For first- and second-year osteopathic medical students, graduation might seem a long way away. But by connecting to alumni who have been down the same path, students begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific’s annual “Dinner with the Docs” on Jan. 14 brought together first- and second-year students with COMP alumni. The event, which attracted 345 guests, encourages mentoring and building relationships with alumni.

Students feeling the pressure of a seemingly overwhelming workload will find reassurance, comfort and inspiration in the example set by their predecessors, said COMP Dean Clint Adams, DO, FAAFP, FACHE.

“The opportunity to see their future through the eyes of an alum at times is like a saving grace,” he said.

Mark Shiu, DO ’03, said students asked him about the importance of grades and test scores in obtaining a residency.

“It’s good the graduates talk to incoming students to give them motivation,” he said. “It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, showing that their predecessors made it.”

His advice to students is to enjoy the experience.

“In the blink of an eye, it’s a whole new scene,” Shiu said. “All these people you know are from a previous chapter and a whole new chapter starts. Enjoy the fun times.”

First-year students are learning to adjust to the unique stresses and requirements of medical school.

“We have learned a lot, but you still feel like you don’t know anything,” said Sadiq Mirza, DO ’12.

The courses have required a lot more self-learning than he expected, but the faculty is responsive to students’ concerns, said Pejman Fani, DO ’12.

“The current administration does care about students,” he said.

Matt Davis, DO ’12, said so far the experience has been what he expected.

“A lot of it is what you make of it,” he said. “They give you the tools to learn. You just have to use them.”

Alice Kim, DO ’03, said she would advise students to figure out what fits them best.

“They just have to find what they enjoy doing,” she said. “They should experience different aspects of medicine during their rotations.”

The students were appreciative of alumni returning to campus, and for other benefits of the evening as well. Asked if he would also return after graduation to give advice to students, Ragu Sivarajan, DO ’12, said he definitely would.

“I’m always up for a free dinner,” he said.