As the saying goes “College will be the best four years of your life.” However, the high achieving graduates of the VCU Honors College repeatedly prove that the adage “the best is yet to come” is more accurate still. In the case of Class of 2011 alumna Amritha Yellamilli, a graduate of the Guaranteed Admission to Medicine Program, her time at VCU was truly just the start of a rich and rewarding post-grad journey into medicine and research.
Coming to VCU from California, Amritha carried with her ambitious aspirations of one day becoming a doctor. Reflecting on what brought her to this dream, she shares, “I wanted to use science to care for and support people through some of the most challenging and uncertain times in their lives.” Therefore, she chose to declare a major in biology with a minor in chemistry while also completing the VCU Honors College’s Guaranteed Admission to Medicine program. Eventually, after taking an Honors Cell Biology course with Dr. Rob Tombes, Amritha joined his lab and paired her love of medicine with a newfound passion for research. Thus, her career path into becoming a physician-scientist was born.
Following graduation from VCU, Amritha went on to pursue an NIH-funded M.D./Ph.D. Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) through the University of Minnesota. Amritha explains, “I chose the University of Minnesota because…[the MSTP] has a well-organized and flexible curriculum that integrates medical and research education throughout all eight years of the program. As students, we also help lead and shape the program to help improve our training.”
Having appreciated both the “tight-knit community of trainees” and the “incredibly supportive leadership team” at the University of Minnesota, Amritha set out to find a residency program that would satisfy both her personal and professional needs. Therefore, she selected the Pediatric Residency Program through Stanford Physician-Scientist track. “When I was applying and interviewing, I was looking for a residency program where I would get the best clinical and research training in a nurturing and supportive environment.” Once she has completed her residency at Stanford, she hopes to stay on to continue her research and clinical training, and even run her own lab and clinical practice.
Despite the constant pressure of testing and evaluations, Amritha has learned to overcome her fixation on her scores and grades so that she could more fully channel her energy into providing the best care possible to her patients. As a result, she has also been able to get the most out of her own experience in medical school, stating “The best part of medical school is the time I get to spend with my patients, families, and colleagues. I especially love quiet mornings when I check in on my patients before the day starts.” Furthermore, she adds, “I also love being part of a medical team and sharing the challenges and joy of working in the hospital. These are the things that keep me going even when things get tough.”
Additionally, Amritha has learned to take hold of her overall wellbeing, not letting the stress of medical school overwhelm her. Through getting involved in dance classes in Minnesota, where she is able to learn different styles of dance and surround herself with a supportive community, to gardening in the summer and enjoying the “meditative and therapeutic” benefits of cooking, she has been able to care for not only her physical wellbeing, but her mental and emotional wellbeing as well.
From the skills and knowledge she first nurtured at VCU through rigorous coursework in classes such as Developmental Biology, to studying abroad in Puerto Rico, completing Service Learning, and even taking Introduction to Women’s Studies, both the experiences large and small have lent themselves to Amritha’s success and grateful mindset. “The experiences I had inside and outside of the classroom at the VCU Honors College made it possible for me to get to where I am today,” she shares humbly.
Finally, with her growing wealth of experiences in mind, Amritha shares a few small bits of advice for students dreaming of one day becoming a healthcare professional as well:
“Find your ‘why’. This path is hard. It poses different challenges for each person. What helps you persevere is having a deep understanding of your “why”. Everyone’s “why” is different, but they are all just as powerful.
Trust your intuition. You know yourself best. People will give you advice and opinions. Listen to them. Understand where they are coming from. When it comes time to make a decision, put all of the information you have together and listen to what that little voice in your head is telling you to do. Let it lead your way.
Keep truckin' along. Things are not going to work out the way that you wanted or expected them to. It is hard dealing with rejections and failures, but keep going. Learn what you can from each experience and just keep going.”
No matter how long it has been since she graduated from the VCU Honors College, we remain proud of our driven and brave alumna. We wish Amritha all the best in her chosen career path and know that she will go far in life. The best is yet to come, and we couldn’t be more excited for her!