Kari Geronilla
  • Hometown: Charleston, WV
  • Undergraduate Degree: Biology from University of Hawaii
  • Residency: Pediatrics, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Ohio State University
  • Special Honors: Member of Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS)

"When I was asked to bring something that represented myself, I wanted to share items that represented my cultural diversity and talent unrelated to medicine. The traditional Filipino necklace I'm wearing and the books are a reminder of my Tagalog language classes and Filipino history classes in college that helped me understand my Filipino heritage better. I painted the plumeria canvas for my sister during in an oil painting class in college; I love creating and sharing art."

1. What made you decide to get your MD degree WVU?

I was born and raised in Charleston and I am proud to call West Virginia my home. I had a great experience growing up in Charleston and living in West Virginia allows me to be active outdoors with hiking and whitewater rafting when I have free time. I went to the University of Hawaii because it had a lot to offer me culturally because I am half Filipino: I was able to study Biology in a unique environment and also take classes in Filipino Language, History, and Literature. While I was away from my family during college, I learned to appreciate them even more. I knew I wanted to be close to my parents in Charleston and my sister in Pittsburgh, and Morgantown was in the middle. I also talked to current students and recent graduates and they had many of positive things to say about the WVU program.

2. What part of the program was appealing to you?

There are a couple of things that I think are especially appealing. I like that the MD program at WVU allows students to start shadowing and getting patient exposure from week one. I entered the program with an interest in primary care and global health, and I liked that WVU had a large emphasis on primary care. Having PBL built into the curriculum is a great asset and it has helped me to start thinking more clinically and become more self-directed and proactive learner. I also like that WVU is technologically up to date; we take all of our course and NBME shelf exams on our laptops. I feel really comfortable with computerized tests now and I'm sure that it will help me with future board exams. We also use an interactive program on our laptops called Turning Point where our professors will give sample multiple choice questions and we can get instant feedback. The STEPS Center (Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety) has also allowed us to practice clinical skills with simulated patients.

3. Now that you are in the MD degree program, what is your favorite part?

The people and the friendly atmosphere are my favorite part about the MD program. The faculty and guest clinical lecturers want to help us and see us succeed. Many clinicians that are guest lecturers for courses will also offer to let us shadow them. Physicians that you are assigned to shadow one time in your first year will offer to let you come back and shadow them more. The course directors will make time to meet with you and set up review sessions to make sure you get all your questions answered.

4. Since your dad is an anesthesiologist did that have any impact on you wanting to become a doctor?

Both of my parents taught me the importance of doing what I'm passionate about. My dad actually did not talk to me much about going into medicine. It's only since I started medical school that I have started shadowing him and I've surprisingly enjoyed anesthesiology more than I thought I ever would! Shadowing a pediatrician for two years in college influenced me the most in deciding to go to medical school. For those applying to medical school, I would recommend shadowing physicians and being proactive about getting as much patient exposure as you can to affirm that it's what you want to do.

5. Medical school takes up a lot of time. How do you balance school, home, and social life?

It is difficult, but keeping a balanced life is something that's really important to me. I'm a better student when I am getting eight hours of sleep, working out regularly, and making time for friends outside of medical school. I use Google calendar and I plan out my week and it helps me keep track of everything: lecture schedules, interest group or student government meetings, workout classes at the REC (the WVU Student Recreational Center) and when I plan to have downtime to see my family and friends outside of medical school.

6. Do you think the community service requirement is beneficial to the program? How so?

Definitely! I have had some of my best experiences during community service events. I've learned and practiced a lot of clinical skills through doing community service. It also allowed me to bond with my classmates and talk to upper classmen. One hundred hours of community service can seem overwhelming, but it's actually easy to finish the hours in the first year. I went with our class during Spring Break to New Orleans to help Build Habitat for Humanity Houses. I also frequently go on MUSHROOM rounds and help lead rounds with the FMIG. Through MUSHROOM rounds, I learned how to take a blood pressure, how to administer a PPD test, how to use a bone density scanner, and how to generally interact with patients better.

7. Are you involved in any student organizations? If so, do you think they have added to your experiences and how so?

During my first year I was a MS1 representative for FMIG and PAIG and in Student Government as our Class Treasurer. Next year, I am a Co-President of the AIG, Vice President of the PAIG and Treasurer of FMIG. Going to interest group meetings allows me to listen to guest speakers and learn more about the fields of medicine that I'm interested in. Many of the interest groups also offer chances for community service, and have skills workshops periodically.

8. What are you goals after graduating?

I'm currently interested in Anesthesiology, Oncology, and Pediatrics. Regardless of what I do, I just want to be the best physician that I can be for my patients. One day I would like to be involved in global health and join Partners in Health or MSF or do a medical mission trip to the Philippines. In undergrad, I helped build schools in rural Thailand and Vietnam and I visited clinics and hospitals in South Africa. I went into medical school knowing that global health was an area of medicine that I wanted to be involved in once I graduated.

9. What is your favorite thing to do outside of school?

I like to be active with my classmates. I like Zumba, spinning, swimming, but most of all yoga. Yoga helps me slow down and relieve stress. I also love art, especially oil painting, making pottery, and visiting art museums.

10. Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to attend medical school?

If you are the type of medical school applicant that has interests outside of science subjects, don't be afraid to pursue them in college in addition to your pre-med required courses. Don't feel like you have to fit into any sort of "pre-med mold". I found that art and learning about my Filipino heritage were both as important to me as my major courses and pre-requisite courses for medical school. In college, I took an oil painting class and lots of Filipino history and language classes because I really enjoyed them. There is a quote from famous Filipino historical figure Jose Rizal that I like: 'Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan' which translates to 'If you don't know how to look back to where you came from, you will not reach your destination.' Filipino classes helped me better understand my dad's culture and has helped shaped who I am today. Pursuing non-science interests helped me become a better-rounded individual.

11. Have you thought about the global health track that is offered?

I wanted to do the global health track, but I got an externship with the Foundation for Anesthesiology Research and Education this summer doing Anesthesiology research for 8 weeks. It wasn't possible for me to do both this summer because the externship is at MUSC in Charleston, SC and the global health classes are in Morgantown, but there are always more opportunities later for the global health. I would love to do an international rotation during my fourth year.