Combined Degree Programs with Ajay and Aleena from

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Session 60

Session 60

In today’s episode, Ryan talks with Ajay Major and Aleena Paul, both 2nd year medical students at Albany Medical College. They went to Union College for undergrad where the got accepted to the school’s Leadership in Medicine Program, which is a combined BS/MBA/MD program – Yes, 3 degrees in 8 years!

Today, Ajay and Aleena talk about the combined program which you might be interested in. They also talk about an awesome venture they started, carrying their love of writing and journalism back when they were undergrads into what is now called, the “agora” of the medical student community.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Ajay and Aleena:

“I want to help people”

  • Don’t put “I want to help people” in your personal statement.
  • Explain in your own words how you’re going to help people.
  • What is it about medicine that you’re going to help people?

Choosing their undergrad for their premed curriculum:


  • Having the strong foundation in both sciences and humanities (Ajay wanting to study Spanish because he wants to serve the Latino community)
  • Finding Union College’s program MBA in Healthcare Administration
  • Being able to understand the finance of the health system and how it’s structured
  • Ajay did a program abroad where he visited other countries to get a better appreciation for how culture and society can affect health systems


  • Having a dual interest in the arts and the humanities and noticing most premed programs have less emphasis on the humanities
  • Stumbling upon the combined degree programs
  • Union College’s environment drew her in after visiting the college and having spoken with students who were in the program (Aleena spent the evening at the college and asked students a lot of questions to better solidify what she was looking for)
  • Wanting to learn about the healthcare system as a whole
  • Talking with her peers and guidance counselors

The importance of visiting the medical school you want to go to:

  • Asking questions to see if the program is your fit
  • To see if it’s the kind of environment that you want both academically and extracurricular-wise
  • You have to make sure both schools (undergrad/medical school) are a fit for you.

Going through undergrad years knowing they already had an acceptance into medical school:

  • The premed edge – allows you to throw your energy into other things you want to work on (journalism on Ajay’s part)
  • There are restrictions but it allows you a wiggle room.
  • Shadowing, research, clinical hours, and volunteering are still involved in the program but they’re not doing it for the sake of application but because they want to prepare for medical school
  • You get to explore your passions!

Getting guidance as combined degree program students versus traditional premed students:

  • Having a list of required courses – less flexibility in terms of classes
  • The Health Professions Office for the Leadership in Medicine program and the traditional premeds office are the same

Their biggest struggles as premeds:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Thoughts about whether the combined degree was the right track (For high schoolers, you may shadow a physician now to get the exposure and make your decision a bit easier)

The origins of and moving forward:

  • Experience from college doing the school newspaper
  • Wanting to continue the ability to communicate and putting thoughts out there as medical students
  • Wanting to provide to medical school peers
  • in-training started back when they were undergrad before the medical school stage
  • Attending the Student National Medical Association in Atlanta and speaking with a physician who has done some physician journalism work
  • The idea of “going big”
  • Going through the foundational principles of the publication
  • Going live in July 2012 and now is a publication entirely run by medical students with 16 medical students from the U.S. and Canada in their editorial board

What provides:

  • Receiving an influx of reflections from medical students at all stages of their education talking about their experiences)
  • Articles on policy, bioethics, laws, comments on medical education on a national and international scale
  • Fostering a sense of community for collaboration
  • Getting a real sense of the challenges and joys of being a medical student

Want to write for

Send an email to and they will work with you to figure out something that you can write about or something you’re very passionate to write about.

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

  1. Identify what you’re passionate about. There is so much more to being a doctor. Allow your passion to develop.
  1. Take time to relax. Find a group of friends that you can relax with. Do things outside of your premedical courses to keep your personal sanity and your health.

Links and Other Resources:

Session 29: Interview with ZDoggMD, Yes – He is a Real Doctor

Go say hi to Ajay and Aleena on Twitter and say thanks for taking their time to talk to us!

Twitter handle: @InTrainingDoc

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