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Undergrad Business Major Gets into Prestigious Medical School as a Sophomore

Published on 11/30/2020 10:37:26 AM
By Anna Transue, Texas A&M University Office of Undergraduate Studies

Sunjay Letchuman ’22, Business Honors major, has been accepted to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He was accepted as a sophomore undergraduate through a progressive program at the medical school called the Donald and Vera Blinken FlexMed Program.

 
Sunjay (second from left) works with his fellow students in a biology lab in the College of Science in 2018. During his freshman year, Sunjay worked with Dr. Jennifer Dulin studying the impact of stem cells on spinal cord injuries. (photo courtesy of the College of Science)

According to U.S. News & World Report, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is ranked #20 in Best Medical Schools for Research. From a pool of 800 applicants, the FlexMed program interviews approximately 140 to 160 sophomores each year.  

One of the key components of the FlexMed program is early acceptance so that students are free to study what they want rather than being tied to the MCAT and typical science courses.
 
“This program really is a dream come true because it will allow me to focus on health policy for the last two years of my undergrad instead of spending time on the traditional pre-med requirements,” said Letchuman.
 
During the interview process, Letchuman noticed that many of the other applicants who had made it that far were from the “Ivy Plus” schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
 
His mentor, Dr. Sumana Datta, Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Studies and the Executive Director of LAUNCH, helped Letchuman discover his goals by connecting him to learning opportunities at the University that would prove to be instrumental in setting him apart from other applicants.
 
When asked why he stood out among the Ivy League students, Datta reflected on her time listening to him talk in her office.
 
“He was so experienced, so mature, and so sophisticated in terms of his understanding of what he was asking for and why he wanted to do it,” said Datta.
 
One of the goals of LAUNCH is to identify high-achieving students at Texas A&M and encourage their development early on. Letchuman’s enthusiasm to engage in learning made him the ideal student to participate in the various programs provided by LAUNCH. He took off immediately.
 
Sunjay (middle) and his parents, Santhi (left) and Rama (right). He credits his parent’s support as helping him get to where he is now.

In his two years since attending Texas A&M, Letchuman has created an impressive curriculum vitae that includes working as a student researcher with several departments on campus.  In the Mays Business School, he has worked on two separate research projects—one with Dr. Kayla Cline studying hospital safety culture and infection rates and another with Dr. Leonard Berry on improving care delivery to the seriously ill. 

And in the Department of Biology, he works with Dr. Jennifer Dulin studying the impact of stem cells on ameliorating spinal cord injuries. As a result of his research with the Mays Business School, he is a co-author on two articles submitted for publication in peer reviewed medical journals

He is the President of the Texas A&M Moderates—a student organization with a mission to work towards normalizing healthy political conversation—and he holds 10 honors titles including the 2020 Gathright Phi Kappa Phi Dean’s Excellence Award, Undergraduate Research Scholar, and President’s Endowed Scholar.
 
Letchuman credits his parents for pushing him to be his best but also allowing him to pursue his dreams. He explains how his parents modeled this behavior when his father decided to change careers and go to medical school.
 
“They’ve always pushed this idea of educational boundarylessness,” said Letchuman.
 
In the summer of 2019, Letchuman attended an Education Abroad trip to Germany to study global health policy and policy implications of immigration during the Syrian refugee crisis.
 
Experiences like these impacted him personally and academically. He grew close with his host family, befriending their youngest daughter, Annika. Studying Germany’s health care system shaped his view on health policy in America and allowed him to stand out during his medical school interviews.

 
Sunjay with the German family who hosted him in 2019. During his study abroad trip, Sunjay grew close with his host family and learned about the German health care system.

 “This is not a young man who sees things in black or white. Sunjay is the rare person—even more so because of his youth—who is interested in and appreciative of the complexity and nuance of the world’s most intractable problems,” said Datta.
 
During his interview, Letchuman discussed health care disparities among Black patients and how the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai‘s philosophy aligns perfectly with his goals.
 
“Black patients are treated more poorly in the whole field of health care than white patients. And that’s an uncomfortable fact for a lot of America. And that’s ok, I understand it being uncomfortable, but it’s a fact that we have to confront. We can’t just say, ‘It makes me feel uncomfortable so I’m going to ignore it.’ That’s, I think, a tenet of the Icahn School of Medicine,” said Letchuman.
 
Letchuman will complete his undergraduate degree at Texas A&M before starting medical school; however, since his admission into the FlexMed program, he says half his classes in the spring of 2021 are focused on health policy and some are at the graduate level.
 
“I want to dedicate the rest of my life to health care policy and everything I’ve learned about health care policy has reinforced that,” said Letchuman.

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Media contact: Anna Transue, transuea@tamu.edu