A few months from now, I will be graduating medical school and for the first time since I can remember, I’ll no longer be a student. Looking back , I can appreciate the professional and personal growth that has accompanied medical school experiences, and that along this path, my original motivations for pursuing medicine have continued to resonate with me.

One significant influence was an undergraduate health care management course. Learning about how providers, insurers, and the industry interact, I was captivated by the idea that physicians can reach beyond the doctor-patient relationship to address challenges facing our health care system. I found it appealing that I could find my place in medicine drawing upon multiple disciplines to impact important issues such as the high costs of care that patients often face.

However, in medical school I realized that medical training provides a limited view of health care economics and generally emphasizes how to provide the best care, not necessarily what it might cost the patient. This prompted me to join Wharton’s Health Care Management cohort and work toward an MBA along with my M.D. Through the program, I began to glean new insights about layers of the health care system, most importantly, through engaging with classmates who have worked in insurance, drug development, and digital health.

My own internships in biotechnology business development and investing provided a rare window into the research and regulatory pathways involved in developing novel therapies and technologies. Looking ahead to a career in oncology, this firsthand perspective has been invaluable in shaping my goals in contributing to medical innovations and ensuring that they are accessible to patients.

This past year, I found myself back in the undergraduate health care management course that inspired me to seek out these learning experiences beyond the clinic – this time, as a teaching assistant. Teaching allowed me to share my enthusiasm for exploring health care system dynamics and reminded me that it’s important to convey these topics to future physicians.

It also reminded me that I pursued medicine in part because teaching and mentorship are embedded in the fabric of the profession. When I decided to apply to residency in radiation oncology, mentors like Neha Vapiwala, MD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology, and Abigail Berman, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, not only provided advice but also included me in their research and project work.

Seeing distinguished faculty take a sincere interest in my professional growth encourages me to do the same for others in residency and throughout my career. I look forward to sharing my experiences both caring for patients and interacting with the broader health care ecosystem, all while continuing to learn from my colleagues. Knowing that I always will be a student in practice makes it far less daunting that I won’t technically be a student on paper anymore.

Mallika Marar is a fourth-year medical student, MBA candidate, and aspiring radiation oncologist at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.