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Sunny Jha

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How Sunny gained admission into medical school despite his below average GPA.

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Sunny Jha

Medical School: Eastern Virginia Medical School, 2012

What led to your interest in a career in medicine? Who or what inspired you?

In high school, I had an internship at a hospital which enabled me to see many sides of medicine. Therefore, when I started at Berkeley, I knew medicine would be a great career choice, but I also wanted to explore other areas. Shortly after my arrival, I became involved in student government serving as the Director of Fundraising for the ASUC, Berkeley’s governing student body. I also began to volunteer at The Suitcase Clinic, an acute-care free clinic.

However, despite my enthusiasm for and appreciation of politics, something was missing. I found that I did not enjoy my political work as much as my involvement with The Suitcase Clinic. I lacked a sense of accomplishment and gratification which my work at the clinic afforded. My interactions with politics lacked the personal touch evident at the clinic. Looking back over my college years, my moments of clarity lie with my work at The Suitcase Clinic, not in my political activities. Realizing this, I reevaluated my priorities and began to pursue, in earnest, what I felt was most important and personally gratifying to me.

I began to increase my participation at The Suitcase Clinic. Caseworking allowed me to directly influence individuals, something that was missing from politics. With each caseworking experience, I realized that I thrive on personal one-on-one interactions. I became the General Clinic Coordinator where I was able to work on both the administrative and personal sides of the clinic. For me, this role struck a balance between the micro and macro forms of effecting change. As I shifted my focus towards the clinic, I found our physicians were using the very skills I had learned in student government. For example, I saw the medical staff frequently negotiating with our clients when creating treatment plans. To be effective, the physicians had to develop trust and rapport with their patients. They also had to weigh the risks and benefits of each treatment plan in the context of any particular client.

Through my role as clinic coordinator, I realized that there needs to be a greater effort to amend current policies regarding homelessness, rising medical costs, and the uninsured. I consequently became a Commissioner on the City of Berkeley Community Health Commission. I saw this role as the fusion of my experiences during my first three years of college. It allowed me to integrate my interest in medicine and my experience in politics. My previous experiences have led me to realize that there are many ways to impart change but I need to find the right context within to work—one that is fulfilling and personally rewarding. This is why I chose to become a doctor.

How did you prepare for the application process?

I sought advice from upperclassmen who were applying to medical school and those who were already in medical school. I also met with advisors at the Berkeley Career Center. I also read up on the process because it seems as if every school has different requirements and ways of doing things.

If you participated in a special program, such as a combined degree, fellowship, or research work, please describe your experience:

After undergrad, I enrolled in a Special Master's Program at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). The basic premise of this program involves taking several first year medical school classes along with the actual med students. If you perform well enough in the program, you can get into medical school the following year. The EVMS program seemed to balance the risks between money, program length, and medical school acceptance rate so I enrolled in that one.

Please describe related volunteer work or military experience that relates to your career:

As an undergrad, I performed a broad range of volunteer activities. I volunteered at The Suitcase Clinic, an acute-care free medical clinic. I started at the bottom as a caseworker and slowly rose my way to the top eventually becoming General Clinic Coordinator. I also served on the City of Berkeley’s Community Health Commission where I worked with health policy. I also performed clinical research at UCSF. In addition, I worked in the student government.

What obstacles or hurdles did you overcome in your medical school journey?  

Applying to medical school with a below average GPA surrounded by friends with incredibly impressive numbers made the whole process rather intimidating. My first attempt of applying to 30+ medical schools during my senior year of college was unsuccessful. Fortunately, I also applied to a handful of Special Masters Programs (SMP). In these programs, you take several first year medical school courses allowing a medical school admissions committee to directly compare your academic performance to that of a first year medical student. I decided to enroll at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) for their one year program. This seemed to balance the risks between cost, program length, and medical school acceptance rate. Success in that program enabled me to gain admission to medical school for the following year at EVMS.

What makes your story unique?

I applied to medical school with a below average GPA on my application and with the help of the Special Masters Program, I was able to prove to a medical school admissions committee that I am capable of excelling in the academically rigorous medical school environment.

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

Always make the most out of the opportunities you are presented with!

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