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Biomedical Studies Meet Alum Saba Bakhtiari

Saba Bakhtiari, Drexel Biomedical Studies Program Alum


Hometown: New York, New York
Undergraduate: City College of New York, BS in Biology, 2015
Graduate: Drexel University College of Medicine, MS in Biomedical Studies, 2017
Accepted Medical School: Drexel University College of Medicine, Class of 2021


Can you tell me a little bit about yourself before you came to Drexel?

I say I'm from New York because the majority of my life was spent there. My family moved around a lot while I was growing up. I was born in Iran. From there, we went to Germany and then New York. I went to City College of New York in Harlem. During my time there, I did a lot of work in the Student Life office and helped start a peer mentoring program.

When did you become interested in medicine?

I became interested in medicine when I was in high school. My advanced placement biology teacher noticed that I seemed to be really excited in his class, so that put it on my radar. Another high school teacher had eye surgery, and I learned about ophthalmology for the first time. I decided to shadow an optometrist, thinking they were the same thing. I told him that I would really like the surgery aspect. He said, "Oh, you have to go to med school for that."

When I was younger I was interested in teaching in elementary school, but I saw how strong I was in science, so I decided to pursue it.

How did you hear about Drexel's Biomedical Studies (BMS) program?

I originally heard about Drexel's Pathway to Medical School (DPMS) at one of the medical school fairs that visited my undergraduate school. However, at the end of my undergraduate senior year, I hadn't taken the MCAT yet. I also took a neuroscience class and really loved it. Since I wasn't sure what kind of science I wanted to pursue, I thought I should do a master's program first.

I started applying to regular master's programs for biology. As I was researching programs, I discovered that there were ones tailored for people who want to go to medical school. I had Drexel in the back of my mind because of DPMS, but then I saw that they offered two-year master's program, which is what I wanted. My undergraduate GPA was not where I wanted it to be, so I liked that I would be able to retake classes like physics and chemistry.

What was your experience like in the program?

I really enjoyed being in MBS. It was challenging, but I loved my classmates. We got very close. I also really enjoyed meeting with the advisors. The faculty members are wonderful. I think because it was so challenging, I enjoyed it more. It pushed me to my limits and made me do things that I'd never done before. It was great.

Did the MBS program help prepare you for medical school?

Yes, definitely. Not just because of the content we learned, but because of the way I had to adjust my study skills. Through MBS, I realized that I didn't actually know how to study. I found a whole new method to learning information to make sure it sticks with me long term. I've been able to use all of those techniques in medical school now. That has probably helped me more than any of the content that I learned.

How is your first year of medical school going so far?

It's going really well. I'm doing well in my classes, and I'm trying to get involved with other things like the Student Government Association (SGA). I'm also enjoying meeting all of my classmates. It's a really big class, about 260 students. It's also nice that the environment isn't brand new, since I studied here while in MBS.

Did you do a research project while in MBS?

Yes, I did research with the Drexel Neurosciences Institute. My research was based on pharmacogenetics. Basically, we looked at chronic pain patients and saw the medications that they were on, both over-the-counter and prescription medication. We wanted to see interactions between their genes and the medications they were taking, as well as medication to medication interactions. Not everyone's genetics are the same, which means we don't all metabolize medications the same. It was a very interesting research experience for me, because it was clinical, and I hadn't been involved with clinical research before. I have also always been interested in genetics, and it was interesting to see how our genes really determine how our body reacts to everything.

When you were in the MBS program, were you involved with extracurricular activities and volunteering?

I was involved with GSA when I was in MBS. I was also volunteering with PALS and SREHUP, an emergency housing unit. I was trying to be as involved as possible, but my grades remained my priority.

Do you have a sense of what type of medicine you'd like to pursue?

I came in thinking that I wanted to do ophthalmology because it is what I have the most experience with. After first shadowing an optometrist, I began to shadow ophthalmologists. However, since starting medical school, I'm realizing that not only do I know very little about ophthalmology, I actually know even less about all the other fields. I'm keeping ophthalmology in the back of my mind, but I am open to the possibility of discovering something else and have begun shadowing other fields. I recently shadowed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and I really enjoyed it.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering doing the MBS program?

I think if you're trying to find a master's program that will help you prepare for medical school, this is a wonderful program. The faculty members helped students for many years and have successfully gotten many students into medical school. Another great thing about being in MBS is that if you realize it isn't right for you after the first year, you can switch into a different program.

Overall MBS is a place where you have to work really hard, but it also teaches you how to work hard and be more efficient. It's a great program for anyone who wants to take some time between their undergraduate degree and medical school, and it provides an opportunity to get involved with research.

Biomedical Studies program graduate students in the classroom at Drexel University College of Medicine.

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