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MEDICAL SCHOOL SIDE HUSTLES The Road Without a Home Urology Program

By: Nikit Venishetty, BA, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, El Paso; Meesha Trivedi, BS, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, El Paso; Joshua Winograd, BS, MS, Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York | Posted on: 19 Jan 2024

Access to care in El Paso is much lower than that of a city with comparable median income anywhere in the US. As my interest in urology grew, I became acutely aware of the significant challenges facing the local population in accessing specialized surgical care, particularly in the field of urology. My medical school is uniquely positioned to serve as the sole health care provider to a vast and diverse region spanning Mexico, New Mexico, and West Texas. Yet my university has no home urological program. This greatly limits underserved patients’ ability to access care and diminishes the likelihood that local providers will be able to pursue urology.

The absence of a urology program at my school was disheartening because it hindered my pursuit of a field I was genuinely passionate about, limiting the opportunities within my grasp. However, I proactively sought clinical experience in the private sector. I was fortunate to work alongside Dr Hani Annabi, a seasoned urologist with over 50 years of practice in El Paso. Dr Annabi mentored me in various aspects, from clinic visits to procedures like lithotripsies, vasectomies, and prostate biopsies. His guidance deepened my enthusiasm for gaining additional clinical experience in urology, reinforcing my belief that this was the path for me. I developed a strong passion for urology because of its unique combination of surgical and medical skills, the capacity to offer immediate comfort to patients postprocedure, and the inclusive and welcoming community within the urology field.

Consequently, I initiated the process of exploring a career in urology during my third year of medical school by engaging with the medical education department. Subsequently, I personally approached the dean of our medical school to articulate my fervent interest in pursuing urology as my specialization. Collaboratively, we devised a plan that involved my placement at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, which boasted a faculty of esteemed urologists. I took the lead in establishing the inaugural urology-focused rotation at this military hospital. This invaluable experience only served to fortify my motivation that urology was the right path for me, and I was determined to exert maximum effort in my pursuit of becoming a urologist.

Recognizing the importance of immersing myself in urology, I took proactive steps. I reached out to faculty at other institutions, seeking to broaden my exposure to various research domains. This endeavor aimed to enhance my qualifications and readiness for future applications. I had the opportunity to work in a cardiology lab at the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center after my first year of medical school. During my internship, I had the opportunity to interact with renowned urologists like Dr Allen Morey and Dr Ramy Goueli. After conversing with them about my newfound interest in urology, I was able to conduct research with both, leading to publications in the past year. After my summer internship was finished, my access to UTSW was limited due to credentialing expiration. Thus, I started to look for opportunities that did not directly involve electronic medical records access for conducting research. I was able to connect with Dr Jacob Taylor, a fellow at UTSW, and Dr Aditya Bagrodia, a urology oncologist at the University of California, San Diego. With the 2 mentors, I was able to work on a testicular radiomics project, where I not only presented our research at AUA2023, but also published our research in Clinical Genitourinary Cancer. In addition, I was able to reach out to renowned urologists such as Dr Benjamin Breyer and Dr Bilal Chugthai, both of whom have been instrumental and helpful in providing me with experience in the field. Lastly, using my Rice University alumni connections, I was able to get introduced to Dr Sriram Eleswarapu and Dr Reanee Sturm, urologists at the University of California, Los Angeles. The mentorship I have received over the past few years has been invaluable and provides me with the confidence to apply to urology even though I do not have a home program.

By developing mentorship with renowned urologists all over the country, I believe that will allow me to get a comprehensive understanding of the field and to become a better applicant for my residency applications. My experiences in both clinical and urological research have shown me the diversity that the field contains, how there are so many different paths to becoming urologists, and the different subspecializations that you can pursue. This process has continued to develop my interpersonal skills and has shown me the importance of working in a team, which I know will help me immensely in clinical practice.

The journey that I have undertaken to pursue urology has been challenging yet rewarding. I have learned a lot about the importance of developing and fostering connections and how important they are to advancing urological care. Access to care is a critical issue, not only in El Paso, but in many underserved communities. My experiences have highlighted the need for greater accessibility to specialized medical services, particularly in areas with limited resources. I believe that my journey is just one example of how determined individuals can overcome challenges and work toward improving health care access for their communities. It’s my hope that my experiences and the connections I’ve made will contribute to the broader efforts in expanding access to quality urological care, not just in my region, but across the nation. Through determination, collaboration, and the passion to serve, I believe that we can make a meaningful difference in the field of urology and in the lives of the patients we aim to help.