Dr. Kansagra, Author and Twitter Star Shares His Journey and Advice

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Session 54


In today’s episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Sujay Kansagra, an attending pediatric neurologist at Duke Medical Center. He is the author of the top reviewed Everything I Learned in Medical School: Besides All the Book Stuff, a memoir about his medical school experiences at Duke as well as the author of Why Medicine?: And 500 Other Questions for the Medical School and Residency Interviews. His third book is in the works which will be a comprehensive medical school advice manual for anyone in high school, college, or even in medical school. Sujay has mastered the use of Twitter under his Twitter handle @medschooladvice.

Today, they talk about his medical school experience, the power of collaboration, the importance of journalism, and his insights into the hierarchy in medicine.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Sujay:

The keys to success in medical school and life in general:

  • Moving one step at a time
  • Persistence
  • Motivation

Sujay’s undergrad experience:

  • Getting interested in the Biology and Psychology track to major in
  • Choose a premed you’re going to enjoy and do well

Resources he tapped into during his premed years:

  • Premed advising set up his academic pathway to place the core in place
  • Relying on peers and his sister’s experience being two years ahead of her
  • Premed advisors being distant from the process and even through the process but they’re knowledgeable in terms of the specifics of their school’s core classes

The benefits of peer advising:

  • Knowing who you are and your personality
  • Knowing where you might be a good fit
  • Being your avenue to explore medicine such as the extracurricalars you’re going to do

Major challenges Sujay faced:

  • The first semester as a shocker
  • Starting off with a not so strong GPA

Choosing which medical schools to apply to:

  • Getting the feel of the institution and the students in the medical school you’re visiting to
  • Choosing a place that you can thrive and not just survive
  • Getting the feel that it’s “right”

Going through the medical school interview process:

  • Being a rigorous process
  • The interview is the time that you need to shine
  • Going through the academic-type and and ethical-type of interview
  • They’re getting a better sense of who you are

Sujay’s experience at Duke Medical School:

  • Based on honors/pass/fail system – he found it less stressful than the undergrad setup
  • More intense workload
  • More hours

The biggest thing that surprised him during his early years in medical school:

Everybody was smart! (You may not stand out too much)

The importance of having a “teamwork” attitude over a competitive attitude:

  • You have to work as a team
  • Don’t focus on the other racers, focus on yourself.

The surprising things about his clinical years:

  • Time demands and being in a completely new language
  • Consuming clinical work especially in surgery rotation
  • Essentially breathing and living medicine
  • How everyone knows everything can be intimidating (Don’t worry, you’ll soon learn them too!)

Being okay with not knowing anything:

  • Being comfortable with saying you don’t know while also being able to answer some of the questions
  • Your attending physicians don’t expect you to know everything but just trying to figure out some holes in your knowledge so they can teach you.

About Sujay’s book, Everything I Learned in Medical School: Besides All the Book Stuff:

  • Initially writing it as his journal
  • Realizing that people could learn from his interesting stories about medicine and life in general
  • Initially intended for the general audience but now has a big following among premeds

The power of journaling:

Journal everything you’re seeing because this can help you when it comes to writing your personal statements and your extracurriculars in your applications

The hierarchy in medicine and Sujay’s insights:

  • Hierarchy keeps things n order but it should not be use to abuse those who are in the low level of the hierarchy.
  • Keep things as even as possible.
  • Make sure everybody’s voice is heard and that everybody is a part of the team.
  • Remember how it felt to be a medical student.
  • Be respectful and mindful of those below your level as well as the ancillary staff (nurses, etc.)

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

Enjoy every step of the road to becoming a physician. Make sure to take time to enjoy life because it’s never going to get easier. There is no end to this road. As a physician, you’re a lifelong learner.

It’s okay if medicine is not for you. Don’t consider it as a failure but simply a change of course. That is completely okay.

Links and Other Resources:

Dr. Sujay Kansagra’s Books:

Everything I Learned in Medical School: Besides All the Book Stuff

Why Medicine?: And 500 Other Questions for the Medical School and Residency Interviews

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