Get ready to read about Ajay Major, a student in an eight-year combined BS/MBA/MD program at Union Graduate College and Albany Medical College. You can read more about Ajay and his ambitious educational and career goals on his websites MajorAjay.com and in-Training. Thank you Ajay for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite non-school book?
Ajay: I’m originally from Valparaiso, Indiana, a quaint city about an hour east of Chicago and the hometown of popcorn pioneer Orville Redenbacher.
From Valparaiso High School, I was accepted to the Leadership in Medicine Program at Union College in Schenectady, New York, an eight-year combined BS/MBA/MD program with Union Graduate College and Albany Medical College. At Union, I studied chemistry and Spanish and served as the editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, the Concordiensis, for two years.
My favorite non-school books right now are The Night’s Dawn Trilogy, an epic space opera by Peter F. Hamilton.
Accepted: What year are you up to in your eight-year program?
Ajay: I’m currently a second-year medical student at Albany Medical College in Albany, New York, just a half-hour away from Union.
I completed my MBA in 2013.
Accepted: Why did you choose Albany Medical College? How would you say you’re a good fit for that program?
Ajay: I chose the Leadership in Medicine Program because all three of the institutions, including Albany Med, are small, tight-knit academic communities in which I feel right at home. Having faculty who are involved and interested in your educational journey makes them all the more accessible, and as someone who is pursuing an additional career on top of clinical medicine, it feels good to have that dedicated support.
All three institutions also integrate the humanities into their curricula and celebrate co-curricular involvement, both of which I felt would be important for my education as an aspiring physician.
Accepted: What is your “additional” career?
Ajay: I am an aspiring physician-journalist who is interested in using the media to train medical students and physicians to be better advocates for their patients and for the profession of medicine.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about your program, what would it be?
Ajay: I would have liked a gap year built into the Leadership in Medicine Program to more fully pursue business and leadership-related projects. Although heading straight from undergrad to medical school made the academic transition much less jarring, it didn’t leave time to explore the immense realm of health care management to put some of the skills I learned during my MBA training to work. Fortunately, founding my own publication, in-Training, during the summer before medical school was a good outlet for that expertise.
Accepted: Most people who go to med school want to be a doctor – plain and simple. Your website states that you aspire to be a physician-journalist and activist. Can you tell us more about your career goals?
Ajay: Physicians are front-line eyewitnesses to many of society’s faults and are in a unique position to treat those issues on an individual and a public level. When physicians-in-training actively engage each other through the media, they build a stronger sense of community and become better equipped patient advocates, both of which enable them to develop long-term solutions to the social problems that ail our patients.
The skills of writing, reading, speaking, and critical analysis that are the foundation for participating in the media are also skills that are necessary for engaging policy makers and educating the public. These skills are also integral for effective and humanistic patient care.
As such, I believe media participation should be integrated into medical education and medical schools should encourage students to advocate for their patients on the public stage. For example, my personal advocacy interests are in human rights, health systems reform and unrepresented groups in medicine, and I use my skills as a journalist to advocate on behalf of vulnerable groups and encourage medical students to become engaged activists.
And, most of all, I want to be a clinician – helping people through clinical science is why I chose to become a physician. Effective patient advocacy requires clinical practice. To address the ailments of society, you must be exposed to the ailments of your patients. You must hear your patients’ stories before you can advocate on their behalf.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your school’s career services department? How helpful has Albany been in helping you plot the points towards a future career?
Ajay: In my time at Albany Med, I’ve discovered that the faculty readily encourages participation in arenas of medical education that are outside of the box, whether those pursuits are career-oriented or for personal development, and are supportive financially and academically of those pursuits. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve approached the administration with an idea and they have welcomed the interest and challenged me to develop it into something better and more refined. Being supported, but being allowed the freedom to be creative – and the freedom to fail – are what make Albany Medical College an incredible place to develop a career in all aspects of medicine.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, what would you say were your three greatest challenges and how would you advise current applicants who are faced with those same (or similar) challenges?
Ajay: As a nontraditional student in medicine, my medical school application process began as a senior in high school. My greatest challenge was deciding to commit myself to an eight-year path towards becoming a physician while also pursuing an MBA. In retrospect, it is one of the best decisions I have made for my career, but I admit there were times I wondered if I should have pursued the traditional route.
Questioning yourself about your career path is healthy, as it allows you to dig deep and truly understand why medicine the right choice for you. Make sure you consult with advisors and professors who you trust if you have any questions or concerns.
Accepted: Can you tell us more about your website? When did you start blogging? What do you hope to gain from the experience?
Ajay: My colleague Aleena Paul and I founded in-Training, the online magazine for medical students, in April 2012 when we discovered that there weren’t any online publications dedicated to the medical student experience. With in-Training, we hope to cultivate a community of medical student writers talking about the important issues in medical education and health care that will guide our future careers as physicians.
Accepted: Can you offer three tips for our applicants who are considering applying to a program such as yours?
Ajay: For students who are interested in combined-degree programs in medicine, do some soul-searching and decide if medicine is truly the route for you, as well as if the combined-degree route is the path you want to follow towards medicine. Remember that there are many ways to become a physician. Combined-degree programs are designed to engage you in some additional work on top of your premedical studies–business, service, research, depending on the program. Don’t enter a combined-degree program just to get a pass into medical school–be sure you are committed to your additional studies and understand how they will enhance you future career.
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