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Advisor Highlight: Hanna


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Advisor Highlight: Hanna

Roheet Kakaday


Why did you join Lean On?

The moment I was introduced to Lean On, I was convinced it was going to be a great! As you will soon read, I was rather lost as a “premed” being not much of a premed at all, so I didn’t have the resources available to get the help that I needed. While I found help through friends and my research advisor, none of them had experience with the med school and especially MD/PhD admissions to really help me out. I want to help make the application process better for others by being the resource that I wish I had at the time and Lean On allows me to be part of something that does just that.

What was your premed experience like?

For most of undergrad, I actually did not consider myself a premed. While my interest in medicine was sparked in early high school, as a 15-year-old I began volunteering at a hospital and learning why you should (and shouldn’t) go into medicine and because of this, I decided that my parents’ influence was too great for me to genuinely feel that wanted to do medicine. Instead, I decided on pharmacy. Though this may not seem too different, it felt much different to me than medicine at the time. It was with this goal that I began as an undergraduate student.

Quickly, my mindset changed as I was introduced to research during my freshman year of college. I began working in a research lab the summer after my freshman year and decided that I would much rather do research that could contribute to the development of new therapies than work as a pharmacist.

Being a chemistry major who wanted to go into research, I didn’t pay attention much to medicine as an undergrad. I continued to volunteer at the hospital a bit because I enjoyed it. I took medical school prerequisite courses, some pre-pharmacy classes, and a lot of biology/biochemistry courses (full of premeds and the like) because they were related to what I wanted to research. But ultimately, I mentally separated myself from medicine as a career. Perhaps if I hadn’t done so, I would have found out about MD/PhD programs much sooner.

Nonetheless, in the spring of my junior year as I was preparing to take the GRE for applying tograduate school and looking up where to send my scores, I came across the combined degree program. It was like a weight was coming off my shoulders as I realized that an underlying theme to my education and professional interests could come into the forefront of my life alongside my development and career as a researcher. This time, my parents had no influence on my decision.

Within months of making this discovery, I was taking the MCAT, applying to medical school, and starting to volunteer at the hospital again after a couple year hiatus. I sent in my application in late July, completed secondary applications, and awaited interview invites. In the end, I got the acceptance that I needed and couldn’t have imaged my hard work getting me to a school more fit for me!

What was the hardest part of the application cycle for you?

This was by far the personal statement. Perhaps you’ve seen my blog post, Reaching the Peak, concerning this exact topic.

But that’s not the whole story.

In that piece, I talked about my difficulty in creating a foundation within my personal statement from which I could proclaim that I want to become a doctor and have my readers (the admissions committees) genuinely believe me. What I didn’t talk about was that while writing a single personal statement is hard enough, I actually had to write three separate ones.

I know what you’re thinking, “Three personal statements?! Are you crazy?!” But seeing as I’m an MD/PhD student, I probably am. To apply to a combined degree program, one must not only submit the personal statement that everyone does for medical school but also a personal statement about research and one about why you want to combine MD and PhD degrees. The extra challenge here lies in balancing out what you say in each one so that they are cohesive yet complementary and really come together to strengthen your application.

What’s something fun you do in your spare time?

One of the most important things I’ve learned as a hardcore student is that you need to make time for other things you enjoy. Otherwise the monotony of studying will surely wear you down.

As an undergrad, I was in the University of Minnesota marching band and men’s hockey pep band and even took on leadership roles for my last two years of college. I spent nearly 500 hours each fall rehearsing and performing (which excludes time spent planning and practicing) on top of my normal schoolwork. I also joined, lead, and rebuilt the band’s sorority in my time as a member.It was a really enjoyable and fulfilling activity that really helped me develop as a leader and a team member. While I’m no longer in marching band, I still make music a part of my life. I have my clarinet with me at school and I bring it out every now and then. I’ve also started playing piano again and teaching myself guitar. It’s a great break from the loads of work as a grad student and med student to go lose yourself in some music for a little while.

Being in these bands forced me to watch the games we played for and through this, I became a huge sports fan. In particular, I support my alma mater’s hockey and football teams as well as the Minnesota Wild in professional hockey though I will watch pretty much any football, hockey, or basketball (currently winning my March Madness bracket so of course I’m watching!). No matter how busy I am, I try to make time to at least pay attention to the games via twitter updates if I don’t get to actually watch them.

On top of all of this, I also write! I have a blog at, I write for, and I am a monthly blogger for The style of writing is much different for each one and it’s another great creative outlet! I was never a writer until I had to write my personal statements for medical school, so I’m still in awe of this [sort of] new love I’ve found.