A pilot program recently launched by Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine is offering OUWB students insight into just how critical the first two years of medical school are to their success as physicians.

Alumni panels featuring OUWB graduates offer advice to pre-clinical med students
OUWB Alumni Panel
From left to right, Brahmbhatt, Vercellone, Kachoria, and Silber.

A pilot program recently launched by Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine is offering OUWB students insight into just how critical the first two years of medical school are to their success as physicians.

Alumni Career Path Panels are sessions held twice monthly as part of the OUWB Student Affairs Alumni Career Mentoring Program. The program launched in February and six sessions have been held.

Berkley Browne, Ph.D., assistant dean for Student Affairs, led the launch of the project and participates in the panels as one of the moderators. Others are LaTina Jackson, M.Ed., and Saulo Ortiz, Jr., M.Ed., both senior medical school advisors.

“The panel sessions are geared toward M1-M2 students and feature alumni across specialties with the intention of highlighting the ways in which the basic medical science coursework pre-clinical students are learning manifests in the alums' clinical practice every day,” said Browne.

“Current students have the opportunity to ask questions about specialty exploration and selection, along with getting some advice about setting themselves up for success in medical school.”

Alumni who serve on the panels work in collaboration with Student Affairs and are prepped for each session with an overview of what pre-clinical students are learning at the time of each session.

“The panels have been an invaluable resource for current students, and I am thrilled to have alumni who are so eager to reach back and help current OUWB students in their process of career exploration,” said Browne.

Two panels were held in May.

One featured Jay Brahmbhatt, M.D., Class of 2017, and Taryn Silber, Class of 2017, while the second featured Joe Vercellone, M.D., Class of 2016, and Jay Kachoria, M.D., Class of 2017.

The panelists tackled questions and topics related to how they decided their respective specialties, what a typical day looks like for them, the importance of pre-clinical education, how COVID-19 has affected their professional lives, and more.

Here is a sampling of the questions and answers from the sessions:

How did you make your specialty decision and what factors influenced your decision?

Silber: I liked the fast pace of different specialties. I liked seeing a lot of patients. I like being really quick, efficient, and getting things done, but I also like going home on time. In fourth year, I realized that (emergency medicine) is the specialty that kind of fits all of that together.

Brahmbhatt: I’m a huge nerd for physiology, and I really, really love understanding how things work…how the body works, how disease processes work, how medications work, how therapies work. I was also really interested in medical education…I wanted that and medical ethics to be part of my career. I went into internal medicine and it’s worked out well. 

Kachoria: I did internal medicine as one of my first rotations and had a great time with it. I did pediatrics afterwards and I really, really liked the patients. Around that time, I heard about med-peds as a residency and thought ‘Oh this is great. I really like working with adults and I really like working with children…I want to try doing both if I can.’ That led me down this road.

Vercellone: You get a sense for what kind of lifestyle you want…what kind of hours you want to work, what kind of environment you want to work in. That’s going to guide you. You also start making decisions like, do I want to be somebody who does a lot of procedures, or do I hate procedures? Do I like doing surgeries, or do I not like doing surgeries?

What advice would you give to rising M3s who are going into the clinical setting for the first time this July?

Silber: Be open(minded)…everything is connected so go into every single rotation with open eyes and open ears and learn as much as you can. If you are really gung-ho on one specialty, learn how everything is related to that.

Brahmbhatt: Have a sense of agency. (Medical students) are there as learners, and we — physicians, preceptors, and supervisors — owe it to them to teach. Hold the preceptors, residents, and attendings to a standard that they are committed to teaching you something and turning you into a doctor.

Vercellone: Take every rotation as a possible avenue that you’re going down. Don’t put your blinders on a say, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a neurologist so I’m going to skate by on my surgery rotation or my family medicine rotation.’ Every rotation is an opportunity to ask, ‘How would I feel in this area of expertise?’

Kachoria: Especially if you feel like you have a good rapport with an attending in the first couple of days of a rotation; it’s really important you take any sort of opportunities you can to build on it. It doesn’t need to be in the specialty that you decide to go into…half of my letters of recommendation came from attendings who weren’t in internal medicine or pediatrics.

How does what you learned in the early part of your medical school education show up in the work you do every day with patients?

Silber: One example would be a patient with bad asthma. Knowing the asthma medications that we have to learn in medical school, and the mechanisms of actions…a lot of that we learn in medical school and sometimes it goes all over our heads, and then it comes back in residency or staff, so focusing on all of that stuff is really important.

Brahmbhatt: I’m a chief resident now, and we have reports every morning where medical teams present a patient they’ve recently taken care of…in the past month I drew a hydrocarbon, we were talking about organic chemistry, we’ve definitely talked about ventilation, Frank-Starling curves. All of these things are absolutely, absolutely foundational in everything that we do in critical care.

Kachoria: The fundamentals of (foundational biochemistry) are helpful in understanding the diseases that we take care of…if someone has a genetic disease or metabolic disease, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of all these different systems that we learn in bio chem, for example. For other things like anatomy or organ systems, it’s just routine that we use it all the time.

Vercellone: Your patients are going to want to understand what’s going on with their disease state, and why this is happening. You need to be able to take the knowledge you have, or can quickly read up on, and convert that into a dialogue your patients are going to understand.

What advice would you give to M1s and M2s with regard to how they approach study methods, techniques, and strategies?

Silber: Just be efficient and get things done. Take an hour and exercise. Eat well. Hang out with friends and family. One of my biggest regrets is that in my second year of medical school I missed a wedding of one of my good friends because I had my boards coming up. Thinking back to it, I would have been just fine. I should have gone.

Brahmbhatt: Try to start seeing the connections between your preclinical course and clinical rotations. That’s going to help you more with long-term retention and the ability to actually use that information in the future. You could sit and do 300 practice questions in one day, but…you’re not going to learn 300 different things in one day. Learn how to take breaks…your hypothalamus is only going to be able to process so much information.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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