First Recipients of the 4th-year Medical Students Scholarship

September 5, 2019 by   |   Leave a Comment

Last August, the UVA Department of Radiology and Medical Imaging announced the creation of a new 4th-year Medical Student Scholarship. This summer, the department was delighted to welcome the first two scholarship recipients, Belinda Asare and Akwasi Opoku, to UVA for four-week externships.

The 4th-year Medical Student Scholarship is awarded to up to two 4th-year medical students a year who are either first generation medical school attendees or who have overcome substantial educational or economic obstacles to pursue their medical education, and helps offset the costs associated with a four-week externship here at UVA.

We spoke with Belinda and Akwasi about their experiences during their externship, how they came to medicine, and their plans for the future.


  • 4th-year medical student at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan
  • Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario

How did you hear about this scholarship program?

A friend of mine was awarded a similar scholarship by the UVA Department of Surgery, and told me about the great experience he had. As I was preparing for my 4th year and deciding which specialty to pursue, I checked the UVA website to see if a similar opportunity was available in the Department of Radiology and it was!

How did you decide on a career in medicine, and, more specifically, radiology?

Medicine and radiology appeal to my interest in engaging in lifelong learning for the benefit of the people in our communities. I find radiology interesting because it’s the constantly advancing interface between medicine and technology that has allowed us to diagnose and treat a broad range of conditions. This means radiologists get to be involved in the care of patients from all walks of life, and collaborate with physicians from nearly every specialty in managing a variety of pathologies.

Tell us about your experience at UVA.

I arrived in Charlottesville on June 29 and began my four-week rotation on July 1. My typical weekly schedule involved three days of angio/interventional radiology, one day of clinic (IR, vein, or fibroid), and one day of diagnostic radiology (body procedures, vascular imaging, or fluoroscopy). It was a very flexible schedule that allowed me to see interventional radiology beyond the angio suite, which expanded my understanding of IR. During these rotations, I worked with the IR attendings, fellows, residents, techs, and nurses, as well as DR attendings and residents.

What was the most rewarding part of your time here at UVA?

It was a pleasure to be welcomed in an environment where teaching was a priority, and I had the freedom to explore as much as I could within radiology. Everyone’s genuine kindness and investment in my education not only grew my interest in radiology, but also helped me know what to look for in a residency program for the future.

What would you tell medical students interested in applying to this program?

I would say that, if they have even the slightest interest in radiology, I would advise students to spend one month rotating in it to get a better feel for it. I’m biased because I love radiology, but I think that if they take advantage of this program, they’ll learn how great a career option it is in a very supportive and welcoming environment, which can have a profound effect!


  • 4th-year medical student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in Lubbock, Texas
  • Born in Kumasi, Ghana; moved to Amarillo, Texas when he was 11

How did you become interested in medicine and radiology?

Growing up in Ghana, I was exposed at an early age to some of the health challenges that people face, particularly with access to care. By the age of 10, I had a strong inclination that I would be a physician and serve those in need. Surprisingly, some of the factors that impede access to healthcare in Ghana also exist in the United States.

I didn’t really get exposed to radiology until my second year of medical school, when a radiologist at our hospital allowed me to shadow him for a couple of days, and a couple of days turned into weeks, and then years. It’s such a growing field, and I love that it provides services to patients from nearly all departments and specialties.

How did you hear about this scholarship program?

I attended the 2019 SNMA (Student National Medical Association) conference in Philadelphia, and UVA had a booth there. I had the opportunity to talk to a UVA ER resident, who gave me a flyer about this program and the scholarship. In fact, I had already applied to be an away rotation student here, but he drew my attention to the scholarship.

What was your time at UVA like?

I spent a couple of days in each sub-specialty in diagnostic radiology (breast, body, musculoskeletal, and pediatrics). Typically, we would have morning conference from 7:15-8:00am, where one of the faculty would give a lecture. From 8:30am-noon, I was in the reading rooms reading film, CTs, or MRIs, or doing procedures with faculty and residents. From noon-1pm we would have an afternoon conference, usually case presentations or lectures on quality or safety. And then from 1:00-4:30pm, it was back to the reading rooms or procedures.

On some rotations, a resident would take me through search patterns and talk me through what they look for in scans and some of the things that are most commonly missed. There were other rotations where they basically threw me in the fire and said “Here’s an image and a blank Word document; let’s see what you come up with.” That was exciting, especially when you come up with things that they also come up with. It builds your confidence.

What was most rewarding about your experience at UVA?

Getting exposure to what life as a resident in an academic setting is like and being able to work alongside attendings. Also, witnessing the day-to-day impact that radiology has in the care of patients. There were many instances when, for example, an ED physician would walk in to have a face-to-face interaction with a radiologist regarding a scan on a patient who was  in critical condition, or when there were findings that necessitated immediate attention. Just to see those discussions take place in real time was very valuable.

What would you tell medical students interested in applying to this program?

I would encourage them to. The exposure you gain is really important. The more exposure you have, the more knowledge you gain; the more knowledge you gain, the more you can form a decision  about whether to pursue a career in radiology. So I would definitely encourage students to consider this program. It’s a valuable experience. The people are so friendly here, and the residents and faculty members are so willing to teach and help medical students. I’m so grateful for the scholarship – it does make a huge difference, especially with interview season around the corner, which gets really, really expensive.



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