Smith Scholar Highlight: Punit Barot

Punit Barot grew up in Suffolk, and he is a first-generation college graduate who comes from a large close-knit family. Barot studied biology and economics at the University of Virginia prior to enrolling in medical school at Virginia Commonwealth University. During the 2021-22 school year, he was a fourth-year medical student. His clinical interests include preventive medicine, patient education, and outpatient procedures.

Barot chose a career in medicine “for the intellectual and spiritual growth that is built through therapeutic relationships.”

Outside of medicine, he enjoys keeping up with the latest sports news, playing basketball, trying new foods, attending live music shows, traveling with his wife, and spending time with family — especially their puppy Kobe. Learn more about Punit Barot:

Punit Barot's Family
Punit Barot's Family

When did you know you wanted to become a doctor?

Probably during career day in elementary school. Something about the human mind, body, and all its functions was always fascinating to me. While I enjoyed studying the basic sciences, medicine appealed to me the most because it merges science and service while trying to improve others’ quality of life.

What has been the most challenging part of medical school?

The most challenging part of medical school is the volume of information and the pace at which you have to process and organize the information to be able to retrieve it as you’re going through a clinical scenario. Once you create a system that works for you and aligns with your goals it becomes a lot easier, but it does take some trial and error.

What area of medicine do you plan to practice or specialize in?

I plan to practice in either internal medicine or family medicine. If I end up pursuing internal medicine, I will likely try to complete a fellowship in gastroenterology or hematology-oncology. Otherwise, I will choose family medicine and try to create my own clinic.

How did the Smith Scholarship help you?

The Smith Scholarship has been a huge blessing for me in medical school. It has helped me pay for my licensing exams, obtain medical equipment for my clinical rotations, and reduce the burden of higher education.

What are some of the most pressing challenges facing the healthcare industry right now?

Perhaps the most pressing issues in medicine today include the cost of higher education, low reimbursement for preventive care and patient education, and the rampant cost of medications. In our current fee-for-service system, procedures and hospitalizations generate more revenue, which often draws medical students away from primary care, creating a massive shortage of physicians. Until our system chooses to value people’s health over profits, our country will continue to have poor outcomes.

What advice would you give to other medical students?

I would tell other medical students to not compare their journey with anyone else’s. We all come from varying backgrounds, opportunities, hardships, and life experiences and these are what make our own story unique. Comparison with others - whether it is exam scores, publications, or awards - will strip you of your joy and gratitude for your journey. Understanding that becoming a physician is a marathon and not a sprint will also help prevent burnout in the long run. Knowing that early on will help you practice self-compassion and grace as you endure this process.

Why is it important to give back and get involved in the community?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote often resonates with me: “Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve .... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” I truly believe that love for humanity is the most powerful driving force for change. At the end of the day, people will remember you for how you spoke to them and how you treated them during times of need. Volunteering and giving your expertise for a higher purpose provides you with perspective, gratitude, and fulfillment that is hard to find through anything else.

What kind of impact do you want to make in the medical industry?

My long-term aspirations involve creating a clinic that practices the biopsychosocial model of care and provides integrated medical services for patients to take ownership and control of their health. I firmly believe that wellness occurs when your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony, which can be achieved through medical interventions, nutrition, exercise, sleep, and psychological stability.

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