me rating with UCLA FISH to conduct FISH believes that its organization that people in Maclovio Rojas can only service day trips to a clinic in the city offers a global health experience to dream about… I should use these opof Maclovio Rojas, Mexico every two USC students of various majors. portunities to give back to the commuweeks on Saturdays. Zikry said, “Students are given an nity.” FISH members learn basic medi- opportunity to be submerged in global Zikry also said, “As a premed stucal screening prodent, it is very cedures and work easy to get [so] alongside healthcaught up with care professionals school that you to provide services almost begin to including taking vilose sight of what tal signs, measuring is important. But blood sugar levels, with FISH, you passing out toothhave the means brushes, vitamins, to communicate and mineral suppleyour desire and ments, and providpassion by helping consultations. ing those people Joseph Zikry, who need it most.” CEO and Founder All students of USC FISH, said, are welcome to “The mission of apply as volunFISH is to connect Courtesy of FISH teers. An applicastudents with a pas- FISH reaches out to underserved communities in Mexico to provide critical tion is required. sion for helping oth- health services and education. Because FISH is ers with the people a new organizawho most need their help. We hope to health issues without having to spend tion, the application process is subject effectively address the specific medical a semester or several weeks abroad to change, and an applicant interview needs of various underserved commu- and at a very low cost…FISH gives stu- is a strong possibility in the future. nities in Mexico, as well as disseminate dents valuable international medical Applications are closed for this semesand educate the residents on health experience as well as giving students ter, but will be available next fall. initiatives.” All accepted members of FISH are an opportunity to experience a differexpected to attend a mandatory trainA typical service trip begins at 5:30 ent culture.” AM a Saturday. FISH volunteers meet In the future, FISH Board members ing session and monthly meetings, at at Leavey Library before leaving. After plan to expand the organization both which they are taught to perform difmaking a stop at San Diego near the on and off USC campus. USC FISH ferent health procedures and how to US-Mexico border, they proceed to is currently serving the community of communicate with patients. All memMaclovio Rojas. There, the clinic is set Maclovio Rojas with UCLA but is seek- bers must have a valid passport before up and conducted for several hours. ing to find other locations and com- they go on trips. Email After the clinical sessions are conclud- munities in Mexico to serve as well. ed for the day, volunteers get a taste The club also hopes to serve target for more information. n


iGEM Combats Antibiotic Resistance with Genetic Engineering By ALINE HESSE

Writer Founded last year in the spring of 2011 through the efforts of Nolan Sardesai, a recent graduate of USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team has already experienced budding success. Throughout this past summer and into the fall, the USC team, headed by former Team Captain Percy Genyk, worked to develop strains of E. coli that would use their cellular defense mechanisms to deactivate foreign DNA, effectively removing those genes that confer antibiotic resistance from the E. coli strains themselves. This project was intended to reverse the increasingly concerning pattern of drug-resistance which essentially counteracts bacterial ability to gain antibiotic resistance by destroying favorable genetic

material entering the cell from the environment. And it seems to have worked. “And we noticed by hour four, there was a decrease in bacterial growth [in the antibiotic medium], so in the wee hours of the night, it was confirmed that our project was working and we were just celebrating,” Genyk, now a student advisor for iGEM, said. “It was so joyful because when you put in a whole summer of work, to have your project work…it was an amazing accomplishment.” After hatching a project idea and then developing it, each iGEM team travels to the annual symposium held by the iGEM Foundation. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, which involves the use of science and engineering to create biological functions and systems not present in nature. For example, a team may present bacteria that can change colors in the presence of varying arsenic concentrations or bacteria engineered to serve

as red blood cell substitutes. At the conference, iGEM teams from multiple international universities present their work in this emerging field, not only to be judged, but also to be shared for the benefit of all. Yet even after the symposium, USC’s iGEM team is still not done. Although the 2011 competition concluded at the end of last year, the team continues to work on perfecting their results and anticipates sending in a preliminary manuscript to a scientific journal this April. The team is beginning to set-up the USC iGEM 2012 team, which has already been selected as a small group of close-knit members. “The reason I like to keep it small is we work together so much and I think we can grow more as a small group of students tackling a big project,” he said. “When you have seven people who struggle together, think critically together, and succeed together…you can accomplishmore.” Genyk encourages future applicants, emphasizing that it is not experience and know-how alone. “People think that you have to have experience in the lab, and a 3.9 to be an auto-in...but what we look for is the people who are imaginative because that’s what iGEM is all about,” he said. “You have to have the heart to do it, because come the fall of competition year, it gets brutal...You have to pour a lot into it.” n

April 11, 2012

Allied Health

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Physical Therapy: A Hands-On Health Career Physical therapists help people recover from injuries. They work in a variety of settings and are in high demand.

Web Manager Amanda Ciozda

Physical Therapy Licensed physical therapist Dr. Erica Sigman performs massage therapy on a patient.

By AMANDA CIOZDA Web Manager According to USC graduate student Sara Wallenrod, typically, when undergoing physical therapy (PT), unlike most physician visits, patients are scheduled for a series of appointments which allows the patient to form a more personal relationship. “You are able to see the changes you are making in their lives and can watch and support them throughout their rehabilitation” said Wallenrod. Dr. Jonathan Sum is the Director of USC Physical Therapy Associates and a specialist in Orthopedic and Sports physical therapy. Sum was exposed to PT after a series of sports injuries. He played baseball in high school. But during the college recruitment period, he tore his knee ligaments. “The physician only prescribed one [PT] visit and suggested icing to treat my injury,” Sum said. A second injury sat him out. “I lost the chance to play baseball in college,” Sum says, “but my experience inspired me to pursue a degree in sports medicine instead.” Although Sum considered a career in orthopedic surgery, he says that the working conditions in PT are much more appealing. “The hours are better and I am never on-call. I get to

Spotlight: Occupational Therapy — from THERAPY, page 1

occupational therapy is to teach those who are facing physical or mental challenges to overcome their disabilities and live meaningful, engaged lives. “We’re helping people do what they need to do and what they want to do in their life,” said Morris-Eggleston. “I’m hoping to help them optimize their independence and be able to do the things that make them who they are.” As Morris-Eggleston said, patients tend to have an obstacle impeding their ability to live a normal life. This can be a physical injury, a mental disability, developmental delays, or anything that prevents the patient from living a rich, fulfilling life. Patients range from young children with mental challenges to elderly adults going through cognitive changes. The wide range makes for a variety of occupational therapists (OTs) with different specialties and work environments. Many

OTs work with children with disabilities, helping them to participate in social environments and adapt to school life. Others work in hospitals or rehabilitation clinics, aiding those with physical injuries. Most school districts also have occupational therapists to better accommodate the

learning habits of special education students. As Morris-Eggleston explained, the work environments and types of patients are so vast that each case is highly unique. “Occupational therapy is so broad...that I never get bored,” said Morris-Eggleston. “We work in acute care, intensive care. We’re in rehab; we’re throughout the whole hospital. We are sent to different work places like IBM to help do ergonomic assessments to see how they’re seating.” This versatility is one of the many reasons why Morris-Eggleston finds this type of medicine rewarding. “We are trained to look at what a person can do instead of just what they can’t do and so that helps in therapy or in work but I see the whole world that way.” Morris-Eggleston has worked with children with cognitive disabilities at a private sensory integration clinic. She worked to keep at-risk kids out of gangs, and to help cancer patients participate in normal activities. Kaitlyn Trimarchi, a current USC preOT student who hopes to work as a pediatric occupational therapist specializing in Autism, explains, “You are truly making lives better, even in the simplest of things, like tying shoes can be such an accomplishment.” OTs are generally in high demand. According to the US News & World report, occupational therapy has been consistently one of the top ten recession-proof positions. Morris-Eggleston, for example, explained that almost every day she receives job offers through her email and voicemail to come work at the various organizations. Many schools, including USC, offer a fiveyear Bachelor’s to Master’s degree program. OTs often obtain on-the-job training and, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association, can receive special training in hand coordination or speech, then later receive advanced certification. Applicants to occupational therapy graduate schools must take the GRE and have competitive GPAs over 3.0. n

spend much more time with patients than a doctor would, and my work is very handson.” The prerequisites for PT school are similar to premedical ones. Often a GPA of 3.3 or higher is considered competitive. USC’s PT program is topranked in the country and graduates more Doctors of Physical Therapy each year than any other program. Classes are a mix of lecture and labs and include anatomy and patient management

I get to spend much more time with patients than a doctor would, and my work is very hands-on. Dr. Jonathan Sum

Director of USC Phyiscal Therapy Associates classes, as well as specialized courses in biomechanics and exercise physiology. Most doctorate programs are three years long. PT students rotate in local clinics beginning in their first year, which Wallenrod values. “Not only do you get to see how the material you are learning can be applied in a clinical setting, but it also reminds you why you chose

the career.” Just as in the medical or dentistry fields, there is room to pursue research and academic teaching in PT. And according to Dr. Lori Ginoza, a PT at USC Physical Therapy Associates, like medical residents, new PT graduates can specialize in a wide variety of clinical areas. “My specialty is neurology,” she says. “I work with many patients that have neurologic diagnoses such as Parkinson’s disease…but you can go a lot of different directions, such as sports and orthopedics, pediatric physical therapy, cardiopulmonary treatment, acute care, and wound care.” Dr. Erica Sigman, a PT at USC Physical Therapy Associates, said, “As a physical therapist, you are a coach as well as an educator.” However, state regulations can limit the access a patient has to a physical therapist. “In California, for example, a physical therapist cannot give a medical diagnosis, order images, or prescribe medication for a patient.” But both Sigman and Ginoza agree that PT offers a degree of personal satisfaction that medicine cannot. “[It is rewarding] to see smiles on patients faces because they are proud of themselves for all their hard work they put in.” Visti us online at www. for the full article. n

Pre-OT / PT vs. Pre-Medicine PHYSICIAN

OT / PT Education Requirements: O: 2 years Master’s degree P: 3 years Doctor of PT or 2-3 years Masters of PT OT National Certification Exam PT National Board Examination and State Licensure

Education Requirements: 4 years medical school 3-8 internship and residency National Board Examination Board examination for specialty Medical School: Number of Schools: 134 Average Size of Incoming Class: 136 Applicants in 2010: 42,742 Admitted: 18,665 (43.67 percent) Average Admitted GPA: 3.67

Schools: Number of Schools: 322 (O), 210 (P) Average Size of Incoming Class: 26 (O), 42 (P) Applicants in 2010: 22,483 (P) Admitted: 5,954 (O), 11,421 (P) Average Admitted GPA: 3.38 (O), 3.49 (P)

Required Courses for Admission One year biology One year general chemistry One semester organic chemistry One semester biochemistry One year physics One year statistics/calculus Application Requirements: AMCAS application Medical College Admissions Test Average School Tuition (2006-7): Public: $16,690/year for in-state $32,900/year for out-ofstate Private: $34,749 per yr

Required Courses for Admission: One year biology (O,P) One year general chemistry (P) One semester psychology (P) One semester public speaking (P) One year anatomy (O,P) One semester statistics (O,P) Sociology or anthropology (O) Childhood development (O) Application Requirements: Graduate Records Examination OT Centralized Application Service PT Centralized Application Service

Average Debt Upon Graduation: Class of 2009: $156,456.

Average School Tuition (2011): O: $22,240 per yr P: $27,857 per yr

Median Salary (2008): Internal Medicine = 183,605/yr Specialties = $339,738/yr

Median Salary (2011): O: $72,320 per yr P: $76,310 per yr

Normalized Lifetime Earnings: Internal Medicine - $6.8 million Specialties - $11.6 million

Normalized Lifetime Earnings: O: $1.6 million P: $1.8 million Projected Job Growth: P: Number of jobs in 2010: 198,600 Percent Increase: 39% O: Number of jobs in 2010: 108,800 Percent Increase: 33% Lifestyle Regular hours with moderate stress.

Projected Job Growth: Number of jobs in 2008: 661,400 Projected number in 2018: 805,500 Percent Increase: 22 Lifestyle Depends on specialty; can include emergency hours and night shifts. Moderate to high stress.

Data was compiled from American Association of Medical Colleges, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Employment Index, American Physical Therapy Association, American Occupational Therapy Association, and EDITOR-IN-CHIEF REBECCA GAO, EHSUPDATE.COM

Gap-Year Special

April 11, 2012

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Work as a Conduct Cutting-Edge Research Medical Scribe By TALINE GUEVREKIAN Writer

Scribes A physician examines an electronic medical record, which is becoming more popular.


Medical scribes “assist physicians with documentation of patient medical records,” described Dr. John Vowels, Senior Partner of Emergency Medical Scribe Systems (EMSS) and alumnus of the USC Keck School of Medicine. In hospitals from Lakewood to Los Alamitos, many undergraduate and graduate students interested in medicine interact with physicians and observe medicine up close by entering the ranks of medical scribes. Typing patient histories on a mobile laptop and acting as personal assistants to doctors in the emergency department, scribes have a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of a hospital and the lifestyles of physicians. Although medical scribe programs are not completely new to the field, they recently have been gaining more traction. The increasing use of electronic medical records has created a niche for ER scribes. “There has been a push to bring medicine into the 21st century and use computers,” Dr. Vowels said. Acting as bridges in the shift towards medical records, scribes allow physicians to focus on the patient without having to worry about documentation. “They’ve been super helpful for me, especially in chaotic situations,” Vowels said. Prospective scribes are required to undergo intensive training that consists of 50 to 60 hours of combined classroom and on-the-job training, during which medical terminology, elements of a medical record, and medical products are taught. After training, the scribes are immediately immersed into the often hectic routine of an emergency room. “Scribes get to see some pretty amazing things. They are in the ER seeing people who are sick and going to see patients with the doctor,” Vowels said. For students who may be still unsure about medical school, being a scribe can provide personal experience that can help them decide if medical school is the right path. The experience can also prove beneficial for future medical school applications. “The last thing you want is to go and have a huge debt without being completely positive. Being a scribe allows you to make a decision with more information,” Vowels said. To become a scribe, no previous experience is required. By Vowels’ standards, scribe companies look for people who are “motivated, interested, smart, and can do the job,” as well as those who with schedules that can fit this time-demanding job. n

Research is common for pre-med students who take a gap year, and according to students who have chosen this alternative, the level of commitment and effort with which the research is conducted determines the value of the experience. “Specifically for those who take a year off for research, [a gap year] could be a great idea or just a waste of time. It really depends on how much effort you put into the research,” USC alumnus Josh Jang said. The goal of most researchers is to publish their findings, and pre-med students who commit to research during their gap year should strive for this goal as well. Jang is currently taking a gap year, during which he is working towards a research publication in the Molecular and Computational Biology Department at USC. “I began like everyone else: I washed test tubes, maintained fly lines and did all the grunt work that was involved in research,” Jang said. “I slowly gained the trust of the graduate student that I was working under and started doing more complex research. Eventually, I even designed my own projects.” Research is not just limited to lab work. Naomi Choi, a UCLA alumna, researched in Korea on the health benefits of Korean cuisine and worked on a medical journal translating project for the Ilsan National Hospital. “Instead of being in school, I was able to build real life experiences and understand the relationship between the healthcare professionals and the patients,” Choi said. The benefits of research can extend beyond publishing articles and into the realm of personal growth and preparation for a future career in medicine. “[Research] teaches responsibility. It teaches to think critically. It teaches humility,” Jang said. “But most importantly, it empowers students to chase after their dreams by providing the

Photo Manager Han Dao

Research Graduate students Dong Zhu Wu and Matthew Taylor examine an Erlenmeyer flask during their experiments. tools to deeply explore subjects that truly interest them.” “Research helped me understand the different areas [of healthcare] and helped me choose the type of work I would like,” Choi said. Research should be enjoyable but

not taken lightly. “If you truly enjoy the field of research that you choose, it will be an amazing adventure that can shape the rest of your life. I consider this [gap year] not as a vacation but as training for my future." n

Obtain Specialized Masters Degrees


Taking a gap year can allow for some great learning experiences. One opportunity is just over at the Health Sciences Campus. The Master of Science in Global Medicine is a oneyear program offers curriculum dedicated to analyzing and studying world health issues. Global Medicine students address common diseases, including tuberculosis, tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS, and maternal and child health. Students delve into understanding the causes, mechanisms, and modern solutions. “I’ve had the opportunity to look at

these familiar diseases in a new perspective. We’ve looked more into the reasons why they're so prominent and how they could be stopped,” Benjamin Barmaan, a Masters student, said. Another opportunity is to learn how to help people improve their English pronunciation through the Compton P-ESL Program. This program trains people to provide accent reduction lessons. By improving the clarity of their speech, many people find that their self-confidence and job prospects are improved. This program is taught through a weekend seminar. One alumna of the program is Derra Huxley, M.A., whose experience led to her current work as a Speech and

Language Pathologist. “I really love to meet and work with intelligent people from all over the world who speak English fluently, but have difficulty being completely understood,” Huxley said. So far, Huxley has had the opportunity to meet people from 29 countries. Huxley finds a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction in working with her clients regardless of nationality or profession. “I find it most rewarding when my clients feel more confident in speaking [...] they feel more confident to achieve the goals they set out to accomplish,” Huxley said. Visit us online at for more. n

Travel Abroad for Eye-Opening Cultural Experiences By JESSICA KUO

Editor-in-Chief After toughing it out four long years, many students end their college career feeling unprepared for professional school. Perhaps worse, some feel weary or “burnt out.” In such cases, a gap year can provide opportunities for USC graduates to explore, recuperate, and prepare for the next stage. Traveling is one of the most popular options for students taking time off as it provides numerous personal rewards and can strengthen professional school applications through health-related programs. Students who have the opportunity to travel can explore various interests and contemplate whether their pursued career path really is the best choice for them. For many, this is the last chance to travel unencumbered by responsibilities, especially once they enter professional school.

Critics of taking the gap year such as USC senior HaoHua Wu claim that students may lose motivation to return to school or lose their study habits upon return. However, admissions officers find that most students pursue activities that would bolster their applications. One program that offers health-related volunteering and immersion opportunities abroad is Gap Medics. Gap Medics encourages pre-health students to fully engross themselves in pre-med, pre-dental, or pre-nursing activities in countries with large populations lacking proper health care. Students can experience the diversity of health issues, from infectious diseases to health care systems. They also gain a better understanding of different cultures. Traveling abroad can be a fresh alternative to spending a year in research, since medical schools are increasing their emphasis in the humanitites and in personal characteristics such as conscientiousness, empathy, and heightened cultural awareness. n

Courtesy of Michelle Chong

Borderless USC undergraduate Michelle Chong traveled abroad to Lima, Peru.

THC Spring 2012  

Trojan Health Connection Spring 2012 Issue published on April 11, 2012.

THC Spring 2012  

Trojan Health Connection Spring 2012 Issue published on April 11, 2012.