“Don't Forget About Learning About the World and the Amazing People Living In It!"
When asked for his one piece of advice for incoming MCB students, Dr. Alok Patel (MCB 2007, UA College of Medicine 2012) didn’t hesitate – he wants students to continue to pursue their passions, hobbies and interests while they pursue their degree. Patel considers his strongest asset today is being able to be human, earn trust and communicate with people. “You do have to have the checkboxes for sure, BUT you have to be a person too. No matter what your path is after you achieve your undergraduate degree, you will narrow your focus on that pursuit.” Patel’s advice to students was to use the time during your undergraduate studies to have broad experiences and take classes outside your core science degree so you not only have your science foundation, but you also have experiences and skills in interacting with people and communicating. He recommends taking public speaking classes, journalism, business, and finance and economics classes to round out your knowledge. He also recommends volunteering and pursuing passions that light you up to keep balanced. While studying for his MCB degree Patel continued his martial arts training, which he thought helped maintain balance in his student life.
Patel received his undergraduate degree in MCB and then attended medical school at the UA. He is currently a pediatrician, journalist, and entrepreneur with a passion for communicating health issues in an interesting, informative, consumable and often humorous way. “I like the ‘aha’ moment when I demystify medicine for my patients, families and the public. I'm a guide for them and use techniques to get them to arrive at a conclusion so they can make the best choices for their health for them and their family.” He sees the digital world we live in as a huge advantage to medical professionals, to get factual information available to the public and to dispel health myths and he aims to take his storytelling and humorous delivery methods in the most public way possible.
As he reflected on his undergraduate experience, two experiences standout for him that contributed to his success in medical school and in his current career. The first is the mentorship he sought out and received. There were several people that guided him on how to use his talent. Former MCB Advisor Roxie Cats was a helpful mentor. “She was a rock as I evolved as a freshmen and was considering forensic science or medical school after I earned my BS. She encouraged me to explore and assured me that I didn't have to figure it all out right now.” He also received helpful guidance and mentorship from Dr. Carol Dieckmann, MCB Professor. “She helped me understand the application of science. She taught me how science applied in the real world.” Another mentor and guide, Dr. Thomas Lindel taught a bioethics course that Patel took which “completely changed the way I viewed difficult decisions. I use what I learned in that class daily” Patel noted. When he was a junior, Patel asked Lindel for a letter of recommendation which is when Patel learned about the harsher side of medicine. “He talked to me about how doctors have to be empathetic, they have to listen, and they have to deliver bad news. He told me to go learn about these aspects of medicine and then he’d talk to me about a letter.” Patel followed that advice and volunteered for seven years at Tu Nidito which gave him real experience in communicating with empathy, earning trust and how important tone is when communicating.
The second area of that stands out as contributing to his success is the coursework. “The MCB coursework was the foundation for me as I chose medical school.” Patel learned to understand core science, scientific method and how to read research papers. He shared that the MCB major is rigorous and teaches you how to work efficiently and how to follow protocol. These are all building blocks to being an excellent problem solver, communicator and thinker, no matter what profession you choose. He even tapped into this skills as a medical producer for CNN, as he contributed to the recent season of "Something's Killing Me."
As he merges his talents and passions in his work as both a physician and create of media content, Patel reflects back on his time as an undergraduate and recognizes how the combination of core science classes, research, non-science classes, volunteer experiences, mentors, and pursuing interests outside science all contributed to making him well versed in his varied career. We look forward to Patel continuing to share his passion for medicine, digital journalism, and dispelling medical myths in his compassionate, humorous and often unconventional ways!
To keep up with what Patel is doing, follow him on twitter @AlokPatelMD.