Anjali is Headed to Med School after 3 Years

Anjali Das is headed to med school after just three years at NJIT.

In high school, Anjali Das already had the heart of a humanitarian. She was co-president of a student group that focused on AIDS prevention. She supported HIV-infected orphans, writing letters to them and helping to ship them 40,000 books. The group also promoted sustainable growth in third-world countries.

When she was a sophomore in high school, she did research at the Oregon Medical School, where she helped to investigate how gender affects aging and susceptibility to disease. 

Along with having a humanitarian’s heart, she has the mind of an intellectual and a steel trap for a memory: She graduated from high school with a 4.311 GPA (she earned extra credit for AP classes) and a 1,520 on the SATs (in reading and math). In her senior year, she applied to the accelerated BS/MD program run by the Albert Dorman Honors College. She was accepted with a full scholarship that paid for all her expenses.

Now, after just three years at NJIT, she’s headed to the New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ, where in the fall she’ll start her medical studies. The program accepts only top students, with high SATS (usually over1,400 in verbal and math), high grade-point averages and leadership and community service experience.  

In this interview, Anjali talks about her interest in biology, research and medicine and how the accelerated medical program at NJIT helped her get a jumpstart on her medical education

What motivates you to go to medical school?

My decision to become a physician is perhaps more convoluted one compared to other aspiring medical students. Oddly enough the search began and ended in medicine. The summer after my freshman year in high school, I began volunteering in a nursing home near my house, transporting patients and giving them company in their scheduled activities or as they awaited their doctors. The human interaction aspect of the experience I loved, but as I interacted with people whose conditions were deteriorating, even with treatment, I grew disillusioned with medicine. I then completely switched my professional interests, dabbling in architecture and humanitarian work. I even did material science research on new generation dye-sensitized solar cells, thinking I might like to explore that professional path.

So how did you get back into pre-med?

I liked it, but I couldn’t really see myself pursuing material science research as a career, so I became involved in biology. Under the mentorship of researchers at both Oregon Health Sciences University and the Oregon National Primate Center, I started working on various important medical questions, such as how does gender influence aging and susceptibility to disease as well as what genetic mechanisms can be manipulated to improve stroke treatment and recovery. Around the time I also went to India and was able to help out with basic medical procedures in underserved communities. The amount of difference I was able to make there, combined with my growing interest and progress in health research, helped me to decide on becoming a physician as a career. Ideally I would like to combine my practice with research to advance the study of medicine and/or health policy to improve access to healthcare within the United States as well as internationally.

What are the benefits of being in the accelerated medical program?

I am part of the 7-year BS/MD accelerated medical to program with New Jersey Medical School. This means that I speed up my education, spending only three years at NJIT instead of the usual four, and then spend four years at the medical school. My acceptance to the medical school was confirmed at the end of my senior year of high school, so I did not have to undergo the pressures that other premeds face in college, such as getting a high MCAT score in order to secure medical school admission. This made my undergraduate career relaxing and I was able to get a broader education because I did not have to take classes that would prepare me for the MCAT exam or keep my GPA high.

Did you do research at NJIT?

I was in the original cohort for an Interdisciplinary Design Team. I was part of the non-invasive glucose monitor group (Geneo). However, I do research investigating the role of the EPHX2 gene on stroke recovery at the Oregon Health Sciences University every summer when I return to Portland, Oregon, my home. This topic was also my focus of my biology capstone project this year at NJIT.

Did NJIT prepare for medical school?

NJIT gave me a well-rounded education. Most of the knowledge you need to succeed in medical school you will learn in medical school classes themselves, so I took my undergraduate experience as an opportunity to explore other interests. I wanted to maintain my foundation in the life sciences, so I pursued a B.S. degree in biology, but I added applied mathematics and business minors and even dabbled in information systems courses to gain knowledge in other areas that piqued my curiosity.

What have been the highlights of your three years at NJIT?

NJIT offered me many opportunities. Biology, for instance, is a joint department with Rutgers so I took classes at Rutgers and NJIT. I also liked being close to NYC; NJIT is short train ride away from Manhattan.  I met great students that have challenged me academically and probably I will remain friends with for the rest of my life. The Albert Dorman Honors College Honors College was a great resource and provided me with many opportunities and generous scholarships

Are you happy you came to NJIT?

I am extremely happy I came to NJIT. It accelerated my path to my career, while providing me an opportunity to explore other interests.

(By Robert Florida)