BSMD Bust? Sujay talks about his Pivot and Success witih FlexMed

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PMY 572: BSMD Bust? Sujay talks about his Pivot and Success witih FlexMed

Session 572

Sujay shares how his experience shadowing different medical specialties as a high school student helped him realize his interest in medicine. He also shares his experiences in medical school including working on a spinal implant project and adjusting to the rigorous study schedule.

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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Sujay’s Interest in Medicine

Sujay first realized he wanted to be a doctor when he was around 5 years old after accompanying his grandparents to their doctor’s clinic in India and being interested in being on the other side of the patient-doctor interaction.

Sujay went to a science high school where he took courses like parallel computing and artificial intelligence and found he was particularly interested in solving medical problems through technology and bioinformatics. This further pushed him towards pursuing a career in medicine.

Finding Shadowing Opportunities

To test his hypothesis that he wanted to pursue a career in medicine, Sujay engaged in extensive shadowing of different medical specialties like neurology, primary care, and internal medicine. He also volunteered at hospitals to ensure he enjoyed being around and interacting with patients. These experiences helped confirm for him that there were many appealing aspects of medicine and that he could see himself as a physician.

Sujay found shadowing opportunities by being proactive in cold emailing potential doctors to shadow as well as leveraging personal connections. He advises students who are struggling to find opportunities to not be afraid of a low response rate to cold emails, as even a 5-10% response rate can lead to valuable experiences. He also suggests asking doctors you already know through research or other activities if they would be open to shadowing.

“Don’t be afraid to cold email.”

Committing to the Premed Path

Sujay decided to fully commit to the premed path towards the end of high school as he was applying to colleges. He enjoyed technology and considered other options like computer science. However, when applying to colleges, he looked for biomedical engineering programs that would allow him to study both biology and computer science and pursue his interest in both fields.

Why You Have to Reconsider Applying to Early Assurance Medical Programs

Sujay applied to several BS/MD and other early assurance programs in an attempt to potentially shorten the path to becoming a physician. He specifically mentions applying to and initially choosing a 7-year BS/MD program through Rutgers Camden.

Sujay agrees that he does not necessarily recommend applying to BS/MD or other early assurance programs either. While they seemed appealing coming out of high school with a clear goal of medicine, he recognizes now that most students’ interests and goals change significantly between ages 17-22.

The programs also come with high stress due to rigid GPA and MCAT requirements. In retrospect, he believes the time is better spent focusing on personal growth and developing into the best applicant possible for regular medical school admissions.

“What you think your path is, is probably not going to happen… and it’s going to change for the better.”

Sujay did initially go to a 7-year BS/MD program through Rutgers Camden. However, he ultimately decided to leave the program. He realized as an undergraduate that he wanted a medical school with more of an innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, like the bio design lab at Mount Sinai.

Some experiences in college exposed his interest in pursuing projects that tested his innovative side, which the BS/MD program did not allow flexibility for. This motivated him to seek other options that would be a better fit.

Navigating the Decision to Change Medical School Commitments

When deciding to renounce his commitment to the initial BS/MD program, Sujay had an important conversation with his advisor. He explained his reasons for believing a different medical school was a better fit. His advisor was very supportive and offered to help him get to the school that was a better match. Sujay says having his advisor’s backing gave him the courage to make that leap, as it would have been difficult without her support in that uncertain moment of changing paths.

Sujay basically chose the early assurance program at Mount Sinai (FlexMed) over just applying to medical school traditionally for a few key reasons:

  • It saved him significant time and money by not having to go through the full medical school application process and multiple interviews/secondaries.
  • He felt he had a leg up given his research experience and shadowing starting in high school that made him a competitive applicant for the program.
  • The program allowed him to gain acceptance earlier in his undergraduate career which provided reassurance as he continued his studies.

Your Unique Path Makes You a Better Physician

Sujay points out that while some students get an early start in pursuing medicine, it’s not necessary. He stresses that everyone brings unique experiences from their own journeys. Sujay believes non-traditional activities can actually make you a stronger doctor, encouraging students to gain diverse skills by following their passions. Those qualities will serve you well in med school and beyond. The key is making the most of the opportunities available to you.

“You’re going to bring experiences to medical school that a lot of people don’t have and that’s going to make you an even better physician.”

Redefining Diversity Beyond Physical Attributes

There is pushback against traditional diversity initiatives in some places. However, the value of unique experiences aligns with the true meaning of diversity. It’s not just about superficial characteristics, but the diverse backgrounds and skill sets individuals bring from their varied paths. Sujay’s experiences exemplify how diversity of life experiences can be just as valuable as any other type of diversity in creating a well-rounded physician.

FlexMed Students are Indistinguishable from Peers

Sujay explains that once starting medical school at Mount Sinai, FlexMed students like himself fully integrate into the regular class with other applicants.

Nobody can tell the difference between FlexMed vs. traditionally admitted students. The program distinction is essentially forgotten – everyone comes together, learns together and has the same experiences from day one of medical school onward.

FlexMed doesn’t shorten the timeline – students still complete undergrad as usual. The main benefits are not having to take certain prerequisite courses like biochemistry, and not needing to take the MCAT.

This freedom allowed Sujay to pursue his passions in his remaining undergrad years. He planned to continue an ethnographic study on healthcare access in immigrant communities. While the pandemic disrupted this slightly, it did enable him to graduate early and work a job involving real-time pathology analysis in surgical settings. It provided an exciting blend of medicine and technology.

Working in Intraoperative Pathology

The intraoperative pathology job that Sujay worked involved rapidly analyzing biopsy samples taken directly from surgical settings to help guide procedures. A small biopsy sample would be placed under a microscope connected to a device. Lasers are then used to scan the sample within minutes rather than the usual 45 minutes for chemical staining.

Sujay was able to view cells and images on a screen to provide pathology readings to surgeons, such as assessing cancer margins during operations for more precise tumor removal.

A Rude Awakening: Readjusting to Studying After Time Away

Sujay admits the transition back to medical school was tough after having been out of undergrad for a while working. He found he had forgotten how to properly study for the rigorous med school curriculum after the job.

It took him a good two months to readjust his study habits and get up to the expected level of rigor. But he emphasizes this is a common experience, and everyone is able to figure it out with time and effort.

Do FlexMed Students Start Behind?

Sujay acknowledges that some FlexMed students may have started medical school with less baseline knowledge in certain subjects compared to peers who took prerequisite classes in undergrad, like biochemistry. However, he doesn’t think this puts FlexMed students at a true disadvantage.

Mount Sinai provided programs to catch students up if needed. And coursework was designed to be accessible to all levels. While some FlexMed students had gaps, others took classes voluntarily. Ultimately, medical schools want all students to succeed, so Sujay felt well supported in learning what he needed to know.

A Word of Caution to His Younger Self: Reconsider Early Assurance Medical Programs

If Sujay could go back and talk to his younger self considering early assurance medical programs, he would caution against applying. While the appeal seemed obvious at 17 years old with a clear goal of medicine, he now believes most students change significantly between 17-22 years old.

The programs also come with high stress due to rigid academic standards. In retrospect, he thinks the time is better spent focusing on personal growth and developing into the strongest applicant possible through regular admissions.

Unless a program is an exceptional fit, he would advise students not to limit their options so early and to keep an open mind as interests may evolve over the college years.

“It’s most important to build yourself and go to med school when you feel that you are your best self.”

What the Future Holds for Him

Sujay is excited about his future path in medicine but focused on the present challenges of medical school. In the immediate future, he is studying hard for Step 1 exams. He is also working on obtaining a patent for the spinal implant he is developing through the bio design lab at Mount Sinai.

Longer term, he is eager to gain clinical experience by starting rotations and applying the knowledge and skills learned thus far when directly caring for patients. Sujay remains passionate about innovation at the intersection of technology and medicine and hopes to continue projects that improve patient outcomes.

Final Words of Wisdom

For students on their premed journey, Sujay’s final piece of advice is to always stay true to who you are and what genuinely interests you. Don’t feel pressured to follow certain well-worn paths or check boxes just because others are doing it.

While guidance from mentors can be valuable, make sure your activities and experiences resonate with your own passions. Authentic enthusiasm for your commitments will shine through your application.

“Make sure that you resonate with all the things that you do whether that’s on your premed journey or not.”

Don’t worry about looking different from your peers – your unique qualities are assets. With dedication to continual self-improvement, an open mind and by pursuing your interests wholeheartedly, you will thrive along your path to becoming a physician.


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