March 14, 2018 — In an operating room in Richmond, Virginia, hours pass like minutes. Washington and Lee University sophomore Aalekhya Tenali is shadowing a surgeon during what turns out to be a 14-hour operation. She finds herself captivated by what the physician tells her and what she witnesses.
“It flew by like 10 minutes. Never before had I found myself so interested in something,” Tenali says of that experience, which helped lead her to the UF College of Medicine.
As a first-year medical student, she continues to feed her fascination, thanks to financial assistance from the Lawrence M. Goodman Scholarship and the Class of 1960 Scholarship Fund.
“Medical school is an expensive investment in my education. I’m very grateful to receive these scholarships,” she says. “In addition to the financial help, the scholarships feel like someone is making an investment in me. That was a welcoming feeling upon starting my medical training.”
The Goodman Scholarship is awarded to students with an interest in research. With a previous research internship at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development during which she uncovered the translational regulatory mechanism of the inositol gene, Tenali feels at home in the laboratory.
“The routine in basic science research can be similar from day to day. For countless weeks or months, you’re repeating similar protocols trying to find the answer to your question. But every experiment gives new insight into the problems you’re focusing on,” she says. “While it can be repetitive, it’s the scientific implications that I find very exciting. And afterward, sharing and presenting your results is rewarding.”
Tenali aims to enter into the UF College of Medicine’s Discovery Pathways Program, in which students perform at least 10 weeks of research supervised by a faculty mentor.
“While at the UF College of Medicine, I want to explore clinical research in different settings to expand my toolbox,” she says. “That insight will shape the research I’ll do as a physician.”
She’s keeping an open mind when she completes her third-year rotations in two years but maintains a special interest in surgery as her future specialty. Whatever path she chooses, she aims to pay it forward.
“I wanted to pick a profession in which I can serve my community,” she says. “I envision myself working in an academic institution where I can practice medicine and educate future physicians. I also hope to have a research lab of my own where I can investigate whatever problems that excite me.”
As the UF College of Medicine class of 2021 vice-president, Tenali works to advocate for the needs of her classmates, who elected her.
“Every one of my classmates is a supremely accomplished individual. I’m honored to represent some of the brightest minds,” she says. “It’s an opportunity for me to serve my classmates and make their diverse voices heard.”
Tenali calls her education at the UF College of Medicine outstanding for its patient-centered learning philosophy.
“Its curriculum focuses on both the art and science of medicine, as Dr. Lynch puts it,” she says. “We learn to not only care for patients but also to make them feel well-cared for. That humanism is what I love most about the learning philosophy here.”