January 31, 2023

Piroz Bahar: Making the most of med school

Piroz's Michigan Answer: Coming into medical school, I was very interested in identifying ways to combine my background in medical imaging research and interest in surgery. After starting medical school, I quickly found great mentorship opportunities, where I could engage in research within Michigan Medicine's Department of Urology and make an impact in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with prostate cancer.

First-year medical student Piroz Bahar, he/him (pictured in center), is from Chester, Maryland, and graduated from Harvard University in 2020. Here, he shares how the opportunities he's taken advantage of and the support he's received in his first six months at Michigan Medical School are setting him on a path to fulfillment and success. Follow Piroz on Twitter @pirozbahar.

What called you to explore a career in medicine?

I was motivated to explore a career in medicine because my family and broader community growing up encouraged me to live a service-oriented life. As I explored pre-medical shadowing and clinical experiences, I had the opportunity to see first-hand the unique way that physicians serve patients by combining medical expertise and personal compassion. This reinforced my calling to serve via a career in medicine.

Why did you decide to attend Michigan?

I decided to attend the University of Michigan Medical School because my early interactions with students, faculty and staff showed me that Michigan Medicine has a uniquely supportive, team-oriented culture that fosters excellence in teaching, patient care and research. In this environment, I knew I would be able to find unparalleled support, professional development and mentorship opportunities that would allow me to pursue my clinical and research interests in medicine at the highest level.

What have been your favorite parts of the med school curriculum so far?

My favorite part of the curriculum has been the flexibility provided to students during the first year. Because of flexible quizzing and recorded lectures, I have been able to shadow physicians, pursue research projects and get involved in extracurricular activities, which have allowed me to develop close relationships and explore my personal interests in medicine.

How have you gotten involved in patient care opportunities as a first-year student?

Because the M1 year at Michigan is flexible, I have been able to connect with multiple mentors in surgical subspecialties. Through these relationships, I have had the opportunity to observe numerous surgeries and take responsibility for various aspects of patient and surgical care as a medical student. The opportunity to not only be exposed to the kind of surgical care provided at Michigan but also to be part of it as a first-year student has helped me develop my interest in surgery and prepare myself for medical school clerkships and beyond.

What research activities have you become involved in at Michigan?

I have been involved in multiple research projects since starting medical school. My main area of focus is in the field of image-guided, minimally invasive and robotic surgery. I developed an interest in this field in my pre-medical gap years, where I completed a medical imaging research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and connected with mentors in surgical subspecialties. My discussions with mentors about my academic background and interest in surgery prior to medical school helped me understand the applications of medical imaging in advanced surgical care.

When I started medical school last fall, I reached out to a physician scientist in this field within Michigan Medicine's Department of Urology, and he quickly responded to my email and welcomed me onto his team. Through my connection with this physician, I have been able to mentor an undergraduate student on a joint project and take on a project of my own in the field of image-guided prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. I hope that this experience will help me develop research skills and expertise in the field of urology, which I hope to build upon throughout my career in medicine.

What significant extracurricular activities have been a part of your medical education so far and how have they enriched your medical school experience?

My participation in the University of Michigan Medical School Student Council as an M1 Class Advocate has been a significant part of my medical school experience. In my first few weeks at UMMS, I was struck by the kind, passionate and welcoming nature of my class. This motivated me to join student council to serve the medical school community and undertake critical initiatives to improve our experiences.

My participation in Student Council has allowed me to connect with many of my peers and taught me to communicate effectively with various stakeholders within the medical school. It has been a great privilege to hear from classmates and work with my fellow Class Advocates to advocate for and translate important feedback into positive changes at UMMS.

How has your participation in Biorhythms contributed to your med school experience?

Prior to coming to medical school, I had never participated in an organized dance performance. However, when I learned about the great community of people who participate in Biorhythms (a biannual student-run dance performance) in the fall of M1 year, I became interested in being involved. Through the weekly rehearsals for MANCE (one of the 12 dances performed this year), I formed meaningful relationships and had an outlet for creativity that brought me a significant amount of joy throughout my M1 year. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy spending time with friends and being active. Living in Ann Arbor and attending medical school at the University of Michigan has given me ample opportunities to do both. Because UMMS has such a strong community of medical students and provides students with a great amount of flexibility during their first year, my classmates and I have been able to attend live concerts and sporting events, play sports together and spend time outdoors.

Some highlights from my first year include training for and completing a marathon with three of my classmates, playing pickleball after quizzes, and attending the University of Michigan football and basketball games. Though the work of medical school is often challenging, I am constantly motivated to finish my assignments early so I can spend quality time with my peers.

What would you say to a prospective student who is considering the University of Michigan Medical School for their medical education?

I would encourage you to learn about the fantastic community, supportive culture and unparalleled opportunities at Michigan Medicine. Throughout my six months of being a medical student at UMMS, I have been continually struck by the positive culture within the medical school and appreciative of the countless ways in which I am able to develop my interests in medicine.

Every day I attend medical school at UMMS, I know that my peers, mentors and faculty truly care about my personal and professional growth and want me to achieve my potential in medicine. I hope that prospective students realize how crucial these factors are in creating a positive medical student experience, and that this is precisely what makes the University of Michigan Medical School so special. We are a compassionate community dedicated to making the most positive impact in the field of medicine, and we would love to have you join us! Go Blue!!