The Chronicle: If you could go back in time and give your college-age self advice, what would it be?
Aladine Elsamadicy: The medical school application process was brutal, so I would tell myself to enjoy the college life and to use it to its fullest. Don’t always pick academics over an event you probably won’t be able to do again. I gave up a lot of social activities to study and work. It’s good to maintain academics and it’s good to maintain everything, but it’s also good to remain balanced. I wish I was balanced more socially.
TC: What was your motivation for going into medicine?
AE: My whole life was about engineering. I was one of six kids, and I was always the engineer of the family. I did engineering in undergrad but then I did a volunteering experience second semester freshmen year. I translated for an Egyptian Coptic community for this health fair for Vanderbilt medical students. We were providing small medical practices such as blood glucose tests, but my motivation sparked then to go into medicine. I saw that I could interact with patients and that I can do more than just solving problems on paper. I felt like I could communicate with different types of patients with my background, being diverse, and really solve problems for people.
Rajvi Mehta: During my sophomore year at Brown I started this social venture in India to combat iron deficiency. Eighty percent of India is anemic—it’s a huge public health problem. During this venture through a program called “Let’s be well RED,” I went to the slums in Mumbai and worked at anemia testing and treating camps. Through these camps I realized that apart from spreading awareness, what they needed was a single solution to this problem. They’re looking for some sort of nutritional supplement that will fulfill their iron requirement. So we created these iron rich nutritional bars that we sell now in India at a very normal and affordable price. It was with this patient interaction and the ability to solve a pressing problem in my country of origin that I realized medicine is a way to combine all my different interests and passions.
TC: What undergraduate class helped you the most for the med school curriculum?
AE: Because I did engineering, we did a lot of engineering courses. We took one course on system physiology, and right now in med school we’ve been doing more biochemistry, but we will get into [system physiology] later. It really taught me how to memorize pathways and how to visualize how physiologically the body and everything works as a group, and how certain aspects and changes of pathways can impact the whole system.
RM: For me, it was definitely Intro to Biochemistry and some genetics courses. The pace that information is given to you at in med school is really fast, so having that background knowledge in the field helps you initially keep up with the material.
TC: Do people study alone or in groups?
RM: I think it’s both. Duke does a really great job in terms of getting the class to interact with each other right from day one. We learn in groups in class and I know for sure that there are student groups outside. We also spend a lot of time alone going over stuff as well.
AE: People will study alone when they’re going through their “understanding phase” but when they start their “review phase,” they study in groups. It’s hard to learn in a group if you’re just being exposed to the material, but when you go back and review, that’s when it’s good to be with a group. A lot of people do both, but a minority of students will study just by themselves and a minority of students will study in just groups.
TC: I feel like a lot of the premedical classes I take won't help me as a medical school student or as a doctor. Are the medical school classes more relevant?
AE: Oh yeah, definitely. I would say that undergraduate classes give you that exposure and that foundation of what you’re going to learn. But you will relearn certain aspects and go in more detail. Simple processes, like meiosis, you will think is one way, but then in med school you will be introduced to the same concept but in ways you’ve never been exposed to before. Undergraduate med school classes will help you create a foundation.
RM: I was a biochem major, so my general opinion about this is that undergrad classes give you more time to study the material that we learn in a really short time in medical school. It definitely gives you the foundation that you need. It also helps you develop these thought processes that are really helpful in terms of taking a lot of information, then picking the important points. It develops a skill set that is needed to study in medical school.