By Dr. Shrinjay Vyas
The pursuit of a career in medicine has been a lifelong dream for me. I inherited a passion for learning and an unwavering commitment to achieving excellence from my academically focused Indian family. Encouraged by the values instilled in me by my parents, I attended and graduated from one of the most prestigious medical colleges in the state of Gujarat in my home country of India. After I completed my education, I dreamt of taking the next step in my medical career in the United States, where I could study the intricate inner workings of the human brain and have the opportunity to contribute to the global advancement of neurological care.
Pursuing a residency in the United States requires careful planning and meticulous preparation. I recognized the competitiveness of the matching process, so I devoted significant time and effort to researching the requirements, studying for standardized exams, and familiarizing myself with the U.S. medical system. I began this process amidst the pandemic while I was in my internship. I actively searched for clinical and research rotations, observerships, and externships by individually browsing the respective hospital websites. I made a detailed list of state-wise and specialty-wise rotations which waive the complete fee or charge a nominal administrative fee if an applicant has approached them directly or a preceptor is ready to host them in their institution in the concerned department. It took me nearly four months and dozens of refusals, but after nearly two hundred cold emails, I finally received a couple of rotations in my desired specialty for reasonable fees.
Upon arriving in the United States for my planned two months of rotations, I was confronted with a steep learning curve. The transition from the medical system in India to the U.S. healthcare system was marked by cultural and procedural differences. However, my commitment to excellence and adaptability allowed me to quickly acclimate to the new environment. I embraced each challenge with enthusiasm, eager to learn from experienced physicians and immerse myself in the American medical landscape. I was exposed to diverse patient populations and healthcare settings. From community hospitals to university medical centers and urgent care settings to in-patient wards, each rotation broadened my perspective and strengthened my clinical acumen. Embracing the challenges of a new healthcare system, I quickly adapted to the fast-paced environment, assimilating knowledge and honing my skills under the guidance of experienced physicians. The exposure to different sociocultural backgrounds enriched my understanding of patient care and fostered cultural competence and empathy within me.
After I completed the couple of months of rotations I had lined up before I landed in the United States, I was ecstatic to be offered subsequent rotations at some of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. I believe the reason I was given these opportunities was the grit and passion my attendings and preceptors saw in me during those first couple of months, for which I am grateful.
Faced with demanding schedules, long hours, and complex patient cases, I committed myself to excellence in every aspect of my training. I seized every opportunity to learn and grow, going above and beyond to expand my knowledge base and clinical skills. Whether it was participating in patient rounds, engaging in research projects, or seeking additional learning resources, I embraced the challenges as stepping stones to success. During my six months of clinical rotations, I approached each day with a determination to surpass expectations and demonstrate my commitment to the field of medicine.
Even though going through this intense series of clinical rotations proved to be positively transformative for me, I should not downplay the hard work, determination, and perseverance it required. For one of my first two rotations, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to take the train at 6:45 a.m., which would drop me at the bus pickup at 7:30 a.m. I took the 7:45 a.m. bus to reach the clinic at 8:30 a.m., where I would be the first one to arrive before it opened at 8:45 a.m. My day ended at 5:30 p.m., at which time I would follow the same journey to get back home by 8:45 p.m. This was my schedule for an entire month. Later, I made the daunting decision to simultaneously rotate at two places for three months to make the most of the time I had in the United States. My schedule for those three months was as follows: weekdays at the university hospital and weekends at an urgent care setting, which accounted for up to 60 hours a week straight for three months with no days off. It was difficult, but the entire experience taught me that if you are truly committed to your passion and have a goal, no one can dare to stop you. At the end of it all, I had four U.S. based letters of recommendation from the attendings who were all pioneers in their field.
Excelling in clinical rotations was important, but it was only part of my preparation to pursue my dream of training in the U.S. in neurology. I also recognized the importance of acing the USMLE. Through rigorous study schedules, countless hours of preparation, and a disciplined approach, I conquered each examination step by step and finally completed all the required exams for my residency cycle. This feat not only demonstrated my aptitude for the medical sciences but also underscored my ability to perform under pressure. This achievement reinforced my belief in the power of determination and affirmed my commitment to reaching new heights in my medical career.
The culmination of my hard work, determination, and perseverance came to fruition when I received the news of my successful match into an adult neurology residency program in the United States. I knew I had paved the way for a bright future in the field I am deeply passionate about. The joy and sense of accomplishment were overwhelming, validating the choices I had made and the sacrifices I had undertaken. The rigorous nature of the exams, the demands of clinical rotations, and the emotional toll of being away from family and familiar surroundings tested my resilience. However, I relied on my inner strength, support from loved ones, and passion for my chosen field to overcome obstacles and persevere. Each challenge became an opportunity for growth and self-improvement. My successful match served as a testament to the power of perseverance and reinforced my belief that all dreams can be achieved through dedication and unwavering commitment.
As I begin the next step of my career as an adult neurology resident, I am filled with a sense of purpose and anticipation for what lies ahead. I aspire to become a skilled and compassionate neurologist, making a meaningful impact on the lives of patients and their families. Drawing upon the experiences gained during my clinical rotations, I am eager to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field through research and innovation. I am committed to delivering compassionate and high-quality care to patients and becoming an advocate for advancements in neurologic medicine. I am eager to collaborate with renowned professionals, learn from diverse experiences, and continue to push boundaries. Furthermore, I hope to inspire and mentor aspiring medical professionals, sharing my story of perseverance and encouraging them to pursue their dreams. As I look ahead to a career as a neurologist, I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of contributing to the field and the opportunity to heal minds, one patient at a time.
“If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” – Michael Phelps