Leaders in Medical Education

Roheet Kakaday, Founder of Lean On

Osmosis Team
Mar 27, 2014

Roheet Kakaday is a medical student, a digital technology blogger, and the founder of a new venture for aspiring medical students.

What is Lean On and where did the idea come from?

Lean On is an admissions consulting agency that helps aspiring undergraduates get into professional schools. We subscribe to the idea of "social admissions" - the notion that your peers one level above are often the best advisers for your professional career. Right now, we are focusing on medical schools and premeds.

Instead of trying to shape you into the prototypical premed applicant - 4.0 GPA, research experience, and hospital volunteering - we pair you with advisers who have very similar backgrounds to you and were successful in their admissions cycle. They provide useful experience, expertise, and advice to premeds from all walks of life.

Our strength comes in the diversity of our advisers - a team that is growing in size every month - because they begin to represent the variety of successful premeds from around America. Plus, we are current medical students, so we understand what medical schools are looking for now, not what they were looking for 10 years ago.

Lean On stemmed in part from my experience in large university-based advising offices, where the advice I received wasn't too applicable to my situation nor very helpful, and in part from the financial reality of medical students, where crushing debt is all too common. By connecting medical students to aspiring premeds, we allow the exchange of tailored advice for the premed for a small fee that directly helps the medical student. Everyone wins.

Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself when you first applied to medical school?
Different applicants have different things they could have done better. In my case, I could have timed my application more realistically when I first applied to medical school. I was late in submitting my primary, then, subsequently, my secondary was late and then my interview notifications. It's an unfortunate snowball effect that really puts any competitive applicant behind the pack.

On your blog, you describe yourself as an interdisciplinarian. How has this colored your experience of medical school?

I have had the fortune of enjoying a varied undergraduate degree. I studied bioengineering - an interdisciplinary major in every sense of the word - and pursued area studies in Political Science and History. In my downtime, I have a deep investment in digital medical technologies that I share on my blog, The Biopsy.

In medical school, these lenses usually help me process what I learn in different ways. Fluid mechanics from my bioengineering courses helped me better comprehend vascular flow, history helped me appreciate the chronological developments of vascular flow models, and political science gave me a sense of the sociopolitical and cultural implications of cardiovascular disease. My interest in digital technologies provided thoughts on how self-tracking technologies could help monitor cardiovascular disease on a daily basis, effectively making each patient a study with an "n of 1".

I like to think that these lenses help me understand the broader implications of what we learn. Many of my classmates do the same thing by incorporating their prior experiences to help understand the material and, in many cases, teach me and my classmates.

You write a lot about technological tools. What kinds of technologies improve medical education? What kinds don't?

Medical education has much to accomplish in little time. Medical students learn in two years what most students would take four years to fully understand. Given that, any technologies that reduce the cognitive load for medical students is an improvement. A platform that seamlessly integrates varied educational modalities, tracks my progress, and is accessible by any form factor - desktop, smartphone, tablet - is an ideal candidate.

I like to think of that platform as a "one-stop shop" for medical education. Of course, that kind of platform would be a massive undertaking, given all the moving parts surrounding medical education, but if executed successfully, would be a testament to that school's investment in its medical students.

If you took over a medical school tomorrow, what three changes would you make?

1) Start later in the morning; 8 AM is an unnatural hour to be learning.
2) Use multiple educational modalities - large lecture, small group discussion, digital whiteboards, flashcards, flipped classroom models, online videos, Khan Academy-style tutorials, lectures from patients - with frequent quizzes to ensure understanding. That way individual students can tailor their education to their preferred learning style and are prompted to actively recall information they are learning instead of passively absorbing it.

3) Provide medical students with a "tinkering" space - an environment where their creativity can flourish with no consequences. In medicine, we typically live in a high stakes world - literally, life or death - and that often forces us to adhere to protocol and practice. While those measures are certainly proven and effective, the mindset of a permission-based culture pervades in spaces where it sometimes shouldn't. I think creativity is an invaluable asset for physicians that should be exercised frequently in this age of medical innovation. Give it a healthy space to grow and just watch the results.

Given your many interests, how would you like your career to unfold after you graduate?

It is ideal not to pigeonhole your career too early by committing without exploring. One of the more important things you can do in life is create a vision for yourself that builds on your core values, not your career goals. Goals frequently change, values seldom do.

Given that, I can foresee a classic clinical career that still enables me the opportunity to generate value for patients and providers in nontraditional ways - be they technology or otherwise - and, perhaps, leading other physicians to do the same.