Once a regular member of APSEA who worked his way up to Training Coordinator, to Rutgers – NB Vice President to President to Finally Director of NJMS APSEA. This is his story.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Bharath Nagaraj, a current 3rd-year medical student at NJMS as well as former President of Rutgers NADI. In it, he speaks about all things NJMS as well as how NADI helped him gain admission into the school. If you’re interested in applying to NJMS or curious about what virtual learning was like at one of New Jersey’s top medical schools, this is the article for you!
“I’m proud to give my time to an organization working to help those who need it the most. My experiences here have opened my eyes to the realities of others and given me hope for a world that helps a neighbor out when they need it.” – Bharath Nagaraj, NJMS MS3
There are many reasons why I wanted to attend NJMS. My goal as a physician is to be the best physician I can for the New Jersey community, and I believe that NJMS is really the best medical school to help reach that goal. One of my main motivations to go there was that I wanted to go to school at a place where I know I would be exposed to a variety of clinical experiences and University Hospital (the hospital affiliated with NJMS and quite literally connected to the medical school) is a Level 1 Trauma Center that serves a Newark, a huge and diverse population. Additionally, one of my priorities is to be involved in community service and NJMS is a heavily community service-involved medical school with numerous service organizations. Another reason why I wanted to attend NJMS is because of the strong link that past medical school graduates have had to the university. As an undergraduate, I have seen Dean Heinrich regularly give talks at Rutgers-New Brunswick (my undergraduate institution) about the virtues of NJMS and how much the medical school means to him. My interview at NJMS was conducted by a current emergency physician and former NJMS student who also told me how much the institution meant to him and how he loves the NJMS environment. All in all, the quality of education coupled with the personal experiences of current physicians and former students still connected with NJMS as well as the community service focus made NJMS a clear and obvious choice for me.
How have you acclimated to learning in a virtual environment at NJMS?
The biggest thing about learning in a virtual environment is time-management. Because the pandemic has limited the ability to do extracurricular activities and eliminated any commuting time, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. But at the same time, medical school, especially the first year, is a bit of an adjustment. Personally, I acclimated to a virtual environment by trying to follow a balanced schedule that incorporates doing my coursework in a timely manner at NJMS with spending time with my family. I made sure to organize my calendar for medical school based on the coursework and I have since made a consistent effort to keep up with lectures, which is very important because the coursework adds up near exams and it is very difficult to cram everything! In addition, as a first year medical student, it is a learning curve to try and understand how to study the amount of material you need to know for exams. The best way I found to navigate this challenge was to try different ways of studying and seeing what strategies and resources work and what didn’t. I also have some free time during which I spend time with family, learn to bake, volunteer with NADI, and help out with SAHI (a research organization at NJMS)!
What do you think NJMS does well in terms of adopting into the virtual setting?
NJMS has done a number of things quite well in adopting a virtual environment. The fact that lectures are recorded and posted as podcasts the same day really helps with keeping up with lectures. Additionally, faculty and administrators are always open to talk to students and help them with any of their needs, so that has been especially helpful during this time. NJMS also has incorporated telemedicine standardized patient interviews into the curriculum so as you go through the different systems and meet with the standardized patient, you can better appreciate how telemedicine can be both beneficial and limited in obtaining a history and performing a physical exam. NJMS has also offered virtual patient rounds where students get to see a physician taking a history and the physician and students work together to come up with possible diagnoses (differential diagnosis). Additionally, NJMS also offers students who test negative for Covid-19 to attend optional in-person sessions where they can take part in anatomy labs and perform physical exams, which is a great opportunity to take advantage of.
What do you think can be improved in our service population in both Newark & New Brunswick?
Since I haven’t really been to Newark nor have I volunteered there, I don’t think I can speak to that particularly well. As for New Brunswick, I think there’s a lot of great organizations including NADI, the Eric B. Chandler Center, and other local organizations that help provide health-related services to the local community. But I would say that continuing to raise awareness about chronic, preventable health problems and conducting free health screenings to reduce barriers to healthcare, especially in the aftermath of this pandemic when most people may not have seen a physician for a very long time, is the path forward.
Why do you want to be a doctor and how has NADI helped achieve that dream?
My desire to be a good physician stems from my interests as well as my experiences in healthcare. As a kid, I was always interested in science and was especially interested in biology after learning about the various organ systems and doing a few dissections in middle school. This culminated in my decision to attend biotechnology-based high school, where I further developed my interest and realized that I wanted to be more involved with people and not simply conduct research. In college, I joined NADI (an organization I am involved with to this day!) where I was excited by the opportunity to obtain a history from people of varying backgrounds, conduct a simple blood pressure and blood sugar test using clinical skills, and being able to empower individuals by letting them know information about their current state of health and give tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Although I loved taking part in these screenings and helping people, I was dismayed by the fact that I could not do more for those with consistently elevated blood pressures and I felt as though I was simply passing responsibility on to other health care professionals who had the clinical knowledge and skills to help these patients. When I was volunteering at various hospitals and shadowing physicians, I observed that at the end of the day, it was the physician who had the ultimate responsibility for the patients. This is why instead of passing on the buck, I want to be able to take on the responsibility for a patient, provide them help and guidance, and be able to give them a standard of care no other health professional can provide as a physician.