First-year student, Harminder Sandhu, Steps Up As Newest Student Blogger

With the introduction of our ground-breaking Shared Discovery Curriculum as well as several new facilities and initiatives, there are a lot of great changes happening to the College of Human Medicine (CHM).

It's truly a special time to be here. And no one can better voice what it is like to be at CHM than those within the student body. From time to time, the Office of Admissions has enlisted student representatives to periodically offer an inside look at what studying medicine here is all about.

Students at different stages and various backgrounds are given the opportunity to touch on their personal experiences and ambitions. Moving into the new year, we'll be hearing from first-year student, Harminder Sandhu.


Hi! My name is Harminder.

I grew up in a small farm town called Gridley, California, where access to healthcare and resources was very limited. Having experienced health disparities first-hand in my rural community, I have a strong desire to give back to the underserved.

Many underserved communities also lack access to health insurance. Emergencies can be detrimental to an entire family’s livelihood. Being uninsured leads to people not seeking help when needed. Many diseases, initially treatable, may then become irreversible.

I can describe these issues in such detail because I grew up a part of the rural underserved community. As an undergrad, I worked as an interpreter at Peterson Clinic, a community clinic that provided healthcare for underserved populations. I was impressed with the clinic doctor’s ability to provide such comprehensive care with such limited resources.

I also enjoyed the feeling of knowing how much of an influence we were making in people’s lives that otherwise had no where to go to receive care. Patients opened up to me because I could relate to them having come from a rural area myself. This brought to my attention the need for more providers in medicine that could relate to their patients or, at least, better understand the socioeconomic aspects contributing to a patient’s health.

It led me to join the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students. I learned the importance of addressing the needs of the underserved and increasing the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians.

Being so physically active growing up, I always had a keen interest in how the body worked. At University of California, Davis, my desire to become a doctor grew. I obtained my B.S. in Exercise Biology and a minor in Psychology. I was also fortunate to be selected for the UCD Pre-Medical Surgical Internship. My first time in the OR was a CABG Surgery.

What an experience!

I remember thinking to myself: Is the person lying there uninsured? Could access to healthcare have prevented this? This inspired me to help prevent people from requiring such intense medical intervention.

I initially turned to what tools I had: knowledge. With a personal understanding of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle combined with my biology comprehension, I could share this knowledge with the community. I obtained my Fitness Instructor Certification and dealt mostly with the elder population.

Focusing on prevention, I enjoyed keeping up with the latest research in medical review articles that have highlighted the benefits of exercise in the elderly, such as preventing falls.

Throughout the years, my passion for serving the community naturally deepened. Tzu Chi Foundation, meaning “compassion and relief” and Habitat for Humanity provided me with the opportunities I was looking for in my community, including free health clinics and weekly food distributions to the homeless.

I also regularly visited retirement homes to facilitate fitness activities. After witnessing the joy on a resident’s face following a simple game of beach ball toss, it wasn’t surprising how exercise extends lifespan. As someone who finds great satisfaction in helping others, I thoroughly enjoyed my time as I was given the opportunity to improve the lives of those around me—this reinforced my desire to work in medicine.

While I remember being frustrated with the lack of access to health care when I was younger, I now am appreciative of that experience. It helped me see areas of medicine that need change and taught me to be proactive in life to make that change happen.

I feel the skills I learned with years of leadership roles, such as Class President and MESA President, also provide a strong foundation to further cultivate leadership and advocacy skills as a physician. My desire to help others, the enjoyment I get out of volunteering in my community, and my absolute fascination with health are what drive me to become a physician.

Upon graduating, I initially settled on pursuing optometry school due to personal reasons. I was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley. However, the summer before I was supposed to begin optometry school, circumstances changed that allowed me to pursue my true passion of medicine.

I did a post baccalaureate program through the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine. Upon completing the program, I was accepted to the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, a community-based school dedicated to helping underserved populations.

The college's mission, of course, resonated with me. But I also chose CHM because of the people. I had friends from California who were attending CHM and they loved it here—even despite the cold winters.

When I came to Michigan to interview, I could sense the supportive environment. The faculty seemed to genuinely care about their students well-being. Although California is almost 3,000 miles away, I knew that if I chose CHM, I would have a home away from home.

I’m months into the program and that statement still holds true. I can focus on studying knowing that the faculty has only my best interest in mind. Also, I can’t say enough about my classmates. CHM does a great job selecting students who are good people and creating a collaborative environment.

We’re all going through this medical journey together, and it helps knowing that I’m surrounded by people that want to see one another succeed.

Currently, I’m interested in pediatric plastic surgery, but I’m staying open-minded. I'm thinking pediatrics because I love kids. I feel like that's the patient population I could have the biggest impact on because they have their whole future ahead of them. Yet I'm also considering surgery because I love working with my hands (I grew up working with my hands, on cars, etc). I also love the control/responsibility/adrenaline that comes with being at the top of the pack on the health care team.

I hope to be a part of organizations such as Doctors Without Borders one day to provide care for those who need it the most. I am, after all, a strong believer in leaving the world a better place than I found it.


  1. Awesome Job! You have truly inspired me! Good luck on the rest of your medical career!

    God Bless!


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