AUA2023: REFLECTIONS My AUA FUTURE Program Experience
By: Hamed Heydari, BS, American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, St Maarten | Posted on: 06 Jul 2023
Figure 1. Hamed Heydari, 2024 MD candidate and aspiring urologist.
My name is Hamed Heydari. I am a first-generation Iranian American and the first in my family to pursue a career in medicine. I was born and raised in the small town of Jackson, Tennessee, where I watched my father diligently work on his various business endeavors. This inspired me to earn my bachelor’s in business. Fortunately, my first job was as a medical device sales representative. As I advanced in the field of medical device sales, I developed a passion for medicine and surgery. Several years later, I am now a proud fourth-year doctor of medicine candidate at the American University of the Caribbean, actively pursuing a career in urology.
As a nontraditional candidate from a U.S.-international medical graduate school without a home urology program, I knew I was behind the curve when applying for urology. This realization motivated me to finish my last day of clinical clerkship in Miami, drive for 21 hours, and arrive in Chicago just in time for the AUA Annual Meeting. Upon arrival, I was relieved to discover the inaugural FUTURE (Future Urology Talent from UnderRepresented Entities) program in urology. This was the program’s first year, designed to pair URiM (underrepresented in medicine) students like me with a urologist for a day at the AUA Annual Meeting. I had the privilege of being paired with a reconstructive urologist, Dr Justin Han, as my mentor. We attended several genitourinary reconstructive surgeon meetings, allowing me to explore a wide variety of urological reconstructive surgeries.
Although I usually adapt well in social environments, I initially found the conference daunting. I was uncertain how to efficiently navigate the scheduled meetings and presentations as this was the first medical conference I had ever attended, with no other colleagues or students to consult. The mentorship of Dr Han provided me with the guidance and counsel I needed to maximize my learning experience at the conference and strive to be the best urology residency candidate possible.
Throughout the lectures, Dr Han paid close attention to my reactions. When I appeared puzzled, he would ensure my understanding of the lecture, and when needed, provide additional explanations. This mentorship endowed me with the confidence and insights needed to navigate the rest of the AUA conference. Moreover, Dr Han introduced me to multiple urologists, program directors, and chiefs of urology programs, opening up opportunities for me to share my story throughout the day. The FUTURE program significantly enhanced my experience at the AUA conference as a medical student.
I also had the honor of connecting with Dr Larissa Bresler, one of the coordinators of the FUTURE program and the Chair of the AUA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Her impact on the DEI committee became evident within moments of our conversation. Dr Bresler took the time to understand the barriers I’ve faced as a U.S.-international medical graduate and a Tennessee native. The absence of a urology clinical clerkship affiliated with my institution often discourages my peers from pursuing urology. However, the FUTURE program offers URiM students like me the opportunities and platform to reach our full potential.
The AUA conference can be overwhelming for a medical student, but thanks to the FUTURE program, it turned into an informative and enjoyable experience for me. The connections I made with mentors and colleagues throughout the weekend not only deepened my passion for urology, but also reassured me that a urology residency, despite being highly competitive, is within my reach. After attending the AUA Annual Meeting and participating in the FUTURE program, my ambition to pursue a career in urology has only grown, and I feel supported by the AUA community. After all, urology truly makes a “vas deferens” in people’s lives.