Aaron Gilani '15 and a small group of his classmates at the Indiana University School of Medicine established Prescribe It Forward, a non-profit committed to mentoring students through the medical school application process. With more than 600 mentors and 700 mentees across 40 states, Prescribe It Forward is garnering national attention.
With his board exams postponed due to the pandemic, Aaron took time to reflect on his first two years of medical school. “It seemed to me that there were two groups of students,” says Gilani. “One group made up of students that come from long lines of physicians or from communities that turn out physicians left and right, and another group that seems to have made it on their own and may be the first in their community to go to college or medical school.”
As a first-generation college graduate himself, Gilani knows the importance of mentorship to the success of under-represented, under-privileged students. During his own medical school application process, Gilani learned from the experience of one of his Hampden-Sydney mentors, Barron Frazier ’12. “Neither of us came from families that had anyone in medicine,” says Frazier, now a pediatrics fellow at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University. “Trying to understand the process of applying to medical school is difficult. Since I had already gone through that process, I tried to give Aaron advice on how to sell himself and what to look for in a program.”
Grateful for the guidance, Gilani looked for ways to help other medical students in situations similar to his own. In his second year of medical school, Gilani saw a tweet from a new IU medical student named Jordan Saunders asking for guidance from an upperclassman. Gilani reached out to Saunders and became a mentor to the aspiring physician.
It was another tweet sent by Saunders just a year later that inspired Gilani to pay it forward in an even bigger way. Saunders tweeted his desire to mentor students through the grueling process of applying to medical school, and Gilani responded, “I think there’s something here.”
Knowing firsthand that the need for this type of practical support exists, Gilani asked himself: does this service exist? “A lot of companies charge exorbitant fees like $500 to read an essay or $1,000 to review an application. This further widens the accessibility gap of medical school and negatively affects marginalized populations,” Gilani explains.
So Prescribe it Forward was born. In just 24 hours, Gilani drafted a business plan and website detailing a nation-wide mentoring program. The idea caught on like wildfire and Gilani and his co-founders rapidly scaled the program, recruiting more than 600 mentors to serve 700 mentees across 40 states in the non-profit’s first 90 days alone.