The UCSF Formal: Desserts, Dancing and Letting Loose

School of Medicine

One week before the UCSF Formal, I began my mental and physical training for what I knew would be an uphill challenge. I had to be in the best shape possible to maximize my dessert- eating capacity at the annual Formal.

It might sound simple to stuff a lot of dessert into your face, but there is a delicate balance between enjoying a gourmet delicacy and overwhelming your body’s capacity for peristalsis. The trick I have found is interval training: in other words, periods of eating divided by short, intense dancing sessions.

The annual UCSF Formal, held at the Westin St. Francis on February 2, was much more than a buffet of desserts. It was a time for students to dress up, dance and let loose.

I knew it would be a fun night as soon as I got on the Muni to head to the Westin. There is nothing that screams fun so much as a bunch of possibly tipsy UCSF students sharing nerdy jokes.

This year’s Formal was an improvement on last year’s in many ways. For one, the check-in process was more efficient. Students simply showed their Eventbrite tickets and UCSF IDs to gain entry, and more people were on hand to speed people in.

Those who forgot to bring their ID, as I did, had to answer a question pertaining to their field of study before they were allowed in. The woman who checked me in asked: “What is the generic name for Lasix?”

I experienced a moment of terror as I tried to sort out the plethora of drug names popping into my head, some real and most imaginary. Then, suddenly, I blurted out “Furosemide,” to which she smiled in agreement. These are the moments that make me confident that I am retaining some knowledge after all.

The Formal had two main dance floors, with two different DJ’s. The music mostly consisted of current hits, although I must admit I was paying more attention to which fancy dessert I should eat next than to what I was dancing to.

The desserts were indeed lavish, allowing broke students to feel indulged, even if momentarily. No sooner had they had been swiped up by hungry students than they were replaced with potato chips, popcorn and brownies — not as sophisticated, perhaps, but equally tasty.

After all the eating and dancing, students could pack into a cramped photo booth and seal the night with a keepsake photo. The four photo booths set up among the dance floors witnessed a lot of kisses and silly faces.

In the fast-paced life of a graduate student, it is rare to have the time to stop and dance the night away with those who make life meaningful. This event gave many of us that much-needed opportunity.