Kshama Bhyravabhotla, an in-Training medical student editor and contributor who recently matched into the internal medicine-pediatrics program at Tulane University School of Medicine, is sharing today about medical school, the interview process and more.
Tell us about yourself:
I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, went to Georgia Tech for college and will always be an “ATLien” at heart! A lot of people will call me indecisive, but I like to think of myself more as someone who is interested in everything (probably why I chose Med-Peds). When I’m not cheering on the Yellow Jackets or the Falcons, I love playing the piano, running, practicing taekwondo and watching bad horror movies. I also love hiking, visiting new cities and discovering their hidden gems — especially live music.
Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
Medicine is a diverse field with a huge range of information, and odds are you’ll be bad at something in that field — my downfall was gross anatomy. It does not mean you’re not cut out for a career in medicine. The qualities that will make you a good physician are having the resourcefulness to find the answers when you don’t know them and the humility to ask for help when you need it.
What tips do you have for USMLE?
Do UWorld questions throughout second year along with the corresponding pathology units for Step 1 and throughout your clinical rotations for Step 2 — seeing what you’re learning in action will help you remember it better. Individualize your study plan and do what works for you, whether that’s studying with a group, making charts or reading First Aid cover to cover. Doing the NBME practice exams is also useful because it helps you track your progress as well as manage your time during the exam without getting burned out.
The dedicated study period is strenuous, so make sure you pace yourself and take time for your hobbies. And finally, timing is key. Find the amount of study time you need to feel comfortable with the material and reach your peak performance without burning out.
What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
Get excited! This is the time when you get to leave the classroom and learn skills that are applicable to the rest of your career. That being said, you won’t like every rotation you are on. Try to find at least one thing you love about every rotation and focus on that. For me, this was clinic in OB-GYN. If that doesn’t work, keep your perspective when you’re going through the ones you are not interested in and remember that you’ll get to do what you love in residency.
Communication with your teachers, patients and fellow students is key in your clinical years. Attendings and residents will have plenty of feedback for you during clinical rotations and all of their styles of communication will be different, so don’t take criticism personally and develop a thick skin. As the student, you can play a role as advocate for your patients and pass on information to your residents and attendings that they may have missed. Listening to your patients effectively and learning how to handle conflict, should it arise, are great skills to start acquiring in your clinical years. Finally, never try to make another student look bad, and be cognizant of giving them a chance to shine as well.
What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
Don’t feel guilty about making time for the things or people that you love, and balance your personal and professional lives. I took 15-minute breaks from studying to play the piano or go for a walk, and even that small amount of time was enough to re-energize me to hit the books. Talk to your family and friends outside of medical school on a regular basis. Medical school can feel surprisingly isolating if you’re the only one of your friends going through it, and your family can give you some much-needed perspective when everyone around you is losing their minds over grades. Lastly, remember that you were accepted to medical school because you are capable of making it through. There are always academic resources, friends or professors who you can look to for help. Trust the process.
How did medical school differ from your expectations?
It affected my emotional development more than I thought it would. It made me more introspective and made me better at understanding different perspectives and life experiences, which has changed so many of my relationships.
What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
One of the best conversation starters during interview season was actually an essay I wrote for in-Training (#plug) about the need for compassion and humanism shortly after the death of my grandfather. It opened the door to memorable conversations with my interviewers about how we deal with death as physicians without getting jaded.
I also volunteered at the Rape Crisis Center at Grady Memorial Hospital, which is one of the most well-known Level I trauma centers in the Southeast. This was the start of my love for the city of Atlanta as well as the community-oriented approach to patient care that attracted me to Morehouse School of Medicine. This was also one of the biggest points of compatibility with my residency program and allowed for conversations that reflected both of our passions for underserved patient care.
What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
I’ve always had a wide range of interests, both in my personal and my professional life, and I wanted to learn about everything. I was initially attracted to internal medicine because I always admired those doctors who seemed to know everything about everything. I never thought I had an interest in pediatrics, but my pediatrics clerkship changed that and I grew to love it. After learning about Med-Peds and seeing the depth as well as the breadth of the subject material involved, the challenge and diverse patient population hooked me. Continuity of care is important to me, and the unique opportunity to treat kids with chronic diseases as they transition into adulthood was very attractive.
What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
I’m worried about balancing my personal life with the steep learning curve of intern year and with living in a different state than my family for the first time. I think that skill will get better with time, but it’s a new challenge.
What advice would you give third-year students about to start the Match process?
Breathe. Remember that if the programs you’ve applied to have a wide range of competitiveness and you have an appropriate backup plan (if necessary), you’ll be okay. Don’t compare yourself to other people. I remember seeing some of the programs my friend had interviewed at and wishing I had gotten an interview invite as well, only to talk to her about the interviews after and learn that the feel of many of these programs just wasn’t compatible with what I wanted. When you do go on the interview trail, enjoy exploring new cities and meeting people from different medical schools! This is how you find “your people.” Because there are no Med-Peds programs in my home state, this is how I learned that there is truly a Med-Peds personality type, and I felt like I fit in really well.
And a fun bonus question! Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school:
My go-to recipe is a Mexican tofu scramble, and it’s great for after workouts too! Heat black beans and tofu in a skillet. Add red peppers, jalapenos, corn, onions and diced tomatoes. Season with taco seasoning, lemon juice, cumin and salt and pepper for taste. Top with cheese and avocados and enjoy!