One such alumnus, Kunal Agarwal, MD, FAAFP ’11, medical director of Nanticoke Sleep Disorder Centers, was recently featured as a 2018 Top Doctor by DelawareToday.
According to Dr. Agarwal, a worrisome 80 percent of Americans with sleep apnea are undiagnosed – a percentage he is trying hard to reduce through education and the institution of modified health protocols that call for mandatory screenings in adults and children.
Education is key, because many people simply do not know what sleep apnea is; if they do, they often make the mistake of thinking it is something they don’t have to take seriously; however, not seeking treatment can lead to serious consequences, Dr. Agarwal noted.
“[Sleep apnea] is associated with a lot of different symptoms, “ he explained. “It affects concentration and moods and can lead to dry mouth and changes in cognition, and is strongly linked to [high] blood pressure and diabetes [and a] worsening of heart failure, arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, and stroke.”
For Dr. Agarwal, helping people is second nature, and is what led him to become a physician. Throughout high school, and later in college at Johns Hopkins, he volunteered in hospitals and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Project Prevent. It was one experience on a Boy Scout camping trip, however, that still stands out.
“One of my fellow scouts injured his shoulder and was bleeding profusely. I remembered my skills from the First Aid merit [badge] and stayed calm and applied a tourniquet, and the bleeding stopped. It was such a rewarding feeling to know you’ve impacted someone’s life and made them feel better. So that, in conjunction with doing well and liking math and science, pushed me toward medicine,” he explained. He eventually attained the rank of Eagle Scout and cited the strong leadership and teamwork skills instilled in him from scouting as being a major factor in performing well in his medical training and career as a physician.
Dr. Agarwal found RUSM through physician family friends who spoke highly of its education and rotation offerings.
“I knew I wanted to become a physician right away, and they accepted me so I was like, let’s go to Ross! Going through my island experience [and] my rotations, I have to say they definitely prepared me well for my future career as a physician. In rotations, I felt the Ross students were more knowledgeable and aggressive. They were just better prepared, and I think that speaks to the teaching, the exposure, [and] the good rotations.”
Dr. Agarwal’s hard work in medical school paid off with a residency in Family Medicine at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine (formerly Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies) in Kalamazoo, MI, and later a fellowship in Sleep Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit, MI.
Today, Dr. Agarwal practices both specialties simultaneously – which is something he noted is not all that common; however for him, the two go hand-in-hand.
“I currently practice in both, which is cool because it makes things interesting,” he said. “I like Family Medicine because it’s always evolving. You get to provide long-term comprehensive continuity of care, so I can see whole families, which gives me a chance to be an advocate for both patients and [my] colleagues in medicine. I also like the fact that sleep medicine delves into different disciplines. It combines pulmonary, neurology, cardiology, psychiatry, and internal medicine all into one field. And let’s say you diagnose a patient [with sleep apnea]; the effects [of treatment] are quick and the patients are so appreciative, so that’s another rewarding feeling.”
Dr. Agarwal described the practice of medicine as a unique opportunity to experience responsibility of the highest level, which provides a great deal of satisfaction, saying, “Being able to make a real impact in someone’s life is the best thing one can do as a human being.”
When asked about his plans for the future, Dr. Agarwal noted that he is enjoying his current work and wants to continue caring for his patents and taking on additional leadership roles, and credits RUSM for making his career possible.
“Ross allowed me to fulfill my dream of becoming a medial doctor and opened the pathway to good connections with my colleagues and other hospitals,” he said. ‘Without Ross, that would not have been possible.”