For as long as he can remember, UMHS 2018 graduate Dr. Arjun S. Kanwal always wanted to become a doctor. “I never had a ‘moment’ where I decided ‘Hey, I think I want to be a doctor.’ It was more of an organic thought from the time I was old enough to remember thoughts,” he said.
Dr. Kanwal recently started an Internal Medicine residency at MedStar Baltimore in Maryland. The UMHS Endeavour spoke to Dr. Kanwal about why he chose UMHS over other Caribbean medical schools to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, how his interview with a UMHS admissions staff member helped persuade him to attend the school, the outstanding personalized attention he received during basic sciences in St. Kitts and the amazing professors, his experience with clinical rotations, and more.
Dr. Kanwal, a native of Potomac, Maryland, received his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Maryland. He decided to go the Caribbean route for med school. He admits that, when he interviewed at UMHS, he did not know what to expect.
“At the interview, I was swayed,” he said. “I ended up talking to Ryan Ross [longtime UMHS admissions representative and Director of Marketing] for two hours about everything from University of Maryland–we both went there–to UMHS. I figured if someone high up has the time to talk to a prospective student for hours on end, the school must care about taking the time to get to know each student. My main concern about the Caribbean was the huge class sizes and high weed-out rates. My talk with Ryan helped to combat that concern.”
Dr. Kanwal spoke at length about the professors and staff members in both St. Kitts and Maine that he found especially inspiring. He said the staff in St. Kitts were among “the best professors I’ve ever had and I don’t think I would be where I am without them,” adding “they really went above and beyond to make sure we learned the material for Step 1.”
UMHS Offers Adaptability
Adaptability was one of the key things Dr. Kanwal learned at UMHS, especially during clinical rotations.
“You have to be able to move to different states for six weeks at a time to complete clinical rotations. Learning to be flexible in other aspects of my life translates to learning to be flexible inside the hospital.”
Diversity is also an important aspect of attending UMHS. It has helped Dr. Kanwal learn to understand differences and people with conflicting opinions and thoughts.
“I mean, I’m from DC and two of my best friends from the island are from the deep south and Wyoming,” he said. “ Although disagreement is common, it is important to see others’ perspectives.”
Staying Focused on Academics
There is a lot to see and do in St. Kitts, and one can be tempted to spend too much time enjoying the fun and Caribbean sun. Dr. Kanwal advises med students to remember that they came to UMHS to study medicine.
“It’s easy to get distracted on an island, but keep your eye on what is important,” he said. “ Step 1 scores are extremely important for IMGs. The higher the score, the more likely you are to get interviews. The professors on the island honestly do a great job of teaching the info on Step 1.
It was the top-notch professors at UMHS that helped Dr. Kanwal reach his academic goals. He has high praise for UMHS Professor of Pathology Dr. Anoop Kumar Jalan. He credits Dr. Jalan “for his amazing lectures as well as how hard he pushed all of his students. He didn’t back down if people complained his exams were too hard, he kept pushing. Without him I think our Step 1 numbers would be a lot lower. His passion for pathology allowed us to sit back and listen.”
UMHS Clinical Rotations Helped Obtain Residency
The exceptional clinical rotations at UMHS helped Dr. Kanwal eventually obtain his Internal Medicine residency at MedStar Baltimore.
“I did all of my rotations at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, so I knew I wanted to stay in the area. Being from Maryland, I wanted to stay close to home and my family, and this program is right in the heart of Charles Village in Baltimore. They say over 50% of doctors practice within 50 miles of where they did residency, which was a key factor of ranking MedStar highly. I think it is important to get your foot in the door during residency to help your career in the future.
Dr. Kanwal started his residency in July 2018 and is enthused about it.
“The program is four different hospitals with four different patient populations, so I can really interact with different types of patients,” he said. “It’s affiliated with Georgetown University and has a lot of great connections within its faculty.”
He enjoys Internal Medicine because it “gives you a scope to look at the entire body as a whole with the added bonus of constant patient interaction.”
Once he completes his residency, he would like to apply for a fellowship in Rheumatology and hopefully stay in the Washington, DC area.
Built in the tradition of the best U.S. universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individualized student attention, small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. For these reasons, UMHS is quickly becoming the school of choice among Caribbean medical schools.