Our ‘A Day in the Life’ series highlights alumni in various fields and positions, offering a glimpse of what life after graduation is like. This post comes to us from M&T alum Azim, currently in his first year at Yale Medical School.
Please briefly outline the school you attend and the program of study you are enrolled in.
Yale Medical School is a traditional 4-year allopathic medical school with a heavy focus on student research. Broadly speaking, in the first year you learn normal body function and in the second year you learn all the pathology, how things go wrong. The third year you enter the hospital and work on teams with the residents and attending physicians to take care of patients. The fourth year is more of that with increased focus on solidifying a residency choice and interviewing for programs (the On-Campus Recruiting of med school, it never ends!) Many students at Yale opt to do an additional year of research between their third and fourth year as well.
What time did you get up this morning for classes?
I get up to go the gym around 6:50 every other day. I try to watch the podcasted version of my classes after I get back from the gym.
What time did you start the day working, and what time were you done for the day?
I usually start around 9am and depending on group meetings and classes for the day, I’m done as early as 3pm or as late as 9pm.
What classes did you go to today?
I’m on break right now! Like I said, I usually opt to watch lectures online. On a busy day, after watching a Cell Biology lecture in the morning I might head to a Physiology small group section and then buckle down for Anatomy lab in the afternoon.
What were some of the papers/projects/assignments you worked on today?
I finished my last take home final today! Yep, at Yale we get about two weeks to do our exams on our own schedule. However, a typical day during the school year might involve preparing to lead a discussion in our Professional Responsibility class on abortion followed by a prep session for the following day’s anatomy lab.
What’s your favorite class this term?
That’s a hard question. I learn something almost every day about the human body that blows my mind. Physiology has been a fascinating class and actually has been one of the first times I’ve gotten to directly apply a lot of the chemical engineering concepts I learned (who would have thought!). We did a lot of cardiac physiology near the end of this semester and our professor did an amazing job breaking down the function of the heart and blood flow with the language of pumps and fluid dynamics. I didn’t plan on ever drawing pressure-volume curves again, but it was neat to revisit them.
Who specifically did you interact with today, besides fellow students (professors, an employer, researchers, etc.)?
We get a lot of contact from professors so I would have definitely interacted with them on a typical day. Also, I try to attend as many lectures as I can from professors who are visiting to give talks on the forefront of certain research subjects. Eventually I’ll find my way into a research project of some sort and will likely be working closely with grad students, and a research mentor. That said, it’s really the interactions with the really bright, fun, and motivated classmates of mine, that makes my time in medical school feel so rich.
What was your favorite part of the day?
As mentioned earlier, I workout in the morning with a classmate of mine and it is always a great part of my day. In between lifting we get to debrief on lectures from the previous days or just talk more about a controversial issue we might be discussing later in the afternoon. It also feels really nice to get something substantial done in the morning.
What are some of the challenges of your degree program that you enjoy?
Much like my M&T experience, information is coming through a firehouse and the only way to really grapple with the volume and complexity of the material is to work in groups to learn via discussion. We don’t have grades at my medical school for the first two years so it engenders a strong environment of collaboration. As I said earlier, the interactions with a really bright set of classmates who bring unique perspectives to problems has easily been the most enjoyable part of my experience so far.
How did you end up in your current school?
It’s been a bit circuitous. Growing up, I always had intentions of attending medical school but I enjoyed the increasing exposure I was getting to the business world through my various internships in banking and consulting. I took my MCATs my senior year and was pretty conflicted on the path I should take. I wanted to make a big impact on healthcare (and still do) but wasn’t sure if the business approach or scientific/med school approach was the one I should take. Business seemed attractive and provided some nice option value if I decided I still wanted to go to medical school. I ended up getting a job at Bain Capital Ventures in the Healthcare team. I had an amazing experience there and worked with some very smart people but our primary goal was to find companies that have developed great ideas and put resources behind them. I decided I wanted to do more of the creating vs. the investing. For me, med school provided a great route to gain “technical expertise” in the industry I want to create change in.
How did M&T help prepare you for where you are today?
Well this a soft-ball question! The M&T experience provided phenomenal preparation for the real world. First the rigor of the curriculum and discipline needed to complete have definitely made any subsequent problems I’ve encountered seem a lot more manageable. Intellectually, except perhaps recent experience since med school, nothing I have had to do since college has been as challenging. Additionally, learning how to effectively work in groups is a skill that both the engineering school and business school really develop and probably one of the strongest determinants of success in whatever you decide to go into. I don’t think I can emphasize these two points enough.
What advice do you have for those who might be interested in pursuing a similar path?
For other M&Ts who are potentially interested in medical school or other graduate education I would stress that the goal is not to arrive to a destination as fast as possible but to make sure that you are always headed in a direction that is authentic to you. I decided not to torture myself with completing my degree program in four years (instead I picked the four and a half year torture route). I say that mostly jokingly, but that change allowed me to study abroad in Sydney, do an extra internship, and then travel for several months in South America before starting my job. My two years of work in venture capital helped me hone in on where my true interests lay and I go through med school with much more of a sense of purpose than I would have if I had been questioning myself with ‘what-ifs’ of paths not traveled.
We are conditioned to believe that we need to rush through our experiences and complete them as soon as possible, and that we should never deviate from a path. Be flexible, do what you truly believe is your calling, and explore potential interests to figure out what that calling is. Along the way you will have incredible experiences and they will all be accretive to your development as a person and the career path you ultimately choose.
Azim is currently in his first year at Yale Medical School. He graduated from M&T in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Chemical and Biomolecular Science from Penn Engineering as well as a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School with concentrations in Healthcare Management and Finance. After graduation he worked at Bain Capital Ventures and later at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He loves basketball and browsing deal websites. The last movie he saw for fun was Lincoln.