Resident and Graduate spotlights from the VCU Internal Medicine Residency Program

Dr. Gupta

Resident:  Neha Gupta, MD
Class of 2022
PGY2

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Valdosta, GA, and I didn’t leave until heading to college at the University of Georgia (GO DAWGS!).  I then went to medical school at the Medical College of Georgia.

Tell us a “fun fact” about yourself.
I can peel an orange in one slice, if you consider that a fun fact.

What do you like to do on a day off?
By far my favorite “day off” activity is going to Pony Pasture and sitting by the James River. Whether it’s for a casual bike ride around the surrounding neighborhood, picnicking on the rocks, or just walking along the trails, I love decompressing in this spot!

Why did you choose VCU for residency?
When I was interviewing for residency, I started the journey with a definite checklist of “must have” characteristics for my perfect program, naturally surrounding numerous academic pursuits and opportunities. While there were many programs that met my previously devised list, I was pleasantly surprised by what VCU offered me outside of my checklist. The sense of community and belonging that can be found here is truly a unique characteristic. There is a real connection for those that come here; an identity is bonded to VCU for many who train here. By the end of my interview trail, I realized that I will get an excellent education at most programs across the country, but far fewer could offer me the sense of community that VCU could offer.

What do you value most about the program?
I remember being struck by the program’s commitment to constantly improving both for its residents and itself. It’s truly incredible to be a part of a program that actively seeks critical input from its residents and that critically examines itself constantly. I always feel confident that my education and growth as a physician is the number one priority of this program.

What do you love about Richmond?
I could write an essay on all the things I love about Richmond! You have all the great amenities that you would expect from a large city but also the benefits of a small town (like having the traffic of a small city). There’s a place in Richmond for every mood I have. There are trails for my outdoorsy adventures, delicious restaurants for my inner food/wine connoisseur, and beautiful historic sites and museums for my more bookish curiosities.

How would you describe your co-residents?
My co-residents are people that I want to hang out with on the weekend, and they are doctors I would want taking care of me. They are truly the most intelligent and hard-working people I have ever worked with, and they are the most genuine people I have had the pleasure of meeting. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such an accomplished and dependable group of residents.

How would you describe the faculty members at VCU?
If I could only pick one word, “phenomenal.” I think VCU is one of the few places in the world where you could walk into a room with a nationally recognized physician and still feel like your education is their top priority.
        
What do you want people to know about our program?
VCU is a program that not only tries to grow its residents as practitioners, but also as individuals. I truly believe there are few programs that really invest in its residents the same way VCU does.

Dr. HassounehGraduate:  Ramzi Hassouneh, DO
Current role: Gastroenterology Fellow, Indiana University
Class of 2022

Where did you grow up? 
I grew up in the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi (which is nearby the more famous city of Dubai). I moved to Ottawa, Ontario in Canada for college which I consider my other hometown.

Where did you attend college? 
University of Ottawa in Canada

Where did you go to medical school?
Kansas City University in Kansas City, MO

Describe any other occupations, degrees, careers prior to starting residency. 
I studied chemical engineering in college and worked in a recycling plant prior to changing careers and going to medical school. 

Tell us a “fun fact” about yourself.
I played college professional soccer in Canada and tried out for the Montreal Impact MLS team.

What other hobbies and activities do you enjoy? 
I continue to play recreational soccer and organized a team with my co-residents while in Richmond. I also enjoy running with my dog on the James River and around Belle Isle.
 
Why did you choose VCU for residency? 
My significant other is from the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area and I had visited Richmond previously and loved it. Also, VCU has an excellent reputation and is known nationally to be one of the best clinical programs.

What do you value most about the program? 
The faculty! Everyone is down to earth and approachable. It fosters a safe environment for learning that makes every day enjoyable.

Describe a scholarship, research or community/committee experience that you have pursued during your time here. 
Research opportunities are endless at VCU. My clinical interest is in GI and I have had to turn down multiple projects because I had already committed to too many things! My favorite research project involved studying long-term outcomes in liver transplant recipients and developing a prediction model that can assist clinicians to identify patients at risk for complications before they occur.
 
How would you describe the faculty members at VCU? 
Excellent clinicians and teachers. As well as phenomenal mentors that are willing and eager to help guide you through research projects and the fellowship process. Everyone is invested in you and makes you feel valued.

How did the program prepare you for your post residency pursuits?
My clinical interest is in GI, and I was able to pursue numerous research opportunities that made me extremely competitive for fellowship. We also get a dedicated research block (up to 2 months) which is not commonly offered at other programs. The program actively helps residents find a mentor in their field of interest early in residency so you can develop this relationship throughout your time here.

Describe a “favorite moment” during residency. 
My first time being a senior on an inpatient team. It was daunting since I was now responsible for overseeing the team, triaging admissions, teaching, and more. However, after the first week into the rotation I became more comfortable and realized that the program is designed in such a way to prepare you for this moment. It was exhilarating to guide my interns through the process I only experienced a year ago.

What do you want people to know about our program? 
It prepares you to be a fantastic clinician but also a great academician. The 2+2 structure is unique to VCU and helps balance the rigorous inpatient experience with outpatient rotations, electives, or consult services.

What do you want people to know about our city? 
It’s a smaller city but big enough to offer all the amenities anyone would want in regard to shopping, food, and entertainment. The James River is central to Richmond. It’s easily accessible and offers so many fun activities that you can’t do elsewhere like whitewater rafting and kayaking. 

Dr. AqeelGraduate:  Faten Aqeel, MD
Current Role:  Nephrology Fellow, Johns Hopkins
Class of 2021

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to medical school?
I was born and raised in Doha, Qatar and went to medical school in Weill Cornell medical college in Qatar (yes, it is the sister campus of Cornell NY). I actually spent some time in the Manhattan campus as a medical student to complete my clinical rotations and to learn the basics of clinical research. I also did some traveling during medical school, and volunteered in Costa Rica and Tanzania.

Tell us a “fun fact” about yourself.
No matter what day it is, I am always up by 6-7AM without having to set an alarm!

What other hobbies and activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy decorating my apartment and making it feel like home. I also enjoy traveling (traveled to more than 10 countries), exploring new cultures and trying out different restaurants and food cuisines.

Why did you choose VCU for residency?
During the interview trail, I was looking for a program that offered opportunities for me to grow as a person and as a physician. I was also looking for a program that focused on resident education, had a unique patient population and exposure to common and rare diseases. On my interview day, I immediately felt like VCU had exactly what I was looking for. Moreover, VCU had a sense of community that was unique. I have to say, I was not disappointed after I joined the program!

What do you value most about the program?
I truly value that the program has a clear mission, which is to train well-rounded and competent internists. The program goes above and beyond to ensure that this mission is accomplished.

Describe a scholarship, research or community/committee experience that you have pursued during your time here.
When I made the decision to go into Nephrology, I decided to start building up my future career by talking to some of the Nephrologist at VCU and the VA. The nephrology faculty was extremely supportive and helpful. I worked with Dr. Bobba on a project that looked at atypical HUS, its genetic analysis, and clinical manifestations in our patient population.

How would you describe the faculty members at VCU?
I would describe the faculty at VCU as approachable, friendly and focused on resident wellness and education.

Describe a “favorite moment” during residency.
Honestly, my experience at VCU had many favorite moments. If I had to pick one, I would say it was the time I did my Ward Manager rotation with my co-resident, Jinal Desai. Transitioning from intern year to second year was a challenge, but my co-resident and I supported each other and shared memorable and fun moments together that I will never forget!

What do you want people to know about our program?
VCU provides its residents opportunities and challenges to grow into competent physicians and caring individuals. It is certainly a unique experience to train here.

What do you want people to know about our city?
Richmond is often described as a “small town, big city”, which means that it has everything that you need! There are a ton of restaurants, bakeries in the city as well as trails for outdoors activities. My favorite thing to do in Richmond is to walk down the Potterfield Bridge on the James River after a busy day at work.