Every week The Chronicle collects pre-medical students’ most pressing questions and poses them to professionals in the field of medicine. This week, The Chronicle’s Anthony Hagouel sat down with Sehj Kashyap, a first-year student in the School of Medicine, about what inspired him to pursue becoming a doctor.
The Chronicle: Some students think going to medical school is not worth the time and effort. What would you say to students who are struggling to decide if they want to stay on the pre-med track?
Sehj Kashyap: I think if you’re considering going into medicine and debating whether to do it or not, you have to figure out what your motivations are. If your desire is to maximize the amount of money you can make in the least amount of time and effort, then no, medicine is not the profession for that. But if your mission is to make maximal daily impact in people’s lives and meld theoretical and practical science, then medicine could be the avenue for you. Also, we don’t spend nearly as much time hitting the books as we could have. At least with the pass-fail system, you have enough time to do well in your courses and still pursue your interests.
TC: What was your ‘I want to be a doctor’ moment?
SK: I guess I had a big one because I spent all my life growing up saying that the last thing I want to do is go into medicine. However, in my sophomore year in college the whole health care debate was playing out and I was surprised that America had problems giving health care to its people. There is a free clinic in Ithaca [NY], where I was at the time, and I ended up volunteering there in two years where I saw even the littlest amount of patient care go such a long way in making such a dramatic difference in people’s lives, which is when my appreciation of medicine skyrocketed. That’s when I said, ‘I want to pursue this thing called medicine.’
TC: Looking back at your time as an undergraduate, do you feel like you missed anything because of your pursuits in the medical field?
SK: I know that people who come into college with a mindset of doing medicine quickly plan their trajectory... to get into the medical [scene]. I converted mid-way into medicine, so medicine didn’t really dictate the interests I was pursuing. After I decided to go into medicine, there were a lot of resources and opportunities that I could have pursued if I wasn’t so focused on getting my grades in order, but on the other hand, pursuing those passions and interests is really important, and I think you should put the most basic amount of effort into getting the pre-med side of things in order, but then really focus on your interests.
TC: What are you looking forward to the most in the next few years?
SK: Hands down I’m most excited to start my second year, [which is] when Duke students go into the hospital and start doing their rotations through all of the different specialties. That’s when a lot of students end up finding what their future medical careers will be. For me, being in surgery—finding out whether I’m cut out for it—is something that I can’t wait to be a part of.
TC: This is just your first year at medical school, but have you had any great moments yet?
SK: I think that meeting all my classmates—the caliber, the personalities—was really awesome. I remember our white coat ceremony and orientation week where I first got into the idea that, ‘woah, this is medical school,’ really helped me remember why I’m here and what my goals are for the next four years.