The University of California, San Francisco boasts one of the world’s best medical programs — which means that it’s no surprise that acceptances into the program are incredibly hard to come by. Only the most dedicated scholars are accepted; these are the students who have given their all when it comes to academics, the ones who have kept trying and never given up, who have built up prestige through determination and hard work. GGHS alumna Lynn Lam, who graduated in the class of 2012 has recently been accepted into the UCSF pharmacy program, and now she’s sharing some of her own experiences and advice to help students aspiring to attend college and intensive programs themselves.
How did you feel when you first learned that you had been accepted into UCSF?
It was honestly the most amazing feeling in the world (I had just gotten out of a final too). I basically screamed out in the middle of public, which was pretty embarrassing, but at that point I had no shame. I could officially say that all my hard work throughout the years finally paid off.
What originally sparked your interest in the UCSF program? How long have you been looking into it?
I always knew that UCSF was a prestigious school, but I never imagined myself going there in the beginning. It wasn’t until last year when two of my close friends got accepted to the pharmacy program that I realized that going to UCSF could definitely be more than just a dream. I started to do further research on the pharmacy program at UCSF and was very intrigued by its top-tier clinical curriculum for pharmacy and major role in innovating patient care. I also admired its dedication to addressing health disparities, which is something that deeply resonates with me due to my firsthand experience with providing health care in underserved communities in Mexico.
What did you have to do to get where you are now? (Both in respect to academics as well as just personal reasons.) Have there been any obstacles that you’ve had to overcome that you especially remember?
Studying smart (not hard) and managing time were two key components to my success, since I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities both in high school and college. My biggest obstacle was probably being able to communicate effectively. I never regarded myself to be very social before college, and I always had a difficult time maintaining one-on-one conversations. However, after being exposed to different activities over the last four years, such as teaching, volunteering in various health settings, research, and my professional fraternity, I could definitely say that I have developed strong communication skills that would be vital to my future career in pharmacy and anywhere I go. Hence, my UCSF interviewers, specifically, were able to see my growth and that I was much more than what was shown on paper.
Why are you pursuing this?
First of all, I’ve always had a strong interest and aptitude for the sciences, and taking college courses at UCI about the functions and dynamics of the body and how they are interconnected to drug interactions made me more fascinated about pharmacy. But the very first time that I developed an interest in pharmacy was when I first witnessed our community pharmacist counsel my mother on how to handle the side effects of her Hepatitis C treatments. I learned to appreciate that pharmacists were the most accessible health care providers, available with no appointment necessary, to help out patients and answer their questions. This idea of being able to build stronger, more personal connections with patients was very rewarding for me. Also, compared to many other health care professions, pharmacy provides a greater emphasis on educating patients, which is something I cherish from my own teaching experience. So overall, pharmacy is a perfect fit for me because it combines my passion for the health sciences as well as my desire to share knowledge to others.
What motivates you? How do you push through stress and find inspiration again?
The idea of being able to make a positive impact on others’ lives through health care one day keeps me going. A certain class I am taking may seem incredibly difficult at the time, but the pain and struggle that thousands of patients endure daily are only exponentially more heartbreaking. My outlet from stress is usually playing piano and violin or hanging out with close friends. Both help lift my spirits and get me back on track.
Is there any academic advice or just reassurances that you would want to give to your younger self?
Study smart, work hard, but don’t forget to live life. So many students are so obsessed with getting good grades that they forget the key to success is often experience. You can’t learn how to interact with people, handle conflicts, or showcase your passions from looking at a book or computer screen all day. Also, it’s very important to have an outlet when you are stressed. This could be anything – music, sports, friends, you name it. Don’t let anyone, especially your parents, dictate your decisions. This is your life, and you know what you want better than anyone else. But of course be smart about your decisions, and don’t go overboard.
What are you most excited about for your future at UCSF?
I have been living with my parents in Garden Grove for the last 22 years, so I am definitely most excited about moving out on my own. It’s going to be a huge change, but I feel that the UCSF culture will really allow me to grow as a person. Everyone at UCSF goes out of their way to help each other, so I’m really excited to meet some amazing classmates and be in an incredibly positive, supportive environment. Plus, just the idea of attending the top-ranked pharmacy school in the nation is exciting enough.
Is there any advice that you have for students in high school now aspiring to receive a higher education?
If you’re truly passionate about what you are studying, go for it. Higher education programs are getting more and more competitive each day, but let this motivate rather than intimidate you. Again, always work hard and study smart, but get involved early. However, it is better to choose only a few activities and commit to them. There is no point of bluffing up your resume if you cannot talk about what you have specifically learned from those activities you claimed to do. Don’t be discouraged if you are not doing so well academically. Graduate/health professional schools understand that mistakes or unfortunate circumstances are inevitable, but there are always ways to compensate for them. Find what makes you unique and show it off to the admissions committees when you are applying. This does not necessarily have to do anything with what you are pursuing. They want to see that you are more than what is shown on paper.