He may not be as famous as Doogie Howser (yet), but Sameer Sood, a millennial medical student, has built an impressive resume in his career so far. Sood is pursuing a D.O. degree at Rowan University, but that’s not all. He’s also already presented a TEDx talk and he launched Synapse, an ideation organization. And somehow he’s also found the time to co-found a free osteopathic clinic in his community and teach in an undergraduate engineering program. We figured that Sood could give us some perspective on the medical millennial hope we’ve been hearing about, so we chatted about his tenacity in convincing stakeholders to recognize unmet needs and his passion for harboring innovation among medical students.
Q: Take us through the building blocks that led to Synapse.
I initially trained as a biomedical engineer, but as an engineer, I only interacted with a small facet of the care system and didn’t experience the fruits of my labor. So I pursued medical school because each day brings about a new mystery and my engineering expertise is my leverage in decoding them.
I soon realized that medical school operates under the premise of “killing the mind to save lives.” Students are often expected to regurgitate passed-down knowledge in traditional fashion, rather than bring innovation into the healthcare space. Thus, I created Synapse – to inform students about healthcare issues and to rally like-minded individuals to solve puzzles through innovation.
Q: What do you hope will happen with Synapse in the future?
Synapse is a think tank I created to cultivate out-of-the-box solutions. My niche is my engineering expertise; similarly, Synapse attracts students from different backgrounds to debate and ignite ideas in healthcare. We are driven “to create a culture of activism among healthcare professions by crowd-sourcing innovation and leadership through student-based initiatives.” One such example is the Osteopathic clinic that we launched, and thus far, three universities – Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Campbell University and Liberty University have launched similar programs.
Q: Can you elaborate on that clinic you launched?
At Synapse, we recognized the lack of awareness surrounding osteopathic medicine. So we founded the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) clinic in Stratford, NJ to help spread awareness of the DO treatment option, while gaining invaluable patient interaction skills – we are students, after all. [FYI: osteopathic manipulative medicine is care provided via use of the musculoskeleton system and health and preventive medicine to diagnose and treat patients.]
Anyway, the free clinic has now served over 250 patients in its first year. The center is open twice per month and attendings treat nearly two-dozen patients per day. As a way to give back to the community, my fellow students and I initially treated community workers, nurses, firefighters and veterans. In fact, it served to be a great marketing for us, as they shared word-of-mouth about our offering within their communities.
Q: How are osteopathic appointments at your clinic different than appointments at other clinics?
True to osteopathic care, the treatments at the clinic last about 45 minutes – a refreshing change from the typical 5-minute doctor visits most experience today. Patients learn about OMM and receive free diagnosis and care from a junior student and upperclassman mentor; an attending physician provides supervision. The session also includes input from athletic trainers and Health Promotion Fitness Management students, who guide the patient through prevention and rehabilitation. It’s truly a 360-degree care model.
This interdisciplinary medical intervention has proven to be a successful investment for Rowan University, as over 70 students have already volunteered and we receive an influx of interest each semester.
Q: On to your other accomplishments – what was your TEDx talk about?
In essence, my TEDx talk was the thesis of my first two years of medical school. Personally, I felt suffocated by it. I came into school, wanting to make real impact in patients’ lives, and felt that the system was a factory just pumping out clinical robots. This traditional education model survives on standardization and is not adapting itself to the rapidly changing nuanced field of healthcare.
Q: How is your generation of doctors going to change that traditional model?
We’re change agents, eager to collaborate and break out of one-dimensional thinking. Schools need to harbor an environment where millennials can truly flourish, because the latter option is bleak for medical students and for the patients they aim to serve. Synapse was my way of breaking out of the echo-chamber—and, I encourage all to find their “Synapse.”
Q: Okay – last question. Then we’ll let you get back to your busy schedule. Why pick this field at such a tumultuous time?
I thoroughly enjoy patient interaction and honestly, I crave the chaotic challenge. While I strive to bring disruption to medical education, I also realize that the system is necessary to finesse your craft. I would ideally like to devote 80% of my time on clinical work and the rest on innovation, and recruit others (as crazy as me) to ignite their ideas into action.
This post is part of our new series of Q&As with “The Activist Generation” – a group young medical students, doctors and residents who hope to change the face of medicine as we know it. Do you know someone who’d be a perfect fit for this series? Email email@example.com and we’ll get them involved, too.
Shreya specializes in health communications and is a copywriter for an advertising agency. She was previously at Bayer Healthcare, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide
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