Kiran and Natalia Sidhu are twins attending the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. Kiran is a second-year student and Natalia a first-year.
What do you like most about your medical school experience so far?
KIRAN: The best thing about medical school is learning about subjects that are pertinent to our careers. In college, you’re required to take a lot of pre-requisites, some of which are not interesting, while here in medical school, everything is relevant. I also really love interacting with patients during our monthly community clinic.
NATALIA: I really enjoyed the weeks we spent in Immersion. After having been away from the area for six years for school, it allowed me to reacquaint myself with the culture and people of El Paso and the surrounding colonias. It also provided a good opportunity for me to get to know my classmates before we started our medical science classes.
Have you participated in any service learning opportunities and how has service learning enhanced your professionalism as a future physician?
KIRAN: During the school year, I participated in various service projects, but my favorite activity was the global health trip I went on to Nicaragua. I loved talking to patients, as they were especially grateful to have us there. I also really enjoyed visiting children in a school for those with special needs. The trip was incredibly rewarding and solidified my goal to serve people in underdeveloped countries.
NATALIA: Before we started medical school, both of us worked for several months at the Baptist Clinic. There, I was able to learn how to speak to and approach Hispanic patients. I also became familiar with the illnesses that are highly prevalent here on the border such as diabetes and hypertension. I improved my cultural competency, which will allow me to be a better physician, especially if I choose to practice here.
How have you grown as a student by shadowing your preceptors?
KIRAN: My preceptors have been incredibly knowledgeable and encouraging. By shadowing, I’ve been able to put into practice the principles that I’m learning. Shadowing has also helped me realize the necessity to adopt SCI principles, such as taking a patient’s cultural ideals into account, when providing care.
NATALIA: I have yet to start shadowing, but I’m looking forward it!
What advice would you give to incoming medical students?
KIRAN: Don’t focus so much on knowing everything and getting it all correct. While competence is evidently necessary as a medical student and physician, it’s important to balance the science of medicine and the art of service and caring for patients.
NATALIA: Be confident in your abilities. While your classmates come from different backgrounds and have varying levels of experience, you got into medical school for a reason.
Where is your hometown?
BOTH: El Paso!
Which medical specialties interest you the most so far?
KIRAN: So far, I really like Family Medicine in that it would allow me to treat people of all ages and thus follow up with all members of a family. I would particularly like to focus on global health.
NATALIA: As of right now, I think I will specialize in pediatrics, possibly pediatric genetics. After shadowing geneticists and genetic counselors, I have gained a greater admiration for the field.
What have you found most challenging as a student?
KIRAN: Time management can be challenging. Falling behind in studying can become very detrimental, so it’s important to stick to a good study schedule.
NATALIA: I agree. Having just started my first year, the most challenging thing has been making a study schedule that works for me and sticking to it.
How is medical school different than you imagined?
KIRAN: Medical school is definitely not as scary as I’d imagined. There are of course moments when you can feel a bit intimidated, but the faculty is so friendly and helpful; it’s easy to approach them when you have a question about something.
NATALIA: Although medical school is rigorous, the atmosphere is much more relaxed, and my classmates and professors are all much friendlier and more approachable than I imagined. Again, what my twin said!
What were you doing before you entered medical school?
KIRAN: After graduating from UBC in Vancouver, I came back to El Paso and worked as a biology tutor at EPCC for about a year before starting medical school.
NATALIA: Before entering medical school, I was living in New Orleans. Aside from eating beignets, I was getting my Master’s in Human Genetics at Tulane.
The twins both agree their brother Sammy helped influence their desire to pursue a life of medicine.
“Although my brother, Sammy, doesn’t know it, he has played a pivotal role in my desire to become a physician. Sammy has severe cerebral palsy, and from an early age, I realized my potential to help those in need,” said Natalia. She said it was routine to help administer his medications, help her parents bathe and feed him, and brace him as he pulled himself up into his wheelchair. “I didn’t notice his difference until I was older. Through years of helping care for my brother, I’ve learned to be patient and calm under pressure, and understanding of differences and hardships, all of which will allow me to form trusting relationships with my patients. Above all, I believe Sammy has helped me gain a unique bedside manner, and one that all physicians should strive to have.
“Clinical involvement has solidified that medicine is the field I want to devote my life to, but through my family circumstances, I feel obligated to help those who are less advantaged. A doctor’s fundamental role is to not only care for patients, but to care about patients, and I believe that by having Sammy in my life, I am capable of just that,” said Natalia.
“Without Sammy, I’m unsure if my resolve in going down such a path would be as strong,” said Kiran. “I’ve seen how integral medicine is for those struggling with disabilities and how important it is to have a strong rapport with these people and their families. A physician who remains tolerant and attentive, who truly has compassion rather than feigns it, is one who my family doesn’t come across often. It is this type of physician, however, who leaves a lasting impression and whose diagnoses and suggestions are taken to heart. Seeing the positive impact the handful of these doctors has had on my brother especially pushes me towards achieving such a thing in my own practice in the future,” she said.
Kiran added that she not only hopes to treat those with disabilities medically, but hopes to influence others to simply have more respect and consideration for those with intellectual disabilities or any special needs. “A friend who is also a medical student here has a sister with Down syndrome. Together, we gave a lecture emphasizing the importance of recognizing that as professionals, our words will hold more weight; thus I hope that classmates and others will take this message to heart not only in their medical practice but in their daily lives when encountering individuals with special needs,” said Kiran.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
BOTH: While we haven’t been entirely successful thus far, we hope not to confuse too many fellow students, faculty, and staff during our time at PLFSOM.
Article excerpts courtesy of the SCI Newsletter.
Kiran Sidhu’s community clinic preceptor for both her MS 1 year and her current MS 2 year has been German Rigesti, M.D. Natalia Sidhu’s community clinic preceptor is Arturo Casillas, M.D.