Ahish Chitneni's Path to Leadership
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Ahish Chitneni's Path to Leadership

Ahish Chitneni is a 3rd year medical student at A.T. Still University of Health Sciences and a member of the AAP’s Medical Student Council. He is also a past participant of the AAP’s Rehabilitation Research Experience for Medical Students (RREMS). Discover how Ahish is creating a path to leadership – in his words.

My first introduction to working with patients with disabilities was prior to medical school when I worked with a non-profit organization called Project RISHI. It was a student-run organization with the aim of providing sustainable solutions for the basic infrastructural, healthcare, and educational needs of rural Indian villages. Anandwan was unique in its nature because it was established as a rehabilitation center for people with leprosy and other disabilities. In fact, Anandwan is known to be one of the largest communities of leprosy-inflicted and people with disabilities in the world. During the trip, I led a group of ten students to the rehabilitation center to conduct health screenings to assess risks of diabetes, hypertension, and mental illness in the community. Given the prevalence of depression in disabled populations, we wanted to further study the potential correlation in this population. Aside from the research, we had a chance to conduct health education and awareness camps to teach those afflicted with leprosy about proper hygiene and wound care technique. After the Project RISHI experience, I was further guided towards PM&R thanks to spending my gap year before medical school working as a scribe for a PM&R physician and my experience with the RREMS program.

The summer after my first year of medical school, I had the opportunity to participate in the AAP’s Rehabilitation Research Experience for Medical Students (RREMS). RREMS was one of my first exposures to the academic medicine side of PM&R. I worked a research project at Moss Rehabilitation Institute with Dr. John Whyte who was developing a pain scale for patients who suffered traumatic brain injury and cannot self-report pain. I worked on a subproject which tested the validity of the pain scale in patients of all levels of consciousness, agitation, and various burdens of injury. I had the opportunity to present our project at the AAP’s Annual Meeting and our paper won best paper award in the medical student category – something I could not have done without the mentorship of Dr. Whyte who taught me about the research process and PM&R in general. Overall, RREMS helped me understand the research process and working through the process of a publication. It showed me the implications research can have on clinical medicine and it will definitely impact how involved I am with research during my residency and career.

The year following my externship, I became a part of the AAP’s Medical Student Council as a member-at-large. The council serves as a forum for medical students and represents the medical student members of the AAP. One of the projects that I was able to help with was a research study we conducted to assess knowledge of undergraduate students about the field of PM&R and post-study we supplied educational material and resources to undergraduate students. Moving forward with the council, one of my goals is to not only help increase awareness of PM&R in medical students, but also connect undergraduate students to the field.

I also recently started a PM&R Interest Group with another student at A.T. Still University. After my term on the AAP Medical Student Council is over, I am hoping to continue working on that and developing it into a group that will be sustainable after I graduate and move onto residency.