Rajal Sharma

NU 2009 - BS./MS Chemistry; Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Class of 2018 (MD/PhD)

What led to your interest in a career in medicine? Who or what inspired you?    A lot of personal experiences with physicians inspired me to pursue a career in medicine. In college I also found that I had a knack for basic science research and found that I could pursue both. I was drawn to the cutting-edge nature of medicine and its ability to change lives. I saw modern science really changing medical practice but I also saw gaps where modern science could really help. I realized that by pursuing an MD/PhD, I could have a role in filling these gaps.

How did you prepare yourself for medical school? The application process?   I didn’t do anything in particular to prepare myself for medical school. I felt like my undergraduate science training was quite strong and that would prepare me for medical school coursework (and it did!). I did take a year in between NU and Sinai to work, which gave me a break mentally.

What undergraduate experiences were most instrumental to your success?  I think the coursework and research I participated in at NU was really fundamental in shaping my career. I met a lot of important mentors from whom I received good advice. They always encouraged me and really helped me develop as a researcher. They had career tracks that I wanted to emulate and so working alongside them was quite inspiring for me.

Did you matriculate directly from NU to medical school or did you have a gap year?  I took a year to work in a research laboratory. I don’t think I needed the extra experience, but it helped me to take a break from the rigors of school. I had a pretty intense senior year, filled with lots of activities, so it was nice to relax a bit before school started up again.

Whether you entered medical school directly from NU or had a gap year (or more), looking back, are you happy with the decision you made? Why or why not?  I was already going to enter a very long program, so any years off would only prolong my medical school graduation. Despite this, I definitely relished my gap year and would do it again if given the choice. The gap year also allowed me to get a glimpse of life outside school. After working for a year I was really eager to get back into the classroom, which I may not have been if I had gone straight to medical school.

Is medical school what you thought it would be?  Would you share your thoughts?   Medical school is pretty much what I thought it to be, which is a good thing. It is a lot of hard work but it is certainly a privilege. It’s exciting to be able to directly apply your knowledge to help people. The journey isn’t for everyone, but I know I definitely made the right decision.

What are your career goals right now?  Have they changed since you begin your medical school studies.   My original inspiration to apply to MD/PhD programs was to have a career in both basic science research and clinical medicine. It’s certainly difficult to juggle both, but I have met mentors that are doing it well. It’s a great opportunity to be able to direct what goes on in the lab towards what is needed in the clinic. We’re in a fantastic age where cutting edge science is really influencing medicine and I’d really like to be a part of that.

What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?  It’s certainly a difficult path but it can be quite exciting. Seek out mentors that will inspire and advise you. Keep doing what you’re interested in, whether that’s clinical volunteer work, research, global health, or something else you’re passionate about. That stuff will really form the base for a good application. Keep working hard- it will definitely pay off!

Most Recent Update: 4/11/2012

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