Arun Kumar graduated Georgia Tech in Spring 2014 en route to become a doctor. He entered Emory School of Medicine at the age of 21. He plans to graduate medical school in Spring 2018. On face value, it seems like Kumar has everything figured out. Although that might be true in some cases, he described the journey in his success as a BME Tech graduate.
Before coming to Tech, Kumar “was much more inclined to a math and science standpoint than a language art or historical standpoint.” With its heavy STEM focus, Tech was the right fit for Kumar. In addition, Kumar stressed how the strong emphasis on teamwork in BME intrigued him since he got to apply those skills on to real problems rather than simply regurgitating facts.
Although Tech is an academically oriented institution, Kumar stressed the importance of joining extracurriculars. Medical school admissions want to see a well-rounded student, so joining clubs and extracurriculars is very important. How does one know what to be involved in? For Kumar, it took him some time to find out.
Kumar was a Teaching Assistant (TA) for seven classes including BMED 2210. In addition, he was also chair of the Student Advisory Board and an editor and writer for The Pioneer . However, Kumar explained that pre-med students have to do certain things even if they do not particularly enjoy it such as research, volunteering, and shadowing doctors. Being involved is one thing, but doing it well is another.
Another common reality for college students is changes in career paths. Many who originally planned to be a pre-med switched out or changed majors to accommodate the pre-med track. “It is a foolish move to go into BME with the intention to go into medical school. Medical schools don’t really care about your major,” Kumar explained. ”They want students who prove themselves academically. They don’t give Georgia Tech curriculum the extra weight it deserves.”
Furthermore, Kumar says that medical school was always in the back of his mind, but it was not something he always knew he wanted to do for sure. He loved his engineering classes and continued to take his pre-med classes since he was on track. “I ended up really lucky because I did really well in my classes I happened to be really interested in the major and also happen to really like the medical field.”
Another reason Kumar decided to enter medical school was that of the high level of doctor-student interaction in upper-level BME classes. “Working with doctors made me jealous, they got to interact with patients, use these cool tools, and make a really big difference. And engineering makes a big difference in the eyes of a lot of people, but you don’t necessarily get to see that first hand,” Kumar explained.
The transition from the engineering mindset to medicine was challenging, according to Kumar. Kumar quickly realized the stark difference between Tech and med school life. The first year and half of medical school were all lecture based. “This was very different from engineering, so it was a big adjustment. It was not like we were using our concepts to solve problems. It was a lot of regurgitated facts, there was so much volume you needed to know.”
In the third year of medical school, students are in the hospital full time trying out different rotations to see what they want to ultimately practice as a doctor. Kumar explains that this is when the engineering background comes in useful because of its strong focus on critical thinking.
Kumar chose to go into orthopedic surgery because of its strong correlation to BME coursework such as statics. “You have to really think about the forces that patients are experiencing that let them have such arthritis. It’s a lot of real-time problem-solving in the operating room, so that was really appealing to me.”
Kumar said that Tech was a great school to prepare him for the rigor of medical school.
Furthermore, Kumar highlighted that the work ethic he developed as a Tech BME student has enabled him to complete medical school with relative ease in comparison to those who did not attend Tech.
For first-year Tech students, Kumar stressed the importance of focusing on school. It is a big adjustment from high school to going to Georgia Tech. “You can be the top of your class at the top high school in the nation, and still get your butt kicked at Georgia Tech. Not having that overconfidence and being humble about what Georgia Tech will do to you and rather focus on getting good grades is important.”
For students about to graduate and go into the real world, Kumar said to start focusing on getting internships and co-ops. Kumar reassured that it is okay for students to not have a definite career lined up after graduation. “You don’t have to have it all figured out. Hopefully, though, you’ve set yourself up for success where you can do a lot of different things or are trying to. Come up with your identity and strengthen it.”