Riya Pillai

Meet Riya Pillai

Hometown: El Paso, TX
Education: University of Texas at El Paso
MD Mentors: Dr. Jay Sengupta and Dr. Desmond Jay
Staff Mentor: Sue Casey
Projects: 1) Cardiac Implantable Electronic Device (CIED) Longevity and Reliability/Micra.
2) Assessing the utility of cardiac FDG PET imaging for clinical guidance in patients with cardiac sarcoidosis.

How did you hear about the MHIF internship and why did you want to participate?

I was looking for summer internships in medicine and came across the MHIF summer program. I have an interest in cardiology, so I immediately knew I wanted to apply. Reading more about the program, I found that the internship activities were really interesting, and believed that they would offer me a unique perspective on medicine and the process of conducting research.

What sparked your interest in the field of research, medicine and cardiology?

I have always loved biology and chemistry. For a long time, I thought I wanted to be a researcher like my dad, but as I started to work with some physicians, I realized that the practice of medicine felt more rewarding to me. I started getting interested in cardiology after I learned about the heart in an anatomy class I took. I also had the opportunity to shadow an amazing cardiologist specializing in heart failure. Working with her I realized that cardiology was something which I found genuinely interesting and wanted to pursue further.

What is your desired career in medicine?

I am interested in becoming a physician. I am not sure about the specialty yet, but so far I have found that I really enjoy cardiology, nephrology, and pulmonology. I hope to go into academic medicine since I also really enjoy teaching, and I believe the environment would be more conducive to conducting research (which I wish to do in addition to clinical practice).

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

I am most looking forward to gaining exposure to different types of research in cardiology. Most of the research I have conducted with my mentor has dealt with heart failure, and although I enjoyed it, I am excited to learn about other fields/topics in cardiology, and to participate in the research.

What do you hope to gain from this experience? 

I hope to gain a more comprehensive understanding of cardiology as a specialty in medicine. I hope that exposure to the different activities planned in the internship will broaden my experiences. I have also heard that after completing the program, some interns realize that the career they planned really did not suit them, and so I wish to verify that the career I want in academic medicine is something that I would actually enjoy.

What are your plans after the summer?

I am currently a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso. After this summer, I will return to UTEP to complete my dual degree in BS Psychology and BS Cell and Molecular Biochemistry. After that, I hope to go to medical school and start my journey to becoming a physician.

What is a fun fact about you? 

A fun fact about me is that I really enjoy drawing and painting. Some of my art has even been published in medical journals, as I have done some illustration work for the physicians I had been shadowing. Another random thing about me is that I love Victorian Literature. I think that if I didn’t love science so much, I would have definitely become a professor in English literature. For now, I content myself with making obscure references to literature written over a century before.