“Demonstrate leadership and collaborate effectively with other healthcare team members and professional associates”
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to medical school was to have more opportunities to interact with people daily and directly help those in need. As a bioengineer, I felt to disengaged from those that I was helping, and I wasn’t enthused by the prospect of working from a cubicle for the rest of my years. Bioengineers work towards the betterment of public health and treatment of those ailed by illness, but unlike careers such as teaching, law enforcement, or medicine, bioengineers are extremely limited in their ability to directly interact with those people in need. Bioengineers aren’t front-line in assisting people, and that’s one of the most important reasons I want to be a physician. I want to use my strengths in problem-solving and critical-thinking in the assessment of patients. Additionally, I view medicine as an opportunity to strengthen my communication and leadership skills which I previously felt was a weakness of mine. Between clinical rotations that move me from team to team each week and all of the patient care I’ve been involved in, I’ve met thousands of people I could have never interacted with otherwise. I look forward to all of the professional interactions and relationships to be formed with other healthcare members and associates.
Outside of medical school, I’ve had significant increase in leadership responsibilities, which has further strengthened my interpersonal communication skills. Two aspects of life outside of medical school that I dedicated notable time to are research and teaching.
From a research perspective, I was blessed with the opportunity to continue my Masters level bioengineering research from the University of Louisville after graduation. The work is based in computational modeling of tumor growth dynamics and how the microenvironment influences different therapeutics including chemotherapies, immunotherapies, and nanotechnologies. Since the work can be performed on my laptop remotely, I’ve continued to collaborate with the researcher from UofL and produce more publications through medical school. This link demonstrates my research with blue text indicating those completed while at OSU: Publication List. Despite being away from the lab in UofL, I actually took on a more significant leadership role in the lab. Not only did I work on projects individually, but I was able to serve as a mentor for students in the lab at UofL. I trained them through email and Skype on how to operate the system and how to troubleshoot issues. It was useful practice for me to try to view a problem from their perspective and help make suggestions to fix their difficulties. These relationships helped strengthen my leadership skills, and also helped progress the lab overall as a unit. Additionally, I served a new role in the lab as I traveled to multiple conferences to present our data and form relationships with new colleagues in the field. This experience forced me to essentially think more like a salesman – pick up on what people are interested in and collaborate effectively.
For further demonstration of the work, here is an example of an abstract from one of my more recent publications while in medical school:
“The influence of tumor microenvironment characteristics on cancer progression and efficacy of chemotherapy has been the focus of intensive research. In particular, macrophages are a dynamic cell population that can assume various phenotypes based on tumor microenvironment characteristics. The influence of macrophage phenotype on therapeutic efficacy remains poorly understood. Macrophages can either aid or hinder tumor growth, with disease prognosis hinging on the proportion of pro-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic M1 vs. anti-inflammatory and pro-tumorigenic M2 phenotypes. Repolarization of macrophages in the tumor microenvironment from the M2 to M1 phenotype has emerged as a potential approach that harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Methods: Understanding the complex interactions between chemotherapy and macrophage populations in the tumor microenvironment could benefit from mathematical and engineering principles. We implement a modeling framework to evaluate tumor response to chemotherapy, including the effect of macrophage phenotypes in the tumor microenvironment on tumor growth and therapeutic outcome. M1 and M2 phenotypes are integrated into a model of tumor growth representing a metastatic lesion in a highly vascularized organ such as the liver. Behaviors simulated include M1 release of cytotoxic nitric oxide and M2 release of growth-promoting factors. Results: We simulate a hypothetical therapy-induced macrophage repolarization regimen from the anti-inflammatory M2 phenotype to the pro-inflammatory M1 phenotype in conjunction with chemotherapy administration. Surprisingly, the model predicts that chemotherapy applied in a tumor microenvironment that contains mixed M1 and M2 macrophage phenotypes is more effective than with only M1 macrophages. Conclusions: Fine-tuning the ratio of macrophage phenotypes in the tumor microenvironment during chemotherapy may be therapeutically beneficial. A proposed mechanism is that M2 macrophages potentiate the chemotherapy effect by promoting tumor cell proliferation that sensitizes these cells to agents acting on dividing cells.”
This was a intimidating role at first, as I was responsible to lead classes for talented students who gave their limited free time at not the cheapest price (I’ve purchased three classes myself so I’m fully aware of the cost) to learn skills to excel in their exams. I initially was brought on to teach the MCAT, but class after class kept getting cancelled before starting due to low attendance. So I decided to cross-train in other exams by taking that standardized exam, viewing Kaplan’s training material, then preparing my lectures for the group. I went through this process for the DAT/OAT, ACT, and GRE.
Teaching required loads of preparation, patience, and time. Additionally, even if I perfectly understood everything I was teaching, I had to ensure I was communicating that material in a clearly understandable fashion. This took some trial and error to accomplish, but I feel like this experience strengthened my interpersonal skills significantly. I learned how to guide people towards solutions, how to interpret their body language, how to speak loudly with inflection, and how to show passion in my voice. I also strengthened my leadership abilities. The success of their class was dependent on me taking the first step each way, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to be that role model. I also gained further experience in mentorship with 1-on-1 individual coaching services I provided to help guide students successful through their course material.
In reflecting on my research and teaching experiences, I underestimate how much time and effort actually went in to these roles, and how much I’ve grown from them. I used to be too nervous to raise my hand in class and speak up, and now I’ve served as the person asking those questions and ensuring the quiet person in the room is grasping the material. I’ve gained confidence in public speaking that will guide me through my future in medicine.
For the future, there’s no question that I hope to develop further in terms of teaching and research. My personal statement for residency interviews was based around these principles: Personal Statement. I plan to get involved in research during my residency, although I’ve been warned how difficult that may be. I also plan to be involved in teaching through residency. During my interviews, I asked programs what roles would be available for teaching beyond clinical duties, and it sounds like pursuing a role as an Education Chair of the residency is one option for me. I look forward to what the future will hold in growing as an effective teacher, researcher, clinician, and effective communicator.