Q&A with Dr. Vineet Arora

Vineet Arora

Dr. Vineet Arora is an Assistant Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residence and Assistant Dean of Scholarship and Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago.  She blogs at FutureDocs, a blog about medical education thoughts, news, policy, with tips for medical students and residents.  She also directs the NIH-sponsored Training Early Achievers for Careers in Health (TEACH) Research program, which prepares and inspires talented diverse Chicago high school students to enter medical research careers. She joins us for a Q&A session about the transition into medical school.

Q: What do you love most about working with students making the transition into medical school?

A: One of the fun things about working with students making the transition into medical school is to understand how they view the medical things they learn about, whether it be through research, news, or contact with patients.  Looking through the perspective of their eyes is refreshing as their views and hopes about medicine remind us of what medical care and medical training should be.  Because they are considered “zero-gravity” thinkers, who are unencumbered by prior experiences in medical training, they are often able to see the opportunities for improvement really clearly.

 Q: What’s the most frustrating misconception students have about the transition into medical school?

A: One frustrating misconception is that the “journey” is over or that the outcome of becoming a doctor is the ultimate goal.  Medical school is just the beginning of a lifelong learning process.   The journey is quite long, so graduating from medical school, while an important outcome, is not as important as the process of learning how to care for patients. That process never really ends.  I recertified and took my internal medicine board exam 10 years after finishing residency.  When I shared this with some of my premed student researchers who were studying for the MCAT, they were surprised to learn that the process of learning never ends.

Q: What do you wish you had known about medical school before you got there?

A: I wish that I understood more about careers in medicine, particularly between academic and private practice.  Although I thought I was interested in academia, it is still hard to understand what that means and what an academic medicine job is like.  It is also hard to appreciate the wide heterogeneity in academic medicine careers and the additional skills one usually obtains as a faculty member to be successful in these careers (i.e. MPH for clinical researchers, faculty development for medical educators, etc.)

Q: What’s the best way for a pre-med to prepare for the rigors of medical school?

A: The best way to prepare for the rigors of medical school is to take a tough course load in college, while also pursuing extra curricular activities such as research or volunteering that necessitates that you practice time management.

Q: How do I actually know if medicine is right for me?

A: Medicine is right for you if you see it as a calling.  You must want to pursue becoming a doctor because you are passionate about caring for patients.  If you are pursuing it for some other reason, such as money, prestige, or fame, you will be likely disillusioned and at high risk of burnout.

Q: How do you foresee medical education changing in the coming years and how will this affect today’s pre-meds?

A: The explosive growth of new technology, such as social media, simulation, and electronic health records, have the potential to reshape how our medical students learn to care for patients and also how they practice.  In addition, the evolving changes to the healthcare system, and particularly the way it is financed, will also have a big impact on medical education.   For these reasons, it is important for pre-medical students to appreciate the need for agility and innovation as practice models and educational methods are reshaped by current trends.   Rote memorization of facts will be less important than understanding how to access information and apply it to an individual patient care issue you face.

Q: If there is one thing that you could change about how medicine is practiced, what would it be?

A: I think that I would make sure that there was more time (and reimbursement) for diagnosing and talking with patients. Unfortunately, due to the underfunding of making diagnoses and taking a good history, it is often easier to get a costly test or do a diagnostic procedure which often costs money to the patient or the healthcare system (or both).  We need a way to reorganize the healthcare system so the doctor-patient communication is valued.

Would you like to see more interviews like this one?  Let us know by commenting with ideas for the next interview!
Have more questions for Dr. Arora?  Check her out at her blog, FutureDocs.

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