A resident physician in general surgery at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, Keval Ray, CST ’16, FOX ’18, MED ’19, served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic during the peak of the first wave.
The young doctor witnessed more than 3,000 COVID-19 patients being treated at the same time in the Mount Sinai system. Intensive care unit rooms were being built overnight. Patients were dying every half hour. He and his colleagues were faced with constant fear that they might catch the virus.
Ray, it turned out, was more than ready for this challenge: He brought the compassion and grit he learned from his family and his seven years at Temple, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and medical degrees.
Ray’s journey to becoming a physician begins with his grandparents, who were diagnosed with cancer when he was a boy. His grandmother survived and became an activist in the Indian community, encouraging women to screen for breast cancer. She urged her grandson to help others by going into medicine. At age 16, he got his first taste when he became a fully licensed emergency medical technician (EMT) in New Jersey.
“That experience of working with patients—and my grandma constantly whispering in my ear—made me realize I wanted to be a doctor,” Ray said.
Maneuvering medical school
Temple’s Pre-Med Health Scholar Program offered the accelerated path to a medical degree, with an ideal location in Philadelphia. Ray prioritized real-world medical experiences as an undergraduate, and joined the bike-based student EMT organization known as Temple EMS.
In medical school, Ray relished working in an urban hospital that served a community he had grown to love. His surgical ICU rotation with renowned trauma surgeon Amy S. Goldberg as his attending physician made a strong impression.
During his 24-hour on-call periods in Temple University Hospital’s Emergency Department, he observed several emergency department thoracotomies, a life-saving procedure of last resort which involves opening the chest of a patient outside of the operating room setting.
“Temple was different from other med schools,” he said. “They don’t baby you. They give graduated responsibility, but at the same time expect you to work. Just like the city of Philadelphia, it’s all about grit. That’s something that Temple and Philly taught me.”
—By Hillel Hoffmann and Samara Grossel, KLN ’17