2021 Recipients of the 4th-Year Medical Student Scholarship

October 6, 2021 by   |   Leave a Comment

Three years ago, the UVA Department of Radiology and Medical Imaging announced the creation of a new 4th-year Medical Student Scholarship. In summer 2019, we welcomed the first two scholarship recipients, Belinda Asare and Akwasi Opoku, to UVA for four-week externships. After being on hold last summer due to COVID-19, we were delighted to welcome Jessica Shi and Fernando Rivera-Meléndez to UVA Radiology this year.

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 Jessica and Fernando about their experiences during their externship, how they came to medicine, and their plans for the future.

UVA Radiology 4th year medical student scholarship recipient Jessica ShiJESSICA SHI

  • 4th-year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Born in Reno, Nevada; grew up in Orange County, California

How did you hear about this scholarship program?

I received an email regarding the scholarship after I submitted my away applications. I went on the website and learned more about the opportunity as well as the experiences of past recipients. I was really surprised that UVA was offering a scholarship especially geared towards historically underrepresented individuals in radiology. That to me really spoke volumes about UVA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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

I spent the majority of my childhood summers in China with my grandparents. My grandma suffers from a multitude of health issues. China has a stratified healthcare system; seeing her navigate a healthcare system rigged with inequalities inspired me to pursue a career in medicine.

I always found radiology interesting, as you learn such critical information from imaging. As an third year, I noticed I gravitated towards procedure-heavy specialties. I was introduced to IR by my mentor, Dr. Mikhail Higgins. Shadowing and working with him, I realized that IR was procedure-heavy, with the advantage of real-time image guidance. Dr. Higgins completed his fellowship at UVA and recommended I apply here for an IR away. I applied and was offered an opportunity to train at UVA for a month.

Tell us about your experience at UVA.

I had an amazing time at UVA! The majority of my weeks were spent with IR, with certain days dedicated to vascular imaging, IR clinic, body procedures and vein clinic. My day usually started at 6:15 am. The other medical students and I divvied up the IR rooms the day before. UVA has 7 IR procedure rooms in total and each room is assigned to a resident/fellow and attending. I started the day by reading up on all my patients and their procedures, looking up labs and preparing to present for morning rounds. At 7:00am, we have morning lectures on a variety of topics. From 7:45 to 8:00am, the fellow/resident and I would see our first patient. At 8:00am, we run through the rooms as a team with the PAs and radiology techs. From there, we disperse to our rooms and get started on procedures. Most days, we finish around 5:30-6:30pm.

For the first 10 weeks of the academic year, everyone participates in PM rounds. We round on all our patients, making sure to communicate any important FYIs or follow-up to-dos to the on-call fellow. During bedside teaching, the attendings and fellows share clinical pearls.

Although each day is jam-packed with activities, the days go by fast and there is so much to learn that you feel a strong sense of accomplishment after each day. The medical students are heavily integrated into patient care and you truly are treated as a valued part of the team.

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

The learning! UVA epitomizes the definition of teaching hospital. Every single person I worked with took time to teach me, from radiology techs to fellows and attendings. At UVA, I got to take ownership of my patients. I presented them in the morning at morning rounds. The fellows were amazing and let me lead the pre-procedural evaluations. With the guidance of the radiology techs, I learned how to set up a sterile table and tray and how to sterile prep a patient. The medical students are fully responsible for the back table, so I was constantly able to practice coiling wire, and prepping catheters and devices. I also got to deploy stents and other devices!

Additionally, we had M1 medical students come in for shadowing, so it was a real treat teaching them the basics of IR, while discussing procedures and disease pathology with them. UVA cares for a vulnerable patient population hailing from both Virginia and West Virginia, which translates to an unparalleled breadth of medical conditions and procedures. I’ve gotten to participate in cases I have only read about.

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

To any medical students interested in applying to the UVA away, I would say go for it! Not only will you gain knowledge and experience, but you will also gain lifelong mentors and friends. The people at UVA are some of the kindest and friendliest people I have ever met. They really went above and beyond to make my experience a meaningful one. Although I have only participated in IR at two institutions, I am confident in saying UVA offers one of the most unique learning opportunities available for medical students.

UVA Radiology 4th year medical student scholarship recipient Fernando Rivera-MeléndezFERNANDO RIVERA-MELÉNDEZ

  • 4th-year medical student at Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine, Bayamón, Puerto Rico
  • Born and raised in Cataño, Puerto Rico

How did you hear about this scholarship program?

Ironically, it was all thanks to COVID-19. Last year was the first year in history that the whole residency application process was virtual. Students were no longer able to visit the residency programs and see if they would be a good fit for each program. The programs’ solution for this issue was to create “recruitment” videos. I came upon both UVA Radiology videos and was left in awe by Dr. Knight and Dr. Hanley’s messages. Shortly after, I applied to the away rotation and, while doing my research, saw the scholarship opportunity on the department website.

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

I have been involved in community service and teaching since I was a child. Medicine allows me to continue this devotion to service and teaching, making it the field that fits my character the most.

My interest in radiology was sparked later. As an MS3 doing my core rotations, I was able to see the importance of radiology firsthand. There are several reasons why I decided on radiology as my career path, but the main reason is that radiology integrates with every other field by providing the tools necessary to efficiently diagnose and treat patients. As such, it is a field that can impact the life of twice the number of patients than any other in a day. That’s why I fell in love with radiology – it’s where I can have the most impact on patient care.

Tell us about your experience at UVA.

I came with high expectations and they were surpassed! From the moment that you enter the hospital until you leave, you feel a warm, home-like atmosphere. I never felt less than anyone else. The attendings treated me as if I was on their level of expertise and training. They answered every question, no matter how simple it was, and even provided mentoring and help with my ERAS application. But the best part of it all was the residents. They made me feel at home and would chat and joke around with me, something that everyone should look for in a work environment! I also had a goal of doing one academic activity with the faculty and was able to do two RSNA Case Collections. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and if I had the option, I would do it all over again.

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

Being able to see firsthand what a top-notch institution and department looks like. There is a friendly atmosphere wherever you go at UVA. The hospital staff, coffee shop employees and the patients all greet you with a smile (denoted by eye squinting in these COVID times) and a conversation. The department truly engages you in the readings and activities, even sending presentations they made to further help you understand and learn more in depth, if you desire. This experience further fortified my decision to pursue a career in radiology and helped me see what I should look for in a residency program.

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

Don’t hesitate – go for it! This program, year after year, has trained highly efficient and outstanding radiologists. This is exemplified by the fact that residents barely change anything in their reports when they do their staff-outs, demonstrating how well-trained and advanced they are.

You’ll feel like home and you’ll also be in Charlottesville! In just one month I saw the beauty of Charlottesville: the culinary diversity, the hikes, the vineyards, breweries, and the friendly atmosphere all around this town. UVA is a gem.



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