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Never Give Up on Your Dream

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: GSBS Alumni | Cell Systems and Anatomy | March 09, 2016

Jason Chandrapal always knew that a career in medicine was for him.

“I was that kid who would dress up as in scrubs on Halloween and when people would jokingly ask me what I was and I would say that I wasn’t just a doctor but a surgeon.”

He is currently in Salt Lake City for a research fellowship but will soon be starting a residency position in Urology at Duke University Medical Center this summer.

Chandrapal’s path has not been an easy one. After studying neurobiology at UT Austin, he applied medical school and after five interviews unfortunately did not get in.

“All my friends had a plan for life after college and I didn’t. I reevaluated if medicine was really what I wanted and I honestly couldn’t see myself being anything else,” he said.

He decided to work as an emergency medical technician (EMT) to gain extra clinical experience to improve his application and reapplied the following year. Once again, he did not get accepted.

He traveled abroad in Asia for four months, volunteering at the Schieffelin Institute of Health – Research & Leprosy Centre in Karigiri, India. After returning back to the U.S., he then decided to look at master’s program to further develop his skills before reapplying to medical school.

“I always enjoyed being hands on, which is what led me to apply to the Cellular and Structural Biology Anatomical Sciences track. It was a great decision because I went from reading about anatomy in a textbook to seeing the material in real life.”

During his time at UT Health Science Center, Chandrapal enjoyed the anatomy course so much that he ended up tutoring medical, dental, and graduate students.

“Teaching is a two-way street. When you teach someone, you in turn really absorb the material better,” he said.

He also worked in Dr. Jim Lechleiter’s lab on stroke research.

“I felt very comfortable with him. He really cared about people in his lab. It was especially great for me because I didn’t have any experience in laboratory sciences before.”

Before finishing his master’s degree, Chandrapal applied to medical school for the third time and got was accepted to Texas Tech University Health Science Center.

“I did really well in medical school because I picked up good study habits in my master’s program at UTHSCSA. I didn’t have to alter my study habits. I basically did the same thing as I did in graduate school and thrived.”

After medical school, he applied for a residency in urology.

“Once again, I didn’t end up matching. I was frustrated and disappointed but my previous experiences had helped me overcome the feeling of failure and figure out what to do next. There’s a stigma especially back in the day that there must be something wrong with you if you don’t match but the reality is that with more applicants applying to residency, there just aren’t enough spots. The year I applied to urology, only 66 percent of applicants matched.”

This led him to apply for a Reconstructive Urology and Men’s Health research fellowship at the Utah School of Medicine.

“Research has really led me to figure out what I want to specialize in. I also have a deeper understanding of how medical research facilitates patient care.”

In Utah, he’s currently enjoying skiing, hiking, volleyball, and tennis.

“I’ve lived in Texas since 1993 and it’s the first time I have lived in another state.”

After all the hurdles, Chandrapal is now ready to start his residency position in urology at Duke University. He is also thinking about writing a book to help medical students who don’t match.

“I’ve gone through so much and now I finally get to do what I want to do, it’s been a crazy journey.” 

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