Akila Pai: MHIF research internship helped pave the way to a bright future

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On Akila Pai’s first day as a Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation research intern, she felt far behind. The other interns all had at least one year of college under their belts, during which they had started their cardiovascular education. Akila, in comparison, was just finishing up her last week of high school, and she knew nothing about the heart. Determined to catch up, she stayed late every night to read, study and learn.

That effort paid off tremendously, to say the least. Not only was Akila named lead intern in her second summer at MHIF, but she recently received an early acceptance to medical school! Akila’s accomplishments are many, and she credits the mentorship and education she received at MHIF for helping her along the path to med school.

Akila came to MHIF after being awarded a scholarship from the American Heart Association, which included the opportunity to do cardiovascular research. At MHIF, Akila was matched with Dr. Timothy Sullivan, and his guidance helped her to define her goals. “Dr. Sullivan was the best mentor I could ask for,” she said. “He taught me how to be a good physician, but also how to be a well-rounded person.” Dr. Sullivan emphasized the importance of having other interests outside of medicine. Akila took that lesson to heart, and is now working on a women’s empowerment series with Minneapolis Public Schools.

After her first summer internship, Akila remained with MHIF during the school year, assisting with clinical research and working in other areas of cardiology. During her second summer internship, she was named lead intern, and presented her research at the Veith Symposium in New York City.

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Now in her third summer at MHIF, Akila has a lot to look forward to. She recently received word that she was accepted to Mt. Sinai Medical School through an early acceptance program that allows students to forego the MCAT and other prerequisites and instead focus on obtaining experience and exploring other interests. To be accepted to med school as a college sophomore without taking the MCAT is a huge accomplishment, and one that Akila should be immensely proud of!

Akila says that she would not have achieved this success without the experience and mentorship she gained at MHIF. She is grateful for the opportunities she has received and the sponsors that made it possible. “As an undergrad, it’s really rare to get any clinical research experience, let alone to have research presented,” she said. “I’m really fortunate to have landed here.”