Getting Back into School Mode

Sai Rajagopalan
July 17, 2017
Posted in First Year

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They said it would not be easy giving up my "settled life." When you have an established career and all the creature comforts that you are supposedly destined for after toiling many years in academia and the workplace, going back to square one and doing it all over again sounds painful and as some people put it, "crazy." There were many thoughts and doubts racing through my mind when I started on this path exactly a year ago. Can I do this (i.e. sitting and memorizing information for an endless amount of time and taking tests one after another)? Will I fit in with my peers who on the average are ten years younger than me? Is the grass really greener on the other side? And many more.

I have only been here a year, but my questions have more or less been answered with a resounding YES! Thanks to the unique environment here at Vanderbilt which not only brings together the strengths of a world class research university, interdisciplinary collaboration between different schools located in close proximity, a unique curriculum, and (most importantly) people with big hearts and open minds, I have spent the past year not only studying but also seeking life changing experiences across campus and not one door was closed on me.

I have had the opportunity to learn at every moment from eminent researchers as well as my very talented peers who have truly made me feel at home by providing to me all the educational social and emotional support I need within and outside the classroom to succeed. More importantly, I haven’t needed to jump through any hoops because who has the time for that?

Medical school and life put together can be stressful in many ways because of the amount of work and time one needs to put in to succeed but the supportive environment and a focus on wellness that is integrated into the curriculum definitely works. I have also enjoyed a wide array of experiences outside of the classroom including gaining a glimpse into the difficult lives of patients at the Shade Tree Clinic (and learning from them about why managing health is not as easy as popping a magic pill), playing music with peers and singing festive songs around the piano at one of our Dean’s home, pitching ideas at innovation competitions and honing skills that help drive medical innovation, competing for college cup, and many more! I have been told it only gets better over the next three years and I can’t wait!

During the first chapter of my life, I was lucky enough to have opportunities to gain valuable skills, see the world, learn from mistakes and success (both mine and others), meet wonderful people and make great friends. I hope this second chapter won’t be very different when it comes to those things. What I also hope for, is to see a convergence of different streams of my life and I feel that there is no better place than Vanderbilt to shape and channel all that energy into a torrent that drives me towards my well thought out and unique career goals.

I am very lucky to have ended up here for this crucial phase of my life and could not have made a better choice. I cannot thank the medical school and the Medical Innovators Development Program (MIDP) faculty enough for the support that I continue to receive. I am not the first and I certainly won’t be the last person to come back to school for medicine. While there may be many paths to the same goal, I can confidently say that being here makes it so much more enjoyable!