Nevedha Rajan is on the accelerated path to medical school, thanks to NJIT
Nevedha Rajan left her home in Oregon to come to NJIT.
It wasn’t easy leaving her family and traveling 3,000 miles for college. But she wanted to enroll in a pre-med program without saddling her parents with enormous bills.
So during her senior year in high school, she applied to the accelerated BS/MD program run by the Albert Dorman Honors College. The intensely competitive program accepts students with high SATs (usually over 1,400 in reading and math), high grade-point averages and lots of leadership experience. Nevedha was accepted into the program and also awarded the Honors Endowed Scholarship that for pays for tuition, fees, room, meals and books.
“I’m a first-generation student; my parents are from India and I cannot stress how relieved my family and I were when NJIT offered me this tremendous opportunity.”
In this interview, Nevedha talks about her myriad achievements at NJIT and how she intends to use medicine to help people.
Why motivates you to study medicine?
I have always wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but one event encapsulated my desire and ambition to follow the dream. The summer before starting college, I spent two months volunteering at the Jai Clinic in India, under the guidance of Dr. Jessey Chandran. What initially started off as a stint to appease my parents turned into a revelation.
Well, not having adequate funds to pay hospital bills was, and still is, a common problem that many Indians face. This is the same in other developing or underdeveloped nations. As a doctor, one must understand each and every condition of the patient: not just physical, but also emotional, economical and familial. I wish to be the kind of doctor who places the interests of the patient before that of her own, resulting in my full devotion to this field.
Talk more about the patient/doctor relationship.
When a doctor treats a patient, he or she and their family place a form of sacred trust in the practitioner. I was witness to the profound emotional effects invoked in the patients and their families just by the act of healing their ailments. As a doctor, this sort of bond established with the patient would motivate me to do everything within my will to cure him or her. This is a level of dedication and commitment I will persevere to have.
Did NJIT prepare you well for medical school?
My time spent at the NJIT did nothing but affirm my drive in the discipline. Classes like Mammalian Physiology, Neuropathophysiology, Cell Biology of Disease, and Endocrinology gave me insight into medicine and the physician's mind. I expected undergraduate biology courses to be sessions in which instructors drill as much knowledge as possible into your mind. These classes completely changed my view. They all had a strong focus on not just biological content, but on actual clinical diagnoses and treatments.
So the classes at NJIT were relevant and inspiring?
Never before was I encouraged to inquire about anything outside the scope of the curriculum, for it was 'a waste of other students' time'. Yet in these two classes, I was never admonished for being inquisitive. In endocrinology, we would be given a series of symptoms and initial test values, with the task of having to determine which ones were relevant to the potential illness. This would initially be done without any assistance from the professor, thus forcing us to consider a plethora of pathologies. Usually only one or two would comprise the correct diagnosis, but the amount of reasoning that went into eliminating all other medical possibilities was much more efficient in teaching me than simply taking notes during a lecture. I got my first real doctoral experience in these classes; and I must admit I wasn't disappointed.
Can you explain the accelerated medical program?
The accelerated medical program at NJIT, run by the Honors College, is comprised of a seven year program: three years undergrad at NJIT and four years at the New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) in Newark. In my senior year of high school I applied early to NJIT and the accelerated program. NJIT then forwarded my application to NJMS because I passed their qualifications. I then had to go in for a personal interview at the medical school.
How did it help you to be in the accelerated program?
Though the application process was succinct, NJIT allowed me to explore my options by providing a safety net for me. By having the promise of medical school from my first year here, I was free to explore around in terms of extracurricular and do certain activities because I wanted to do them, not because I had to do them to fill my resume. Don't get me wrong, I still had to maintain a certain GPA and meet honors requirements. But the stress factor that every pre-med student suffers from no longer existed for me.
Are you a first-generation student?
I am first generation, my family moved to America in 1997 from Tamilnadu, India. That is South India. I never wanted to be a financial burden on my parents. I came to NJIT from Portland, Oregon, in part because I received a full academic scholarship and a housing scholarship plus a stipend for books. I never intended to stay in Oregon for my post-secondary education, but was afraid that I had no other option because of the cost of out-of-state tuition and living. Again, I cannot emphasis enough how relieved my family and I were when NJIT offered me this tremendous opportunity.
Did you do research at NJIT?
I was part of the Interdisciplinary Design Team that developed a system to convert organic waste material into sustainable energy that could be used commercially. I worked with three other team members and Drs. Atam Dhawan and Taha Marhaba to create both a technical and business plan for this system and gained valuable experience along the way. Our team won business pitch awards and put me well along the way of understanding the need for business acumen not only research knowledge.
And didn’t you also do research at Rutgers?
My major, biology, is federated with Rutgers, and I had the chance to do research at RU with Dr. Wilma Friedman. I assisted her on research on post-traumatic brain injury over the last year and was lucky enough to work on my own project under her.
Are you happy you came to NJIT?
Leaving my family three thousand miles away and coming here has been no walk in the park. However, from day one at this school, I have felt welcome and mentally stimulated by both the staff and the students. I still remember my first freshman ice cream social when I started up a conversation with a distinguished, but approachable individual, only to find out that he was Dean Fadi Deek. As I stammered through the rest of that meeting, I was put at ease by his tone and amiability. As that conversation shows, I started NJIT with the anxiety that every student feels. Over the past three years though, this school helped me defeat those doubts and come out on the other side with more clarity than before. I can honestly say that I will look back on my time here fondly and am proud to say that I feel enriched by all of my interactions here, both inside and outside of the classroom.
(By Robert Florida)