Trainee Spotlight: July 2023

Trainee Spotlight

July 2023

Rohan Bhalla, MD

Rohan Bhalla, Chief Resident

Thanks so much for making time to chat. We always interview the chiefs as they are graduating and I want to take a chance to chat with you as well, to hear your thoughts on how things are going. I wanted to start out with just checking in - how's the final month of residency going?   

Yeah, it's been great. Time goes by a lot faster as you near the end. Super busy operatively, trying to take advantage of operating with everyone for one last time. Trying to get all the tips and tricks before we get out of here, but it's been a great month for sure. 

That's awesome. I'm so glad to hear it. And how are you feeling about graduation? Are you excited?

Yeah I am. It's a little bittersweet. We've been in Nashville for nine years, with med school and residency, and so Nashville's turned into our home away from home. We're definitely going to miss our friends and the city, but we're excited to move out to Denver and start fellowship. So, definitely bittersweet.  

Well, I'm excited for you. Now, I remember we had also interviewed you a year ago when you were a rising chief, and now we're interviewing you as a graduating chief. In our last interview, a year ago, you mentioned that you had family in Canada. Are they going to be joining for the graduation banquet? 

They are. My parents are coming down from Toronto and my brother is coming up from Miami. My mother-in-law will also be there and is traveling from Denver, so it's going to be good. I'm excited to have everybody there. 

Oh, that's awesome. It sounds like you'll have a whole bunch of people there celebrating with you. 

Yeah, it'll be great! 

Rohan and co-residents

Awesome. Well, one of the things you get to do in this chat is you get to reflect back, and looking back at the year, what's been your favorite aspect of being a chief resident, and what's been the most challenging aspect of it?

That's a great question. I think one of the best parts about chief year is that you're at the point in your residency where you get to do all the major cases. The attendings instill a lot of trust in you – in the operating room, in clinic, and on the wards, and I think that responsibility allows you to take ownership in patient care, which can be daunting but very rewarding.

Your entire residency and medical school career have kind of been living up to this one year where you are doing the big cases, managing patients postoperatively, and helping make clinical decisions, and I think that’s great.

Another rewarding part has been working with the junior residents. Educating your co-residents and being able to instill whatever knowledge you have learned onto them is a huge part of chief year. Taking your PGY2s through consults, procedures, and surgical cases, has been an amazing experience.

I'm really going to miss my co-residents for sure. From being in the operating room together, rounding, to even just sitting in the workroom and chatting about our lives – it’s the close connections we make with one another that makes this program wonderful and it’ll be hard to leave.

I think the second part of your question was, "What's the most challenging part of chief year?” When you’re chief you wear a lot of “hats” as you have a lot more responsibilities – you’re in charge of the academic calendar, the OR schedule, you’re managing the consult and inpatient services, taking chief call, operating in major cases, taking juniors through cases, and the list goes on. On a daily basis you’re not only an educator and trying to be a good leader and mentor that others look up to, but you’re also still a trainee – learning how to operate and manage patients yourself.

I think you're also trying to be a good friend and colleague to your co-residents, and I think it's challenging to be able to balance all of those responsibilities and to excel in every single one at all times. I think that's something that I've strived towards, I guess, by the end of residency, to be all of those things and set a good example. Something I’ve learned throughout my life is that leading by example makes a huge difference in impacting those around you and is something I hope to continue to improve on.

Rohan and wife

That's awesome. I’m happy to hear that despite the challenges, it has some really rewarding pieces as well, including doing those big cases, and then also taking the more junior residents through cases, and getting to be a teacher. You've been doing an awesome, awesome job. People will be sad to see you go, but excited for your next big step!

One question that I was hoping to ask from you is, now that you've finished your chief year, what advice do you have for the PGY4s who are soon going to be in your shoes?

I think they're going to be a great class. I'm super excited for them to be stepping into the chief role. They've been a class that we've worked with so closely, ever since second year, they were our interns and we’re really close with them both in and outside the hospital, but I think they're going to do great job.

I guess I would just reiterate a lot of the things that I mentioned during the talk that I gave a couple weeks back for my chief talk. Biggest thing is that you're going to have some good days and you're going to have some bad days but in the grand scheme of things, chief year is an amazing year. There's a lot of learning, a lot of teaching, and a lot of opportunity to grow.

So, I think one piece of advice that I would give them looking back at my time now, is to really just soak it all in, and spend the most time that you can in the hospital and the OR. There's going to be late nights. You're going to be operating, on consult call, and you’re going to be busy but residency is the time for us to learn and to get better.

I think chief year is similar to PGY2 year, where it can get hectic and it can get busy very quickly. And you just have to remember that at the end of the year, you're going to be a better surgeon and a better urologist for all of the cases that you've done. The rewards are definitely worth the hard work and time that you put in. Continue to have a positive attitude, be there for your junior residents as much as you can, and be an advocate, an educator, and a mentor. Be someone that you want them to look up to and emulate.

That's great advice. You’ve talked about residency - the next step for you is fellowship, and you're headed to Colorado. I know that you and Tanya have some family there, and I'm feeling a little envious. Are they going to have the inside track when it comes to taste testing your latest and greatest cocktail creations?

Rohan and co-residents

Yeah. My in-laws and Tanya's family all live in Colorado. My mother-in-law is very excited for me to move back, not just because we're going to be close to home, but she's been eagerly asking me when I am going to start making her cocktails. So, yes, they're going to have the inside track for sure. I'm also excited to make cocktails for the residents and other fellows in Colorado!

Awesome. Well, just to wrap it up, I have a few rapid fire questions for you.

Yeah. Let's do it.

First question. When it comes to coffee, light roast or dark roast? Oh, I'm a light roast man.
Awesome. What's your favorite movie? I'd have to say The Dark Knight.
Ooh, excellent choice. When it comes to breakfast, sweet or savory. Sweet for sure.
What's your favorite national park? I'm going to go across the border to Canada and say Banff National Park.
GREAT choice. And last question is, you've had nine years in Nashville. What spot serves the best hot chicken in town? Oh man, great question. I'm going to say that Prince's has the best hot chicken in my opinion.

That’s all I have for questions. Just wanted to say, I'm really excited for you. It's been awesome to work with you this year, getting to spend time with you in the hospital, and also importantly, outside of the hospital too. Colorado's really lucky to have you and I'll look forward to visiting you and Tanya next time I'm in your new city.

We can't wait. We’ve got a couple of bedrooms in our new house, so we're excited to host everybody in Denver. Goodluck with the rest of your residency, it’s been really great working with you on service! We're excited for all you guys to be moving on up and graduating intern year!

Awesome. Thanks Rohan!

Interview conducted by Neil Menon, MD