10 Questions for a Doctor is a ProspectiveDoctor initiated interview series of physicians of various specialties. The goal of 10 questions is to gain learn more about different physicians, their specialties, and their reasons for going into medicine. Dr. Sahil Mehta is the Founder and President of MedSchoolCoach, the nation’s leading medical school admissions company. He earned a bachlor’s degree from Columbia University graduating Summa Cum Laude. He then earned his MD from the University of Chicago – Pritzker School of Medicine. He completed his preliminary training in medicine and surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and has since gone on to train at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a major teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School, where he is a clinical fellow.
MedSchoolCoach provides medical school application assistance to premeds around the country looking to improve their application. MedSchoolCoach advisors assist students in preparing their medical school personal statement, AMCAS activities, and in interview preparation. MedSchoolCoach advisors are actual physicians each with admissions committee experience.
1. When did you decide you wanted to become a doctor? What were your main reasons for going into medicine?
I was probably atypical in that I didn’t decide to be a doctor until a little bit later in my college life. While I know that many people going to college knowing that they want to be a premed, I never had that sentiment. My dad was a physician and I actually didn’t love his working lifestyle. He would work long hours and not be home too much to enjoy life. However, after going through engineering, and dabbling a bit in consulting and research, I realized that at the end of the day I didn’t want to go home thinking I had made more money for bank or more money for company and that was my main purpose. Instead, I wanted to realize that my every day work would go into actually making a small difference in somebody’s life.
2. How/why did you choose the medical school you attended?
My main reasons for choosing the University of Chicago were that it was a great school and that it was in a great city. I got into a few other schools that many might consider “better”, but that’s just in terms of an arbitrary ranking system. I would really advise people not to worry about if the school is in the top 5 or the top 10 etc. You really want to find the school that’s the best fit for you. For me, being in Chicago was awesome.
3. Describe your medical school experience. How hard was it to finance your education?
Medical school was tough. Coming from an engineering background, where memorization played absolutely no role in your day-to-day scholarly activities, being brought into medical school where you all of a sudden had to memorize mounds and mounds of information about anatomy and physiology was definitely a huge change. That was the first two-years though. Once you get into clinical services, you realize that the memorization isn’t really what it’s about. It’s about connecting with your patients and problem solving. That’s what I excelled in and really enjoyed. The memorization, not so much.
4. How/why did you choose your medical specialty? Was there any part of your path to medicine that you would have done differently?
One of the really difficult things is choosing a medical specialty. They are so different. When you go into medical school, you know you want to be a doctor, but often you don’t realize that a doctor consist of anyone from a pathologist to a neurosurgeon. Their day-to-day lives are extremely different. Choosing a specialty was definitely difficult. I chose radiology because I wanted to be somebody who is able to use the latest technology to help treat my patients. Luckily, interventional radiology allows me to do just that.
5. What do you like about your job? What do you dislike?
I think there are many things that I like about the job. I like the mental challenge that’s presented with every case. I like the fact that radiologist often make the diagnosis in a given patient. I love being able to utilize incredible technology and see how far we’ve come just the last 20 years and think about where we might go in the future. There are things I don’t like as well, however. When I’m in the reading room, I often miss patient interactions I miss being somebody’s physician and making the final decision on their care. That is why I hope to work more in interventional field as time goes on.
6. Describe a typical day at work. How many hours do you work a week?
A typical day starts at 7 AM with conference for two hours and ends somewhere around 6 PM. Usually, I work approximately every other weekend taking call in the emergency department. Two to four weeks a year I will cover the night shift.
7. How difficult is it to balance work and the rest of your life? Do you have any strategies on how to balance work and life outside of work?
One of the nice things about radiology is that it provides a pretty nice work life balance. Our hours are fairly scheduled, but emergencies to come up particularly in interventional radiology. I don’t mind being called in though for interventional radiology related procedures, because they’re fun and can often make the difference between life and death for patient. Diagnostic radiology on the other hand, has very set hours and makes it relatively easy to balance work and life.
8. Does your job allow you to have the lifestyle that you want?
Yes, more or less. We’ll see what the future brings, but as of now I think it should allow what I need. The good thing is, I don’t need much!
9. What advice would you give to students who are interested in your specialty?
If you’re looking towards interventional radiology, it’s a great field that allows you to dabble into all kinds of different worlds. An interventional radiologist can treat a pregnant patient, a cancer patient, a child, a dialysis patient, and anybody else from any walk of life. That’s one of the really unique things about the specialty. You’re trained to be able to take care of a huge array of problems which makes every day interesting. That said, there definitely battles among physicians for procedures and oftentimes interventional radiologist can lose out because they’re not super specialized in just one procedure.
10. What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a doctor?
When all is said and done, medicine still allows you to make that difference in somebody’s life. There are so many other jobs that pay much more money, carry much more prestige, and would be a much shorter training time. But at the end of the day just think if you want to say I went home and made more money for this bank or sold more of your product or told a company to fire its employees to save on their bottom line or do you want to come home and say I made a difference in this patient’s life.[Read the previous installment of 10 Questions for a Doctor with Dr. Tiffany Kim]