Student finds his way to medical school through nutrition
Kevin Mensah-Biney is known among his peers at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine as a trivia buff.
“Not really trivia,” he says with a grin, “more like random facts.”
His talent for storing and retrieving information has served him well academically. He earned a degree in nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before entering the medical school in 2014.
“I knew before college that I wanted to go to medical school,” he said. “I wanted to major in something not so cookie-cutter. Nutrition is such a key part of people’s health. I knew it would be relevant to whatever medical specialty I chose.”
Mensah-Biney, the son of Ghanaian parents, grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. He showed an aptitude for science at an early age.
“I always loved science, especially as it related to the human body,” he said.
Mensah-Biney is one of two students awarded the Morgan Dana Harrington Memorial Scholarship this year. Daniel Harrington, vice dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and his wife, Gil, established the scholarship to honor the memory of their daughter, who was abducted and killed in 2009 after a concert in Charlottesville, Virginia. Morgan, 20, was a junior at Virginia Tech majoring in elementary education.
“I’m very grateful and honored to receive this award, especially knowing that the Harringtons play such a huge role in our school,” he said. “I hope that with this scholarship, I can help keep Morgan’s memory alive.”
Mensah-Biney applied to more than 50 surgical residency programs across the country and used the money to help pay for travel expenses for interviews. He and his peers in the class of 2018 will find out where they will go for their residencies on Match Day, which is March 16.
Two elements of his experience at the medical school that he has found particularly helpful are the student research requirement and clinical rotations. His research, under the mentorship of Sandy Fogel, associate professor of surgery at the school, looked at patients who were transferred to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for emergency general surgery from outside facilities to determine the effect of distance and time on their outcomes. The research was published in an issue of The American Surgeon last year, and Mensah-Biney presented a poster at the 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting Southeastern Surgical Congress in Nashville.
To have his research recognized on a national level speaks to the rigor and quality of the school’s research requirement. Since the school entered its first class in 2010, 53 different students have had their research published in national journals, and students have presented 234 posters and 39 oral presentations at regional, national, and international meetings.
“Having research experience is something that keeps us competitive as we apply for residencies and later when we go into practice,” he said. “I can’t imagine going through medical school and not having the research requirement.”
Mensah-Biney also found clinical rotations – a time during students’ third year when they complete required clerkships in core clinical disciplines along with radiology and neurology – invaluable. He enjoyed all of them.
“It made it hard for me to choose a specialty,” he said. “But they offered a good knowledge base for lots of different areas of medicine besides the one I chose.”
In addition to his studies, Mensah-Biney has filled his four years of medical school with activities in service to others. He tutored fellow students at the school and volunteered at Roanoke’s Ronald McDonald House and Bradley Free Clinic.
These activities have prepared him for future years of service as a physician.
“Making an impact on others is something I’ve always wanted to do.”