Kunal Sualy, a recent fourth-year matcher out of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE, gives us his expert advice on succeeding in medical school and beyond.
1. Tell us about yourself: Where are you from? What is your undergraduate degree and where did you receive it? Did you do anything between undergraduate and medical school?
Kunal Sualy: I am from Omaha, NE. I went to Creighton University, and got an undergraduate degree in psychology, and a minor in biology. I entered medical school right after I graduated from Creighton. I hope to get the opportunity to practice in Omaha after my residency.
2. What residency program will you be joining and where?
KS: I will be starting my residency in anesthesiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
3. Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first year you”?
KS: Be sure to balance school and your social life. While grades are important, they are not everything. Try not to fail or get a marginal in any courses. If you are in the top 10 percent of the class, that is great, and will be beneficial. Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter if you are in the 80th percentile or 30th.
4. What things did you do that you believe were valuable to succeed the first two years in the classroom?
KS: Get involved in activities that actually interest you, whether that be a mentoring program, blood drives, low-income clinic, etc. Start your own organization if you are passionate about something.
USMLE scores matter. I think First Aid does a good job preparing students. I have also heard Doctors in Training was useful, especially for Step 1. Most people who used it seemed to do well.
If you have any idea what field you want to pursue, talk to the program director of that field at your medical school. It is never too early to get your foot in the door and your face noticed.
5. What things did you do that you believe were valuable to succeed the second two years through clinical rotations?
KS: I recommend being prepared, yet do not go overboard. You don’t need to follow your residents everywhere, or kiss up to them. Just be normal. Help when they need help. See patients. Go home if they tell you to go home. Ask for feedback. Write notes to help them out.
If you have the option to do a procedure, do it. It doesn’t matter if you mess up on accident. You are a student. You will be nervous, but who cares, everyone is.
Do not fail the shelf exams. After that, scores do not really matter unless you are in the top 10 percent of the class.
6. What things did you do during your four years of medical school that stuck out or particularly impressed your residency program?
KS: I instructed a high school drumline while in college and medical school. I started a shadowing program for undergraduate students to come and shadow medical students at UNMC. And I was involved in simulation and research.
7. What things were unhelpful or you wish you hadn’t done in medical school?
KS: I don’t think the first two years of medical school are as important as what they are made out to be, as long as you don’t fail or get a marginal. I would not have stressed out so much.
8. What was your level of involvement in research and other extracurricular activities, and your opinion on how important that involvement is?
KS: I researched topics that I was interested in, primarily education. I started UNMC’s “Shadow a Medical Student Program” and surveyed the undergraduate students.
I think it is important to get involved in something you are passionate about, whether it has to do with medicine or not. Make yourself unique.
9. What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
KS: I was interested in anesthesia because of the following:
– Immediacy of results in the OR. I can adjust my decisions based on what is happening NOW.
– I enjoyed pharmacology and physiology. I enjoy math, and feel like anesthesia has a lot to do with math and numbers.
– Balance of intellectual medicine and procedure-based medicine
– Good ability to balance my work and social life
– I fit in well with the residents and attendings. Similar personalities.
10. What attracted you to your residency program?
KS: The location in Chicago. I have been in Omaha my entire life, and felt this was a good opportunity to get out for a bit. I intend on coming back to Omaha if I have the opportunity. Also the success of residents at Rush in getting good fellowships in anesthesia.
11. What things did you do to maintain your sanity in medical school?
KS: I had a pretty good social life. I would try and go out at least once on the weekends and watch sports, have a couple drinks, hang out. I would also meet up with friends once or so during the week. I played golf and tennis, instructed a high school drumline, and I would also travel to visit friends when I had the chance
12. The floor is yours—what do you wish to share with current medical students?
KS: If I had one piece of advice, I would say to keep in contact with the program director of the field you desire to pursue. They are a great source of information and guidance.