These seven members of the Class of '23 SAS Honors Program spent the past year learning and engaging virtually, while keeping their eyes on the goal of medical school. We celebrate their news of their acceptance to the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School's BA/MD program, a program designed for a select group of high-achieving premedical students of Rutgers University to have conditional, early-acceptance to Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
They offer their reflections on the past two years at Rutgers that prepared them in applying to and being accepted into the program. As Hanna Kim '23 shared, "Before I even applied and while I was applying, I actually read the students' advice more than once and it definitely helped me. I hope it helps future applicants too."
Hanna Kim is a double major in Cell Biology and Neuroscience major and Spanish from Hillsborough, NJ. At Rutgers, she is a part of Rutgers Phi Delta Epsilon medical fraternity, a Campaigns Co-Coordinator for Globemed RU, previous Peer Mentor for the Health & Medicine LLC, and incoming RA for BEST Hall on Busch. Outside of Rutgers, she spent the past year in Germany doing research on stress resilience in mice at the University of Mainz, interned at a small clinic in Germany for a month, and volunteered for the American Red Cross in Germany at the COVID vaccination clinics.
Hanna shares that, "while extracurriculars and responsibilities undoubtedly get overwhelming, I asked myself if I am 100% showing up for myself, for my friends, my family, and my peers in club meetings. There is no activity worth sacrificing for your mental health - take breaks when you need them, turn off your phone sometimes, leave the email replies for a little later, and just recognize that this is your life and you want to make the most of it. At the end of the day, medical school is one milestone in the marathon of your life as a physician and as a human being. I would also highly recommend finding mentors and role models throughout your time at and outside of Rutgers, whether it be your older siblings, your own doctors, upperclassmen, or professors. In my lowest moments, it was my mentors and friends who believed in me and saw my own potential when I didn't. So talk with a lot of people to gain perspective and guidance, and take time to reflect upon your experiences and what they mean to you. Rather than pursuing what you think is expected of you, take advantage of all the opportunities that genuinely excite and challenge you - it's these kinds of experiences that you can talk about in interviews and show in applications. For me, I always knew I wanted to study abroad and explore global and underserved medicine, so I sought out opportunities that aligned with my ambition. Specifically, I learned about the German healthcare system through interacting with physicians and patients, which gave me perspective on the potential areas of improvement in the American healthcare system and how vulnerable populations can be better served in America. Try not to deeply compare your experiences with everyone else's. Do your best with the resources you're given, reward yourself for your accomplishments and hard work, and set achievable goals for yourself."
Amay Mehta is a double major in Public Health and Biological Sciences with a minor in Economics from Warren, NJ. At Rutgers, he participated in numerous activities from many different fields; he is currently the Vice-President of the American Medical Students Association, the Director for the UNICEF Committee at Rutgers University Model UN, a Peer Tutor for the SASHP, and a member of Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity. He is also a soccer fanatic and loves anything relating to the sport (playing, analyzing, watching, etc.)
Amay advises, “Don’t compare yourself to other people. The typical medical student has a science major, shadows outside of classes, and is part of pre-medical clubs. While that may seem true, I feel that pre-med students are comparable to zebras; they may seem very similar on the surface, but if you look closely, each one is quite different. That differentiating factor is what you take away from everything you do. For example, in AMSA, what I choose to focus on and what resonates with me at each meeting is most certainly different from the person sitting next to me. So, don’t worry about trying to be like your peers, focus on what really excites you about your experiences and what you’ve taken out of them. Alongside your medical activities, you should also make sure to pursue extracurriculars you have passion for. If you enjoy being part of the academic bowl club, go for it! I’ve always loved Model UN and so I stuck with it even though it wasn’t medically related at all. It was a great stress-relieving activity and allowed me to interact with friends who were in different fields. Ultimately, partaking in activities you enjoy can really keep you sane in this demanding field and potentially provide you with some skills you could utilize on your journey to medical school."
Karen Han is from Livingston, NJ pursuing a Cell Biology and Neuroscience. Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic that forced Rutgers to function virtually since mid-March 2020, Karen shared that while getting involved in activities was difficult, it led her to enjoy and appreciate every opportunity she had.
Karen reflects, "Spending time shadowing in an orthopedic spine office was a such a great way to see healthcare in a different light than what we are used to in the media. It reminded me that doctors, nurses, and patients are people too. My mentors were so supportive and involved in my education at the office. They showed me how wonderful it is to have the opportunity to be a positive influence in people’s lives. The most valuable piece of advice I wish I understood earlier in life was: don’t feel like you have to punish yourself for not being as ‘perfect’ as others. You will lose your mind trying to be the best student or candidate – it’s just not worth losing yourself in trying to attain perfection. Be proud of what you accomplished and remind yourself who far you’ve come! If you are planning to apply to this program, do it with confidence! It’s important to be sure of yourself and know that this career is what you gravitate towards."
Aayushi Parikh is a Cell Biology and Neuroscience major from Marlton, NJ. Aayushi advises prospective students to spend time in college finding ways to test their belief that medicine is for them. She shares that, "although keeping your grades up is important, you also have to show the admissions committee that you have spent time proving to yourself and them that you have explored the medical field in a variety of ways. Knowing that you are interested in medicine is important, but actively exploring it is vital. Some of the ways I chose to explore medicine include volunteering in an Alzheimer’s nursing home, volunteering for crisis text line, and scribing for an orthopedic surgeon. Focusing deeply on a few experiences is much more rewarding and beneficial than trying to do fifty things half heartedly. Going into college, I had the mindset that everything I do has to somehow relate to my overall goal. I quickly realized the importance of setting aside time for hobbies that aren’t necessarily medically related. For instance, I joined the book club at Rutgers which allowed me to embrace my love for literature. I also chose to tutor at an elementary school, which allowed me to think creatively when trying to explain concepts to third graders."
Aaayushi adds, "Medicine isn’t a linear journey. I found guidance and advice amongst older peers and mentors. There are many different paths that you can take and it’s important to explore different hobbies and passions both related and unrelated to medicine to develop as a person and as a future doctor."
Mitsu Patel is a Cell Biology and Neuroscience from Piscataway, NJ. On-campus she is the President and founder of Rutgers Blood Initiative, a nonprofit organization that I founded in response to the severe depletion of blood in local blood centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is also a member of the NJ Youth Leaders in Medicine E-board. During the past year, she conducted research on-campus in the Nutritional Sciences Dept at Rutgers and currently is doing off-campus summer research in the department of Family Medicine at New Jersey Medical School. She is an active visitor of the Sony-Werblin gym on Busch Campus and loves to go recreational swimming when she needs a break from her studies. During her freshman and sophomore year at Rutgers, she tutored through SASHP and Student Support Services departments. she has pursued over ten years of Indian classical dance training, and now works as a part-time choreographer at a nearby dance school. She is also an EMT at a local rescue squad and works as a medical scribe in the RWJUH emergency department.
Mitsu's advice to incoming students would be - "challenges will be inevitable on the path to success. But overcoming them by turning them into learning experiences is what will help you succeed. The pandemic was a major challenge in her academic and personal life and serving on the frontline during that time helped her grow as a student and as a community member."
Tasnova Choudhury is a Biological Sciences major from Paterson, NJ. Some of her current activities include serving as an Orientation Leader this summer, as well as being a Resident Assistant, Research Assistant, and teaching intern this upcoming year. In addition to her roles on campus, Tasnova shares how her community played a significant role in her passion for service; "I began to get involved in the healthcare field through volunteering and then worked in hospitality services and direct care. The one common denominator in each of my roles was working with people. I often think of the unique interactions I have with patients and their loved ones, and it only strengthens my interest in helping others through medicine."
For prospective students, she advises, "do not to get bogged down trying to follow a structured path. I came in my first year with my pre-med checklist, ready to tick all the boxes, but things weren't exactly smooth sailing, which is completely fine. Additionally, there's so much more to get out of a college education and experience than that preconceived list. I decided to focus on writing and saw that there were many avenues I could take at Rutgers. Combining my love for writing and reading, I published literary analyses and later became comfortable releasing my creative writing. Additionally, do not fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Peers are great mentors and support systems, but everyone is different at the end of the day. Try new things that you might enjoy and don't box yourself. It's the same advice I continuously give myself."
Siddhant Kumarapuram Ganapath is a Cell Biology and Neuroscience major with a minor in Psychology from Basking Ridge, NJ. Siddhant helped to start a nonprofit neuroscience outreach organization educating students globally, through which he has taught activity based sessions describing preliminary understandings of the brain to students. Additionally, he served as a research assistant at Rutgers and formerly at Massachusetts General Hospital. His desire for medicine was born through these activities along with his experience volunteering in the hospital and shadowing doctors. For fun, he loves watching Formula 1 races as a Ferrari fan!
His advice to anyone applying to this program would be to pursue the activities that they are most passionate about in great depth and with creativity. Pursuing these interests innovatively, whether through independent research or starting a club, for example, can go a long way. Also, he recommends that students constantly reflect on their experiences and consider particular instances when they felt most impacted as this can help a lot when approaching the application. Finally, he advises, "one last tip is to speak to advisors and connect via platforms like LinkedIn with students in the program and faculty to receive guidance on RWJ's culture and mission."