Osmosis Contributor Spotlight: Helen Lam, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, MS4

Thasin Jaigirdar
Published on Mar 11, 2015. Updated on Invalid date.

Helen Lam is a fourth-year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She has a wide variety of interests and has thus found her passion in the field of family medicine. Prior to medical school, Helen received her Bachelor of Science from the University of California Davis where she majored in Exercise Biology. Helen is a contributor for our Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Open Education Resource Initiative.

How did you discover Osmosis, and why did you want to get involved with it?
I was introduced to Osmosis through a number of emails. I loved the idea of being able to learn all the time and I remember one discussion during first year where one of us lamented, "I wish I could just osmose all the information they throw at us." The name Osmosis definitely caught my attention. I wanted to get involved with Osmosis because I wanted to contribute to medical student education and to providing excellent study materials to fellow students.

How did you get interested in medicine?
Whenever I got sick as a child, which was pretty often, I would always be amazed at how easily my symptoms could be alleviated by "medicine." I remember how awful I felt whenever my asthma acted up, and I often wondered why I was not normal like my sisters. As I grew up, I never forgot the impact physicians had on my life, and the relief that medicine could provide. The decision to pursue medicine came after much thought and was reaffirmed through many experiences. I have always been the kind of person who wants everyone around me to be happy - and the hope of being able to provide care and alleviate suffering as a physician motivates me.

What has been your favorite block so far in medical school and why?
I love anatomy, so my favorite block in medical school was the musculoskeletal medicine block. Memorizing all the different muscles, their origin, insertion, and innervation, made me feel like a genius. I also was an Exercise Biology major in college, so I felt like I was in familiar territory.

Do you have any specific things that you would like to do once you finish up your medical education?
I would really like to be involved in resident education or in teaching medical students. I really enjoy the passion and energy present among students and it is great to be able to learn from other people.

What tips do you have for undergraduate students currently applying to medical school?
They probably are neck deep in tips on how to apply to medical school. It seems most pre-medical students are very intense and too stressed out. I suggest that you all find hobbies that you enjoy, and spend some time doing those things. Do things for your own enrichment, not just to bolster your resume or your application.

What advice do you have for incoming first-year medical students?
Remind yourself often about why you came into medical school to do. I think most of you come in with many ideals and dreams, with desires to serve your communities, and to give back; don't lose that. Medical school is tough, and you end up thinking much more selfishly than you did when you came in. So remind yourself early and often about why you're here. Hopefully it wasn't for money or prestige.

What would you personally like to see changed with how medical education is currently run today?
This might ruffle a couple feathers. From what I have observed, having the world's leading expert on some topic give a lecture, which may be well conceived or not, is more valuable than delivering material that will actually enhance my knowledge for my future practice of medicine. Granted, nearly all students who have matriculated into medical school are proficient at self-study and can gain what is necessary from reading books or going over slides. I think there are too many imposed self-interests in medical education, such as mandatory teaching for research professors. But without that, who would teach?

In addition, medical education costs an exorbitant amount and medical students are willing to pay, or willing to saddle themselves with six figures of debt because they are promised that they will not have any trouble paying it off. It is no wonder that people end up choosing more lucrative fields. Finally the last issue in medical education is the culture - medical students are reminded numerous times that they are at the bottom of the totem pole, and medical student mistreatment exists. It's not a healthy culture to perpetuate and we are paying a lot of money to endure it.

I would like to see the medical education curriculum centered around educating and equipping future physicians, and not about allowing whoever needs to fulfill their teaching credit have the floor. I would like to see the cost of pursuing a career in medicine come down. I would like to see the culture of medicine move towards fostering doctors who care about patients and about changing broken systems rather than people who are too tired and beaten down to care deeply about anyone other then themselves.