Pavan Mehat

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Pavan on why he's glad he took time to get a master's degree before medical school, and the importance of doing activities because you're passionate about them, not just because you think they'll look good on your application.

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Undergraduate: Boston University, 2014
Major: Bio-Medical Engineering
Graduate School: University of British Columbia, 2016
Degree: MSc
Medical school: University of British Columbia, 2020



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

As a child, I became infatuated with the game of basketball. Combined with my strong competitive desire, I had decreed that I would play in the NBA. Although I would have loved for that dream to become a reality, I am glad it didn’t, because I am blessed to be able to help positively impact other’s lives.

What led to your interest in medicine?

In high school, although I was primarily focused on basketball, I was quite proficient with mathematics and science and was interested in possibly pursuing a career in medicine.

During my senior year of high school, my career counsellor, who also taught my AP Chemistry class, recommended that I choose engineering as a major because I “think like an engineer” and because with engineering, I would have an excellent alternative plan if I decided to not pursue medicine. So, I decided upon pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering at Boston University as it was the hardest degree program I got into (I am always up for a challenge!), and it also gave me the opportunity to try to walk on the Boston University’s NCAA division 1 Men’s Basketball team.

I absolutely loved my time at Boston University, and the boundless opportunities and the exposure to medicine and scientific research opened my mind. As I delved into my premedical coursework, volunteering at Boston Children’s Hospital, and connecting with other premedical students at BU, I knew medicine was the path for me. It is hard to encapsulate all the reasons why I loved medicine, but simply it allowed me the best opportunity to leverage my skills and talents to help serve those who were suffering.

Who or what inspired you?

I have been so blessed to have so many inspiring people, and mentors that have helped guide me and continue to do so through this journey of becoming a physician. It is one of the most important factors in my success so far.

No matter how prepared and competent we are, sometimes, we are going to fail. It is so easy to give up or become discouraged when adversity hits. I can’t advocate enough for the power of changing your perspective. However, when I felt overwhelmed or dejected during my journey to medical school, I would take a step back and reflect. Am I blessed enough to be healthy right now? Do I have full faculty of my mind? Do I have a roof over my head and access to delicious and nutritious food? Wow, my problems aren’t that bad, eh? Then I would reconnect with my vision about why I wanted to become a physician and envision myself in my white coat helping brighten people’s days and regain their health. What has and continues to inspire me is to have the opportunity to serve and help alleviate some of the suffering of others.

Was there one person who stands above the others as your inspiration to go to medical school?

My mother is the strongest and most amazing women I know. When I was in elementary school, my mother was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. The feeling of helplessness I felt when the person who was my superhero was in so much pain and became debilitated is indescribable.

I thought maybe if I read enough, I could find the missing link that would “fix” my mom. Despite the excellent and compassionate care my mother received from the doctors she continued to get worse. It got so bad during my third year of undergrad that she needed to use an electronic wheelchair most of the time. She could only walk for very short distances.

However, along with an innovative and experimental chemotherapy treatment regimen, coupled with superb physio therapists, and a radical improvement in her nutritional intake, my mother has recovered so well that you may not even be able to tell she had MS! We were in Ottawa recently for my brother’s graduation, and she walked for an hour back to the hotel because she did not want to call an Uber!

Her perseverance, and selfless nature inspires and motivates me to be the best person and future physician I can. Even when the pain was at its worst, my mom would always put a brave smile on and be as kind as possible to everyone she met. Further, she is a perfect example of the amazing things people can do when they are empowered and supported. During, and ever since her recovery, I was and am absolutely fascinated in exploring and integrating exercise and nutrition with conventional Western medicine.

How did you prepare for the medical school application process?

I see too many premed students doing things because it “will look good on my application,” versus doing it because they are very passionate about the activity they are undertaking. If it is an activity you deeply care about, and you exhibit skills that you need as a physician, medical schools will love it. That was the philosophy with which I approached preparing for my medical school application process. I always sought out activities that I loved and was passionate about because I knew that with hard work and persistence, I could positively impact others’ lives.

Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT® exam?

Conducting my undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering provided me with a whole host of advantages as I have gone on in my career, but due to the intensity of the degree there was almost no wiggle room with the courses I could take. Therefore I had only taken one biology class before preparing for my MCAT® exam, so I was extremely worried about the biology section (on the pre-2015 MCAT exam). However, the MCAT exam is about critical thinking — it’s NOT a content test. So even though my reservoir of biology knowledge was not as vast as many other students, my sound critical thinking skills allowed me to excel on that section anyway. 

What is your top MCAT tip for applicants preparing to take the exam?

As someone who has taken the pre-2015 and post-2015 MCAT exam, been obsessed with the MCAT exam, and taught MCAT courses for both versions of the test, I would say simply to remember that the MCAT exam is NOT a content test, but a critical thinking test. Therefore, if you study for the MCAT exam like you would a typical undergraduate course, you are not going to optimize your score. Spend as much time studying the test, and learning the critical thinking skills it examines — it’s a standardized exam so they tell you what they are! — as you do studying the content.

What made your medical school the right fit for you?

For me personally, it was less about specifics of the school’s curriculum, clinical resources etc., but what school was most aligned with my most important values. I loved my time at Boston University, but I sorely missed my home (Vancouver, BC). Further, even though I loved my time at BU, I found it too easy to slip into my workaholic tendencies. Therefore, I knew I didn’t want to sacrifice family and friends, community, and work-life balance. The University of British Columbia’s Medical School allowed me to pursue my dream of become a physician while not sacrificing any of my values.

Please describe your participation in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study abroad opportunities during medical school or residency.

I always joke with my peers that I suffer from “Academic ADHD.” I am fascinated by so many topics and areas of studying, so I am always reading so many excellent books, even during medical school, which sometimes gets me a bit behind with my studying. But I would not change it because it helps tie what I am doing in the classroom to the real world. I began a YouTube Channel to help me reflect on my journey and share what I have learned through my extensive reading. I tend to be quite introverted, so sharing my journey on YouTube has and will allow me to continue to inspire and educate the next wave of aspiring physicians. Medical education is something I would like to pursue in the future.  

I also continue to upkeep my business, Sustainable Athletics, that I started during my MSc program. I have always been fascinated with athletics and what makes one athlete excel when many others fail. I had suffered from a slew of recurring injuries during my track and field career at Boston University that negatively impacted my ability to perform at my best. So, I did not want athletes to go through what I did. I decided to keep Sustainable Athletics going because of my keen interest in Sports Medicine.

What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?

For me, it is about bringing my attention back to the present moment. I have found that the most effective way to do so is to pay attention to my breath. I wear a wristband that says “belly breathe” on it, so when I forget and get lost/stressed out I remember to bring my awareness back to my breath.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?

For me, it is doing everything I can to fight my perfectionist tendencies. A mantra I follow and repeat to myself many times is “progress over perfection”. Being imperfect is what makes us humans. But if we are continuing to strive to be better, we can live with the imperfection.

What makes your story unique?

Throughout undergrad I was undecided about whether an MD or an MD-PhD program was the right decision for me. Therefore, after finishing my undergraduate degree at Boston University, I really wanted to explore what path was the best for me. I am so glad that I did! I completed an MSc at the University of British Columbia, and, combined with the clinical exposure I got during my research work, it made me realize that the MD route was what I wanted to pursue.

What surprised you the most about medical school?

What surprised me the most was how much fun it was and how I still had a life. I spent 6 years diligently working towards earning admission into a medical school, and I figured once I started I would have to be perfect and work my butt off to be able to keep up with the material. Do not get me wrong, medical school is extremely challenging, but there is a lot of support!

What specialties are your current top choices?

This was something I was always asked as a premedical student and I am still asked now. However, my top choices have dramatically changed since being in medical school and getting exposure to various clinical situations. Initially, I thought I would do neurology or neurosurgery because of my mother. However, as of right now, my top choices in no particular order are: 1. Family Medicine 2. Sports Medicine 3. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and 4. Oncology.

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

I remember when I first began meeting with the premedical advising staff at BU, they would always bring up gap years, and in my naiveté of youth, I was adamant I would go straight from undergraduate studies to medical school. I am so glad I did not! In our society, it seems as if we are conditioned to rush through everything as fast as possible. However, I am glad that I took the time and space to make the right decision for myself. It also gave me the opportunity to grow and continue to mature as a human being. My biggest advice to any aspiring physicians out there is to realize that we all have our own timeline. Do NOT compare yourselves to others, we are all “ahead” and “behind” someone else. Do not run any one’s race but yours!

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