By Stephanie Thompson
Although Mary Alice Chocas comes from a long line of nurses, including her parents and sister, once she became an RN herself, she realized it wasn’t enough. She wanted more—specifically, she wanted to know on a deeper level what was going with the patients she was helping, why certain protocols and treatments were being ordered for them. She realized she wanted to be a doctor. When the San Diego native, who’s been at Kaiser Permanente for eight years as a Project Coordinator in Cardiovascular, Endocrinology, and Urology Research, decided to go to the next level, she chose UC San Diego Extension’s Post-Baccalaureate Premedical program to make the transition.
Why did you decide to study at Extension?
I always wanted to attend UC San Diego; it is a world-renowned academic institution and my dream school. I have a few friends that attended other post-baccalaureate premedical programs, but I knew I would be a perfect fit at UC San Diego Extension. Before I applied to the post-baccalaureate premed program, I attended an information session with Grace Miller, the program director. From day one she was very attentive to my questions and encouraging of my career ambitions. I submitted my application the month it opened, and began corresponding with Amie Becker, the program manager. She has been an outstanding liaison to work with and I am so grateful for everything the post-baccalaureate staff does for us. They have really made the experience incredible. They are our biggest cheerleaders. I have to pinch myself every day that I get to live out my dream with their support.
What have you learned in your classes?
I have a degree in both biology and nursing, and this program has really helped me to bridge the gap between the two fields of study in a way that enables me to apply both areas in a more practical manner. Introduction to Biomedical Sciences with Stephen Schneid has taught me more about pharmacological and medical interventions, how they work at a molecular level, and why seemingly idiosyncratic side effects occur when we treat our patients. One very important skill that I have learned is not just studying test material by rote memorization, but by manipulating and transforming the information. The exams in this program push you to think creatively, and they help you to realize that there is not always a prescribed answer for every problem in medicine (no pun intended). Using this creativity is exciting and inspires me to learn new and different material.
What advice would you give to incoming Extension students?
I would remind them not to neglect their total health. Mind, body, and spiritual wellness are so important. It is inevitably going to be a challenging program, but try not to sacrifice your wellbeing in the process. The staff, advisors, and professors are here to support you and listen to you. Do something for yourself that you really enjoy at least once a day. Celebrate little victories, because it will be an even longer journey if you delay gratification or happiness. Leave your ego at the door—do not be afraid to approach your professors or classmates if you need help with the material. Make friends! You are in a class of 29 intelligent, unique individuals with whom you share a career goal!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy playing frisbee golf, trivia night at the local brewery, watching indie films, doing Sudoku puzzles, cooking and baking, attending concerts, traveling, hitting up the dog park at Balboa Park with my corgi, and spending time with my friends and family. I am interested in languages, especially German and Spanish; world politics, history, and volunteering in my community (when I have some spare time).
How has your experience at Extension changed (or improved) your life?
This program and the experience I have had thus far are assisting me to bring the vision I have for my future into reality. Since beginning the post-baccalaureate program, and with each passing day, I feel one step closer to getting into medical school and realizing my dream to become a physician. Not only am I filling out my personal package in order to submit a comprehensive medical school application, I am growing as a person, and feel tremendous joy to be a part of this experience, which further validates my choice of profession.
Want to know more about the Post-Baccalaureate Premedical program? Check out the program online or contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 534-9262 to learn about the program.