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19:14 PM

GSU Connections: Richa Patel

One of GSU's First Freshmen Now a First-Year Medical Student

Richa Patel

Richa Patel is methodical. She identifies her goals, then carefully researches and plans the most effective ways to achieve them. In 2015, that practice led Patel (’20) to enroll in Governors State University’s second-ever freshman class.

Now, armed with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree from GSU, the 22-year-old is a first-year medical student. She is enrolled at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

 Determined to be a doctor

By her early teens, Patel knew she wanted to study medicine. She immigrated to the United States from India with her family when she was 11, with only a basic understanding of English.

Her family moved several times before settling in Chicago Heights after her father died. Patel completed her junior and senior years at Bloom High School. When it was time to decide on a college, GSU made sense.

“Of course, the commute was one reason, so I could go to school and be near home,” Patel said. “It was also affordable. Because I knew I was going into medical school, I needed prerequisite classes to take the MCAT, and Governors State made that possible.”

When she realized GSU had a Pre-Professional Pathway for pre-med, Patel was determined to make her own way.

She enrolled in prerequisite courses she needed for medical school and knocked them out. Along the way, she enjoyed classes with highly competent professors and supportive staff.

“I had amazing people I could talk to,” Patel said. “If I needed help with something, I knew I had access to help from professors with an open-door policy.”

Self-motivated and determined, Patel maximized her time at GSU. After deciding biology wasn’t the right major, she pivoted to chemistry.

“General biology and chemistry were great foundational courses, and I had amazing instructors for them,” she said. “They did a great job of setting the foundation of everything that came after.”

Patel also enjoyed math courses and recalled her applied calculus class with J. Christopher Tweddle as an especially satisfying educational experience.

“I like courses that are really structured, and the professor knows that the subject is complex and boils it down to examples relevant to students,” Patel said. “That’s what Dr. Tweddle did; he made it as approachable as he could.”

Working at school and in the field

For more than two years, Patel worked as a tutor in the Student Success Commons, helping fellow students with biology, chemistry, statistics, and applied calculus classes. During her later years at GSU, Patel worked as a supplemental instructor and attended classes she previously passed to help students experiencing them for the first time.

“I made review materials and went through the subject matter with them,” she said. “I got to work closely with professors in creating those review materials.”

Patel also established the Pre-Health Club, a resource group for students interested in health professions. She wanted to create a network of peers who could help one another understand the routes and requirements to achieve careers in everything from dentistry to physical therapy to veterinary professions.

Along with her GSU courses, Patel’s organizational and tutoring work bolstered her experience for an important internship and a paid position in her senior year.

Patel was accepted into the GUIDE Internship Project in the summer before her senior year. For eight weeks, she worked on a research project with a mentor from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In addition, during her senior year at GSU, Patel worked as a medical scribe in the emergency department at the University of Chicago Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey.

A medical student under COVID restriction

As a first-year medical student, Patel now lives alone for the first time. She enjoys the solitude for studying but desperately misses her mom’s home cooking.

“Med school is challenging, and being near family could have been distracting,” Patel said. “But I miss my mom and all her Indian dishes. I really stuffed my face when I was home on break.”

Facing a worldwide pandemic hasn’t dimmed Patel’s determination to work in the medical field.

She remains enthusiastic in her studies toward becoming a doctor of osteopathy. With the same practicing privileges as a doctor of medicine, a doctor of osteopathy approaches patients from a more holistic approach.

“People are not just their injuries, their ailments, or their disease,” Patel said. “I wanted to learn a holistic approach to providing patients the best care.”

The COVID-19 pandemic only strengthened Patel’s determination to contribute positively to the field of health care as a physician.

“I want to do it even more,” she said. “The pandemic does raise many challenges, but it is just exaggerating the problems we’ve had in health care for a long time.”

“I know I can contribute to the efforts of health care providers trying their best to prevent the pandemic from getting worse.”