OUM’s first mother/daughter team now in their second year

At the Panwar dinner table, getting through an entire meal without discussing something about healthcare or medicine is unlikely. Second-year OUM student Alisha Panwar is a community pharmacist and her father is a practicing GP in the Melbourne area (AU). Mother Sangeeta Panwar, also a second-year OUM student, earned a degree in herbal medicine in India and is a clinical coder and coding educator and auditor. Her son has graduated from medical school and is completing his internship.

In case you haven’t connected the dots, Alisha and Sangeeta are the first mother and daughter to become OUM students. They enrolled in January 2017. Alisha was the one who began researching medical schools and found the OUM program.

First to enroll

“When I first began discussing OUM and was going through the admissions and interview process, I didn’t realize that when my mum was asking questions, she was actually also thinking about taking the plunge into medical school,” Alisha says with a chuckle.

As is the case with many OUM colleagues, Sangeeta had thoughts of earning a medical degree when she was young, but other paths were taken. She earned a six-year degree in herbal medicine in India before she and her husband moved to New Zealand, and later the US, while he was studying medicine. When they settled in Australia and began a family, Sangeeta raised her children before eventually becoming a clinical coder after the children started school.

Sangeeta eventually took advanced training and became both a coding educator and auditor. It was OUM’s curriculum, which allows students to work during the first two years of the program, that inspired Sangeeta to complete her application.

“That really relieves the financial stress of attending medical school,” Sangeeta says.

Complementary skills

Alisha credits her mother’s years of experience in a hospital setting and the medical knowledge necessary to become a coder with providing insight into the healthcare environment outside of her own pharmacy studies and community practice.

“Our skills complement each other, so we cross communicate and share what we’re each strong in,” says Alisha, admitting that learning from each other is especially convenient when you attend medical school with a family member.

Other perks include being able to ask each other questions anytime, by simply walking into the next room. There’s no need to wait for a friend to get back to you the next day and there’s no need to schedule study sessions. “They just happen,” according to Alisha.

“Doing this together works well for us,” says Sangeeta. “We support each other, and you simply could not do this if you didn’t have the support of your family,” she adds, noting that her support extends past her daughter to her husband and son.

Continuing to work together as a family looks likely for the Panwars. Mother and daughter hope to eventually complete clinical rotations together, and they would be happy to do that in Samoa, Sangeeta says. Around the time she and Alisha begin rotations, her son will likely be a registrar. And like her husband, Sangeeta wants to be a GP after graduation. There has been discussion about his completing a fellowship exam and possibly opening a medical center where husband and wife could practice together.

Alisha hasn’t yet decided what her specialty may be, but she does have interest in endocrinology. Contrasting her pharmacy work in the community setting, she also realizes she wants to be in a hospital environment, taking care of patients in the wards and seeing a full spectrum of conditions.

A new perspective

While they continue obviously to learn about medicine, they have learned a lot about each other, as well, especially Alisha. Growing up, she says, she heard stories about when her parents were in school, but now she actually sees how her mother is as a student.

“I have always seen my mother as calm, someone who doesn’t get anxious or agitated, but now seeing her as a student, I’ve learned that she does get nervous, especially around exams,” Alisha says. “We kind of transition in and out. I see her as a student when we’re studying together, then when an exam is done, she’s Mum again.”

She has also learned that she and her mother are quite similar. They both work hard, they’re driven, and they persevere. Alisha is quick to credit her hard work and perseverance to her mother. Being like-minded also makes them enjoy taking this journey together even more.

“A program like OUM’s means it’s all on you to motivate yourself and we’re managing,” says Alisha. “We’re together on this journey and even enjoying the struggle. It’s good stress.”

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