For our third installment of UMHS Success Stories, we spoke to Dr. Shivaan Oomrigar. She starts a residency in Internal Medicine this summer at HCA Florida Kendall Hospital in Miami, FL. Her story is inspiring because she did not Match on the first try (she graduated in 2020 and obtained residency in 2022). In addition, Dr. Oomrigar lost one of her eyes to cancer at a young age and she’s always wanted to become a doctor ever since because she saw as a child how physicians can truly make a difference in people’s lives.
The UMHS Endeavour spoke to Dr. Oomrigar about beating cancer, life in her native Florida, why she chose UMHS over other med schools, why she likes Internal Medicine, her upcoming residency, advice for current and prospective medical students, and more.
Dr. Shivaan Oomrigar. Photo courtesy of Dr. Oomrigar.
Dr. Oomrigar has her own personal journey with medicine.
“Medicine has been in and out of my life since I was an infant,” she said. “When I was a year old, I was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, which is a cancer of the retina in my left eye. Long story short, I lost my left eye to cancer. Ever since that young age, I've worn a prosthetic eye in my left eye.”
Surviving cancer inspired her early on to one day become a doctor.
“I remember from infancy, I have vivid memories of being on the operating table and seeing men and women in blue gowns and blue scrubs and blue scrub caps. I remember being on an operating table and them trying to put a mask over my face to lay me down for surgery. That has carried me through all of my experiences from regular school to undergrad to medical school and to now. It's pushed me to be a physician today. I feel that it's not my job, but I feel that it's my duty to give back to those who helped me at a young age. That is one of the biggest reasons why I am a physician today.”
Dr. Shivaan Oomrigar at UMHS in St. Kitts. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Oomrigar.
Dr. Oomrigar was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida.
“Medicine has been involved with me throughout my entire life. It's weaved its web and now it's pretty strong since I've matched,” she said.
She likes staying active and is big tennis player.
“I've been playing since I was a little girl. I've even continued to play during med school, during clinicals, and now even in the post-match season I've been playing a lot of tennis. I'm a huge foodie. I love to eat. With that being said, I have to work out in order to keep the food off, so I am a big workout fan. I do Orangetheory, I do yoga, I try and do Pilates. Right now, in the post-Match season, I'm just trying to enjoy the vacation time that I have before the madness starts.”
She graduated from Florida State University in Tallahassee with a degree in biological science and a minor in chemistry.
“I'm a big Florida girl, Florida everywhere.”
Dr. Shivaan Oomrigar at the Anne Ross Library at UMHS in St. Kitts. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Oomrigar.
What made her decide on attending UMHS over other medical schools?
“That's a very good question. To be very honest, when I was applying in the states and to other Caribbean schools, everybody told me no. Every other school told me no. For whatever reason they gave, the answer was still no, and UMHS was the only school that decided to take a chance on me. And now here I am, a successful Match about to graduate and go into Internal Medicine training. I'm very honored and proud to have gone to UMHS and for them to have taken the chance on me.”
UMHS faculty and staff were especially helpful to Dr. Oomrigar.
She especially enjoyed Pathology One and Two, taught by Dr. Anoop Kumar Jalan and Dr. Alfred Roy.
“They both taught phenomenally, to the point where if you just attended the lecture and you paid attention, that was enough studying to perform really well on the exams. To be very honest, out of all the notes that I kept, I kept those notes because those were the ones where I knew I would need them in the future. Even in clinicals, when I see a disease or I see a patient or I see a diagnosis, I can actually remember and visualize myself back in the classroom where they're teaching. Dr. Roy would always beam with pride when we all performed well on his exams. You could see that glimmer in his eyes when you finally understood concepts. Even Dr. Jalan, his passion for teaching was unparalleled. The entire classroom came alive when he taught and we were all so enamored and focused when he taught. That's something I carry with me even today. So those two professors were great, absolutely great.”
How UMHS helped her Match
Dr. Oomrigar said she cannot name anything specific about how UMHS helped her eventually Match because “the whole process of medical school helped me. I don't think there's one specific thing."
UMHS as a whole helped her reach her goals.
“Everything about the school ,from moving to the island, having to do medical school on an island, studying, friendships, matching, clinicals, the advisors, the teachers, I think all of those was a culmination of me succeeding in matching. I think everything about it helped me succeed in matching,” she said.
Why Internal Medicine?
Some confuse Internal Medicine with Family Medicine but they are two distinct specialties.
“Internal medicine is a specific field of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and care of adults across a spectrum of many health issues and complex illnesses. Internists, is what we're called, are especially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of puzzling medical problems. Of course, we focus on health promotion and disease prevention. We can also serve as the ongoing primary care for many adults. In Family Medicine, you see adults, but as well you get specialized care in the treatment of pediatrics and adolescent medicine as well as OB-GYN versus in Internal Medicine, we don't get that.”
Dr. Oomrigar became interested in Internal Medicine for many reasons.
“My first experience with Internal Medicine was during my clinical rotations. That was the first instance where I actually had to study for Internal Medicine, where I got to have hands-on experience with it. I did my Internal Medicine core rotation as well as a sub-internship in Chicago, Illinois with Dr. Murray Scheinman. In his clinic and when we would go on the floors with him, that's where I fell in love with Internal Medicine.
“I love it because you work as a team to try and analyze and solve these complex medical cases and you use multiple counseling physicians and consultants to work together to treat a patient. It's a very much multidisciplinary approach, which is what I love. It's a giant puzzle where everybody gets to work together and we all reap the benefits when, of course, the patient succeeds or we find the diagnosis, we find the right treatment. For me, it's combining the best of both worlds, science with the personalized touch and personalized compassion approach to medicine. That's why I love Internal Medicine.”
Advice for the Match
Besides following the advice and guidance of the UMHS Academic Affairs Department, Dr. Oomrigar offers words of encouragement for anyone in med school about to go through the Match process.
“The best advice I can give you is to stay the course, stick to it, and don't give up because you will definitely have 100% guaranteed ups and downs,” she said. “And the downs will be very low. Sometimes you may feel like you're the only one there, but you're not, or you're the only one experiencing the lows, but you're not. My best advice is to stay the course, stick with it. Just because the path happens faster for someone else doesn't mean that it's not going to happen to you. It's just not your right time yet. But it will happen, so you have to be steady, have your eyes on the prize, don't waiver, and stay the course. That is my biggest advice because this is actually my second time matching.”
Dr. Oomrigar did not Match on the first attempt, and she admits it was difficult for her.
“I thought that I was the only one in this situation. I thought, ‘How could this happen to me? I did everything correctly. I studied, I performed well on my board exams, I did well in school.’ I believed that I did well in clinical rotations and it just didn't happen. All of that has led me to that one piece of advice—stay the course, and it will happen to you.”
Goals for Internal Medicine residency
Dr. Oomrigar has many things she wants to achieve in residency.
“I want to absorb as much as I can and to be the best Internal Medicine physician that I can. And hopefully, I'll learn from my peers, my attendings, and my mentors, so that I'll be good enough one day to be nominated as a chief in my class, which is what one of my goals is, as well as pursuing a fellowship and a sub-specialty of medicine.”
Thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic
From working in your clinical rotations and she has experienced in hospital settings in the last couple of years, Dr. Oomrigar feels that this is a crucial time to be a doctor.
“I think now, since the pandemic is not as strong as it was before, we definitely have a better understanding. During the height of the pandemic, not just doctors, but every single medical personnel was affected in every setting, the hospital, the clinic, the ER setting, even the EMS personnel. Everybody was affected. Doctors and healthcare workers of course were right at the heart of the pandemic. During that time, everybody was asking questions for which answers had not been found yet. Science was not fast enough in that time period, but I believe each side did the best that they could given the circumstances. I believe that now that we have a good handle on it, and with the vaccine, we all have a better understanding of the disease.”
Medical students in particular have had to learn a lot in a short time period.
“I think most medical students would have learned that in a crisis, you have to pull together, number one. You're not just the internist anymore, you're not just the OB-GYN, you are one of everything, because when situations like this happen, you have to be ready to act. I think the med students that were in clinical rotations or were in hospital settings during that time felt that their presence was needed, it was recognized, and that it was valued at the end. Now with [nearly] everybody being vaccinated, I think we are all at a calmer level since there are answers to the questions asked during the pandemic. So, I think we're all moving in the right direction.”
Dr. Shivaan Oomrigar said she is open to answering emails from current or prospective students.
“If anybody would like advice or needs some guidance or mentorship, I'd be happy to receive those emails and messages.”
Email her at email@example.com
Dr. Shivaan Oomrigar interview on the UMHS YouTube channel
Check out all the other great success stories from UMHS students on this Youtube playlist:
Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.