Navin Kesari

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Navin is inspired by his parents who immigrated to the U.S. and made sacrifices so that he and his brother could pursue the American dream.

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Undergraduate: University of Illinois at Chicago, 2010
Major: Biochemistry (Mathematics and Psychology minors)
Medical school: Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, 2014
Residency: Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
Specialty: Neurology 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in mathematics and science, but early on, I wasn’t sure what career I wanted.

What led to your interest in medicine?

A lot of my close and distant relatives are physicians, and talking to them intrigued me about the field. My parents and grandparents also put the idea in my head growing up. They explained that medicine is a noble profession in which you could help others in need. As I grew older, I did some research about the field, volunteered at my local hospital and gained some perspectives from practicing relatives. After doing my due diligence, I knew this was the right field for me.

Who or what inspired you?

My parents and grandparents. They left comfortable and secure lives in India to come to a foreign land, the United States, so that my brother and I could pursue the American dream. They struggled a lot while we were growing up to adjust to a different lifestyle. But, in the end, they got through it because they knew it would mean better opportunities for all the kids in my generation.

A few months before my medical school graduation, my paternal grandfather passed away from a heart attack. He helped raise me from early childhood through high school. I was very close with him and it was very hard to say good-bye, but to honor his memory, I will put all my time and effort in order to become the best neurologist I can be.

What made you decide to go to medical school?

My love for science and physiology. It amazed me how many difference scientific disciplines are required in order to truly understand how the human body works. Throughout my life, I have been given several opportunities to succeed. Many others have not had the same opportunities that I have, and I felt pursuing a career in medicine was the best opportunity to give back. I admired my family members in the medical field. They all told me how much satisfaction they earned by helping people on a daily basis

Did anyone encourage or discourage you from applying to medical school?

Everyone in my family encouraged me to apply, especially my parents and grandparents. No one discouraged me.

How did you prepare for the medical school application process?

My cousins were already in medical school by the time I applied. They guided me through the process.  A friend from high school was applying the same year as me and we helped each other.  I shadowed my uncle, a private practice hematologist-oncologist, to gain exposure to private practice medicine for a week and then I observed a family friend, a family practice physician, in a community clinic to see how healthcare was delivered in a different population. These experiences showed me that I was making the right career choice.

Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT?

I ended up taking the MCAT twice. The first time was during school so my study time was limited and as a result I did not get the score I wanted. I retook the exam during the summer where I spent about 8 hours per day going over study material and doing practice questions. I increased my score significantly and I used this experience to guide my preparation for the USMLE Step 1 and the subsequent exams. Step 1 is an 8 hour exam and covers the material learned during the first two years of medical school. It is an intense exam that requires a lot of preparation, but it can be done.

Did you need financial aid to pay for medical school?

Yes. I took out the maximum amount of loans that I could to finance my education.

What was your first year of medical school like?

It was very overwhelming pretty much the entire year. I learned a lot in the classroom and clinics, but struggled with the volume of information that we had to know. But during that time I found a group of friends who I have been close with ever since.

What makes your story unique?

I became the first physician on my dad’s side of the family. I feel like I lived out the American dream for my parents (1 generation immigrants to the US) by following the idea that with hard work and sacrifice, you can be successful. At the age of 26, I have finally completed medical school and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. 

What did you enjoy most about medical school?

  • Realizing that I found my true calling in life.

  • Making an amazing group of friends who I will stay in touch with for many years.

  • Being able to rotate at many different hospitals to see diverse patient populations.

  • Meeting great faculty that have mentored me over the last 4 years.

What surprised you the most about medical school?

Making such great lifelong friends. I honestly don’t know where I would be without them.

Please describe your participation in special programs such as volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school or residency.

During medical school, I volunteered with INSPIRE, a mentoring program. Students from my school would partner up with local high school students and give them advice about the college application process and how to apply to different schools within the healthcare field.

I also volunteered with New Life Volunteering Society. In this club, students volunteered at a local free clinic and provided treatment to the underserved. This was a great learning opportunity for me and others.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?

Whenever I needed a study break, I made sure to watch TV, call old friends, or do anything else to take my mind off of school work. Effective time management was key.

What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?

  • Apply as early as you can. It’s rolling admissions, but you want to send your application in as soon as you can to increase your odds at getting interviews. Save up at least $800 just for applications.

  • I paid for my entire education through student loans. The nice option is that I will be paying my loans back through a combination of Income Based Repayment/Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Make sure not to take out more than you need if financing via loans. Also, always have an emergency fund because you never know when something will come up. (My grandfather passed away a few months before graduation. Since there was extra money that I hadn’t used, I was able to use that to take care of those expenses.)

  • Go to a school that you feel is a good fit. Med school is going to be tough wherever you go, but any connection you feel right away will definitely help.

  • Residency: Apply broadly and again, try to find the best fit for you. Programs will try to sell you on why their program is the best, but make sure you do your own research to choose the program that is the best fit for you. You will be going to that city/program for the next few years. You don’t want to hate your time there.

Do you have additional information or thoughts to share that would be helpful to prospective students?

It’s a rewarding field, but requires a lot of sacrifices along the way. At the end of the day, you have to really want to do this, because you will question your decision. We all have at one point or another. Even though my days as an intern are long and tough, every day I realize how blessed I am to be doing the thing that I love.

If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell him/her, off the top of your head?

  • Read as much as you can.

  • It’s okay not to know the answer to questions during rounds.

  • Always be humble. Never try to make yourself look better at the expense of your classmates/colleagues. People will remember this and it’s not a good practice.

  • Get involved in any organization you are passionate about. It will help you become well rounded

  • Try to volunteer at local free clinics. It helps improve your examination skills and gives you practice at presenting patients to attending physicians.

  • Make sure you do fun things when you can. Things can be overwhelming and you need time for yourself/time not studying.

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