Checking in With the Class of 2017

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

By Jane Erikson

Last October we introduced you to four students of the Class of 2017. We asked them recently about the experiences – expected and unexpected – they have had during their first six months of medical school. 

Hannes Prescher started med school thinking he would become an orthopaedic surgeon. But shadowing ER doctors during winter break may have steered him in a different direction.

“You have six different patients and they all have different presentations, and you have to manage them all at the same time,” Prescher says.

“You have to multi-task a lot. You have to have a large, wide understanding of medicine, and be able to apply all that information, which is really cool. I like the pace.”

Prescher, a native of Hamburg, Germany, and a Berkeley graduate who majored in English literature and cellular and molecular biology, gives two thumbs up to the Societies program, which puts students with patients on their first day of medical school.

“When you get to talk to an actual patient, you’re able to understand their symptoms and start to make sense of the underlying condition,” he says. “It’s really fun, and rewarding. It makes you want to study more.”

Tom Lotina, a licensed acupuncturist and yoga teacher for nearly 30 years, studied those healing arts in the U.S. and in China. He moved to Tucson from Oregon last summer to start med school at age 48. His goal is to practice integrative medicine, but he now sees several different fields in which that can happen.

“What gives me energy and what I get most excited about is helping people achieve their optimum level of health,” Lotina says.

“However, since I’ve been in medical school, I’ve been exposed to new opportunities.” Fields that intrigue him include physical medicine, rehab, anesthesiology, endocrinology and oncology.

“Cancer is such an interesting challenge and I think there are many ways that integrative medicine can help cancer patients. That brings a lot of things together for me.”

As a new med student, Lotina says, “I’m surprised at how supportive the faculty and administration have been. I expected more pressure and competition. This is a great learning environment.”

Niana LaMeshia Carter, a Howard University graduate, has found that her previous experiences made the transition to medical school less difficult than she thought it would be. 

Thus far, Carter has found the nervous system to have been best within her grasp – not too surprising since she spent nearly five years as a research assistant in neurology-related labs near Baltimore, then Phoenix.

“Having some working knowledge of the brain and nervous system helped,” she says.

Carter still sees herself going into pediatrics, either as a generalist or, perhaps, a pediatric neurologist. “I still have another year and a half of basic sciences to get through, plus two years of rotations, so I want to keep it open.”

Another thing she’s keeping open: her evenings, so she can spend time with her 3-year-old daughter, Siena, and the rest of her family.

“I try to get my studying done during the day so I don’t have to study at home.”

Alfonso Robles, a Tucson native who grew up in Nogales, Arizona, and holds a bachelor’s degree in physiology from the UA, is still most interested in pediatrics.

He opted for a pediatrics elective that gave him opportunities to chat with pediatric nurses and shadow some of the pediatricians at The University of Arizona Medical Center. Visiting the neonatal ICU was a “wow” moment.

“It was just really fascinating, how small they were and yet somehow, we manage to keep them alive, and a lot of them end up living really successful lives,” Robles says. “One thing that was really cool was putting a tiny stethoscope to their hearts."

“I think pediatrics is about taking care of the most vulnerable people in this world,” Robles says. “It’s when a lot of our learning habits and behavioral patterns are established. It’s a critical time in our lives. And for me, it’s when really good medical care is key to living a healthy life.”

Photo, left to right: Tom Lotina, Hannes Prescher, Niana LaMeshia Carter and Alfonso Robles