Hometown: Voorhees, NJ
Undergraduate: Rutgers University, BA in Genetics
Hometown: Hillsborough, NJ
Undergraduate: Muhlenberg College, BS in Biochemistry, BA in Spanish
What drew you to medicine, and to the College of Medicine specifically?
Om Kothari (OK): I always knew I wanted to work in science, and through experiences in college like research, community service and volunteering in EMS, I realized that medicine was the right path for me. Having the opportunity to build long-term relationships with patients and their families while satisfying my scientific curiosity was what ultimately made my decision clear.
I was drawn to Drexel because of its commitment to addressing inequalities in the community, and because of its robust research opportunities in both clinical and basic science.
Pooja Menon (PM): Medicine initially drew me in because it is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving and improving. I wanted to have a fulfilling career connecting with and caring for patients. As physicians, it is a privilege to treat patients and to help guide them through the complex landscape of health care. I participated in a BS/MD eight–year program with Muhlenberg College and Drexel University College of Medicine.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself before you came to Drexel?
OK: I was raised in the suburbs of South Jersey, about 30 minutes from Philadelphia. In high school, I felt confident that I would study chemical engineering, as my grandfather was an engineer, and I was very passionate about chemistry. When my grandfather became sick at the end of my time in high school, I was compelled by his physicians’ unique ability to help not only a patient, but also their worried family members. Beginning college in 2015, I was motivated to discover if medicine was truly for me: I immersed myself in different activities ranging from basic science research to a chemistry teaching certificate program. Ultimately, I applied to medical school in the 2018-2019 year and was happy to matriculate into the College of Medicine in 2019.
PM: I grew up in central New Jersey with my parents and twin sister. Prior to Drexel, I was at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, where I studied biochemistry and Spanish. During my undergraduate career, my two main activities outside of the classroom were my research in organic chemistry, and my involvement in two dance groups on campus. Dance has been such a big part of my life, and I am so happy to have helped co-found a cultural club at Muhlenberg that is still going strong today.
What organizations, extracurriculars, research or community service experiences have you been involved in at Drexel? How have they impacted your time here?
OK: I’ve been involved in a variety of organizations, however, most of them focus on mentorship and career exploration. Specifically, I served as co-president of the College of Medicine’s gastroenterology (GI) interest group and the hematology/oncology interest group. We were able to organize virtual events to increase networking opportunities for students interested in those fields. Additionally, I volunteered with DUCOM Application First Aid, where I had the opportunity to help prospective medical students build strong applications and gain more insight into the day-to-day schedules of current medical students. Through the DUCOM Big/Little Program, I mentored first-year medical students and served as someone they could reach out to for any questions as they became familiar with Philly and medical school. I feel that helping my peers succeed during my four years at Drexel was one of the most rewarding things I did.
PM: At Drexel, I have been involved in various activities, two of which involved movement and dance. I was a co-leader of Move it with Mommy and Me (MIWMM), a volunteer organization at Eliza Shirley House, a transitional shelter for women and children in Center City. MIWMM served as a great opportunity to get out into the community and work with the residents of Eliza Shirley. I also participated in Impulse, a dance club on campus, and had so much fun performing with them at the Pediatric AIDS Benefit Concert (PABC). I loved being part of both organizations.
During the pandemic, I had the wonderful and eye-opening opportunity of working with a grassroots organization helping the Philadelphia community with their personal protective equipment (PPE) needs. Lastly, I was a Women’s Health Scholar, which fostered my interest in women’s health and desire to tie this important aspect of medicine into my future clinical practice.
What specialty do you plan to go into? What influenced that choice?
OK: I plan to go into internal medicine (IM) for a variety of reasons. My experiences in the IM clerkship and sub-internships gave me a glimpse into how interesting the field can be. Having the privilege to build long-term relationships with patients in an office setting, while also seeing acutely ill patients on the hospital floors or in the intensive care unit (ICU), highlighted the wide variety in the specialty. In addition, I enjoyed rotating through the several IM sub-specialties and delving deeply into some of the technology used in these fields, such as seeing intra-aortic balloon pumps used in the cardiac ICU.
PM: I plan to go into neurology and loved my clinical experience during my clerkship. I find that neurology is an intellectually stimulating field, and one that is constantly advancing. It will be exciting to see throughout our careers, the new capabilities that arise to treat neurologic diseases, many of which are chronic and significantly impact the quality of life for patients.
What are some of your favorite med school memories? What lessons have you learned here that you'll carry on into residency?
OK: Some of my favorite memories from medical school include: meeting my girlfriend Pooja, attending class-wide formals and socials, and exploring breweries, restaurants and bars in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh with friends. A specific fond memory I have from the pre-clinical years is going to the Italian Market on 9th Street and trying free samples with my friends during a study break.
All these experiences tie into the same principle of maintaining a good work-life balance. I think Drexel has done a wonderful job at providing us with time and opportunities to enjoy our four years outside of the classroom/hospital.
PM: Some of my favorite medical school memories include meeting my partner Om and so many other great people, exploring Philly and other cities, and having game nights with friends, especially during our dedicated study period to take away from the stress. It was also interesting to move from Philly to Harrisburg, then to Pittsburgh, and experience various hospital systems. I think the ability to adapt quickly to different situations while maintaining work-life balance will be a lesson I carry to residency.
What has it been like going through medical school together? What was the couples' match process like?
OK: I couldn’t be more thankful that Pooja and I have been able to go through medical school together! We were able to follow each other from Philly to Harrisburg to Pittsburgh for our rotations, and I can’t imagine this process without her. We unconditionally supported each other academically and emotionally while celebrating one another’s successes.
Though the couples match required some extra planning and communication, Pooja and I were lucky to work with Dr. Amy Fuchs , who helped us create a solid strategy for where to apply. Since we’re both from New Jersey, we applied heavily to big cities around the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. We are both happy with how the interview season went and are excited to find out where we match!
PM: I loved going through medical school with Om! He was truly my rock and pushed me outside of my comfort zone to grow, and I think of our successes as shared. The couples’ match process is tough, in part because of the increased volume of interviews needed to optimize chances of matching in the same city, and because it can be challenging having someone rely on you and vice versa regarding interview invites. However, I think we were able to help each other through the process and it ended up being fun!
Who else has been part of your support system during your medical education and the match process? How have they impacted you?
OK: My family and friends have been vital in supporting me throughout this entire journey. Despite most of them not being very familiar with this process, they have always expressed their confidence in me at every turn. I am specifically very thankful for my parents, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that I was able to focus on my education during college and medical school. They remind me about my motivations for medicine whenever things get difficult, and I am very grateful for their wisdom and belief in me.
PM: My family is my greatest support system. They have always believed in my ability to succeed, which is very helpful during the more challenging and humbling parts of medical school. Seeing my parents build a wonderful life for us in this country is so inspiring and has instilled in me a great work ethic and internal motivation for happiness and success. Because of my family, I have also had different perspectives on health care which encourage me to maintain empathy and compassion during patient interactions.
What advice would you give other couples who will go through the match process together?
OK: It’s really important to be transparent, honest and communicative about your priorities for residency programs. Then, create a list of the programs you wish to apply to together, keeping in mind that you’ll be able to live together if you match in the same city even if you’re both at different hospitals. After you’ve been interviewed at programs, write down your impressions and keep them private (as hard as it is) to make sure that your partner isn’t biased by your opinions. Finally, make your rank lists separately and compare them after all your interviews have ended, and compromise as needed.
PM: I would encourage having difficult conversations even before you decide on what programs to apply to; for example: the type of career you envision, geographic location, what elements you would compromise for residency. Then, as challenging as it is, try to keep opinions of programs somewhat to yourselves prior to ranking so everyone can evaluate programs without bias. And above all, be honest with your partner about your aspirations and opinions!
How are you feeling ahead of Match Day? What are you looking forward to about the next step in your medical career?
OK: I’d say I’m nervous, but also cautiously optimistic. Pooja and I interviewed at so many programs where we would be happy and feel like we would fit in well. Although this process is stressful and anxiety-provoking, I’m excited to have more workplace autonomy and to experience a job after being a student my entire life!
PM: I am a bundle of nervous excitement as I look toward Match Day and hope that Om and I are happily able to take that next step together. It will be a thrilling day! I am looking forward to advancing in my career, growing my knowledge, and learning how to be the best physician I can be.