How a medical student created an organization to assist disadvantaged medical students with mentoring

The timing of COVID-19 played a poignant role in Aaron Gilani’s life as his medical board exams were postponed, and he had time to put his focus on something new to leverage his business and medical school education.

While at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Aaron saw there was a large disparity between students. One group was made up of students whose family background included physicians, a parent or sibling who was a physician, or a supportive community encouraging a career in medicine. The second group, though smaller, included students who were mostly minorities, underrepresented, or came from a disadvantaged background.

Aaron is a first-generation medical student himself, and he saw a need. He decided to use his Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree, which he received in 2017, to create a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called “Prescribe It Forward.” The organization offers a complimentary mentorship for pre-medical and medical students. This service assists those that are underrepresented minorities, those non-traditional, disadvantaged, or others, to navigate the complexities and nuances of the medical education system.

“Pre-medical students are in multiple stages of the process who want mentorship,” says Aaron. “It could be a freshman pre-medical student in college wanting advice on what classes to take to someone who is looking to apply to medical school and wants to discuss with someone about their grades and which programs could be a good fit.”

In a short period of four months, Prescribe it Forward has 950 mentors across 42 states, and his team states over 1,000 pre-medical students have received mentorship from current medical students. The mentorship includes everything from advice on taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), personal statement guidance for medical school applications, and even course selection recommendations.

“Overall, I’d be happy if this program helped just one person with their dream of becoming a physician, so for us to have already helped over a thousand, that is a true blessing,” says Aaron.

Prescribe It Forward just launched a Scholarship Fund that takes 100% of donations to assist disadvantaged students to offset the costs associated with applying to medical school.

“We take pride in our matching system,” Aaron notes. “We read about the applicant’s stories and we aim to match people who come from similar backgrounds as it is more valuable to get advice from someone who knows where you’ve been and understands your hurdles.”

Aaron’s passion for understanding the underrepresented begins at home. “I have a deaf and blind brother, and I grew up spending a lot of time in hospitals and that gave me a passion for medicine.”

Remembering that when he graduated and had little work experience, Aaron says he relied upon his classmates to provide context and perspective to the real-world applications of the material based on their own professional experiences. “I wasn’t able to apply that knowledge right away but I was able to understand the challenges that people had in their careers and how it could manifest in my own life,” he recalls.

Aaron worked at Procter and Gamble Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, for one year, after he received his MBA. “It was a really fun time and a fun year but after that, I decided I really wanted to go to medical school,” he remarks.

Now beginning his third year of medical school, Aaron is taking his Board exams as well as starting rotations at a hospital. His goal is to pursue the path of general surgery. He hopes to eventually work in healthcare administration, healthcare technology, or private equity.

Aaron plans to continue to grow Prescribe it Forward to include pre-dental and dental students, physician assistant students, and nursing students with the potential to expand the mentorship further into the medical community by connecting residents with medical students and attending physicians with residents.

“I think the end vision is to be the one-stop-shop for all things mentorship in medicine,” explains Aaron. “When I think about success in medicine, I think of making content free and accessible for educational purposes and I think of mentorship.