February 20, 2020

Alirio de Meireles: Achieving lifelong goals

Our medical training is built around bringing out the best in students and what they see for themselves as physician leaders.

M4 Alirio is one of more than 15% of Michigan med students who choose to pursue a dual degree. Alirio opted to earn his MBA at U-M’s renowned Ross School of Business to supplement his interest in medical device development and innovation. He plans to pursue residency training in orthopaedic surgery after graduation. Here, he answers nine questions about his med school journey and the value of what it means to Go Blue.

What called you to explore a career in medicine?

I knew fairly early on that I wanted to go into medicine. Please see Exhibit A, a picture from my 5th grade year book as proof. Some kids wanted to be NBA stars or throw touchdowns for the Giants. I was unbelievably nerdy and wanted to “Go to Yale and become a doctor.” It’s amazing to realize that I’m just a few months away from having accomplished both goals!

Exhibit A: 

What resources have been most helpful to you so far in your medical education?

Re-learning how to study and being honest with myself regarding what is easy versus what is effective. For example, early on in medical school I would watch lecture recordings multiple times to “study.” This was not helpful for me - it was passive learning that I was doing mostly because that’s what my classmates were doing.

Additionally, the act of physically watching a lecture doesn’t require any work and was a way for me to convince myself I was “studying.” When I was honest with myself and started to interact with the lectures (i.e. pausing to review what had just been taught) and took a more active role, my performance improved. Spaced repetition is also key. Anki is a popular resource among my classmates, but I personally just used Quizlet to make flashcards.

Regarding tangible resources, I’ve stuck with the tried and true methods. Lecture materials for pre-clinical years; UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma, and SketchyMicro for Step 1; and UWorld for Step 2.

Clerkship materials vary wildly based on how you learn best. I learn best by doing questions, so for Internal Medicine I actually never opened a book and learned from doing strictly UWorld practice questions (sorry, Dr. Grum, no Cecils for me).

What extracurricular activities have been a part of your medical education?

One of the central themes of my time in medical school is my focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, including participation in the formal Path of Excellence. I worked on two separate medical devices, one funded by a CVC Innovation grant, the other in conjunction with the Michigan Surgical Innovation Accelerator program and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. I’m very interested in innovation both from a medical device POV but also a systems-level health care delivery perspective.

Everyone views research differently. For some it’s a necessary evil, for others it’s the thing that excites them most. I fall toward the latter end of the spectrum and have been lucky to have incredible research mentors while at Michigan (looking at you, Dr. Ghaferi). One of the unique strengths of this program is how open the faculty is to collaboration with students. Another incredible perk of U-M is that they’ll support you, both from a scheduling/admin POV and a financial perspective, should you get invited to present your research at a meeting, including meetings in Barcelona.

Things I enjoy outside of medicine include: playing lacrosse in the local Ann Arbor league, attending Blue Lion Fitness (local AA gym) with my classmates, watching all things Michigan athletics related, and expanding my cooking repertoire. I’m also a big fan of wine and am studying to take the first level of the sommelier exam. My favorite part of medical school, without a doubt, is the Galens Tag Days weekend. I was genuinely devastated to have to miss it this year for residency interviews.

What is your strategy for finding balance between med school and your other interests?

Luckily, at Michigan, your medical school experience and outside interests don’t have to be two separate entities. For example, I was interested in medical device development and health care policy, so I pursued an MBA at Michigan Ross and was fully supported by the administration. Administration will bend over backwards to allow students to not only receive an unparalleled medical education, but also to incorporate their other interests into their medical school experience.

You are currently applying for residency in orthopaedic surgery. What factors did you consider in choosing this specialty?

I think the mission statement of orthopaedics “to restore form and function” really resonated with me. So much of how a person defines themselves, and so much of how they identify relates back to their functional status. To have the opportunity to work day after day to try and get people back to doing the things they love seems like an incredible profession, and it’d be an honor to have that job. Additionally, I think culture fit is incredibly important when choosing a specialty. After spending a few weeks on my orthopaedics rotation I knew that I had found my people.

Why did you decide to earn an MBA while in med school, and what advice do you have for other students who are considering a dual degree?

I wanted to continue to pursue my interests in medical innovation and health policy and knew the MBA would give me the skill set and network to do so.

I spent a year at Ross and have been thrilled with the experience. To keep my advice as brief as possible, I’d counsel prospective students to make sure that you’re doing the dual degree for the right reasons. This shouldn't be the cherry on top of a residency application, you should be pursuing the degree because you see it as an integral part of your future career.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before applying to medical school?

Slightly unpopular opinion: it does matter where you do your medical school. I know most people will say that “you’ll learn the same thing no matter where you go.” Sure, all medical students are learning the same Krebs cycle, but the administrative support, the research opportunities, the ability to pursue outside interests, surrounding yourself with incredibly brilliant classmates who bring a diverse set of experiences to the table - these are all things that set Michigan apart. They say that in order to grow you should never be the smartest person in the room...lets just say that’s not a problem I’ve ever had at U-M.

Then you have to consider the network that Michigan offers - it’s tough to describe to someone not familiar with U-M, but people who went to Michigan are fiercely loyal to their alma mater. Michigan alums will go out of their way to help you at any phase of your career. I consider myself lucky to have the Block M on my white coat.

How has Michigan been a good fit for you?

The diversity of perspectives that my classmates bring to the table forces me to grow as an individual. The U-M Admissions Office does a great job curating a student body who come from all walks of life. In doing so, they prevent the creation of an echo chamber and force each student to expand how they view the world.

What would you say to a prospective student who is considering the University of Michigan Medical School for their medical education?

It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. If you come here you will get phenomenal medical training, a tight-knit group of classmates, limitless research and mentorship opportunities, and an unrivaled alumni network. Ann Arbor is also an awesome town to eat, drink, and live in...if you don’t believe me just ask the New York Times

I hope I was able to give you a sense of what life is like here at the University of Michigan Medical School. Please contact me at alirio@umich.edu with any follow up questions. Michigan is a special place, and we’d love to welcome you to the family. As always, Go Blue!