Growing up in rural India, Dr. Samuel Kadavakollu, Ph.D., was raised to believe that money should never be a barrier to education. Now, as an assistant professor at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM), he is sharing his knowledge with, not just future doctors, but also other high school and college students hoping to improve scores on some of the most important exams they will take in their academic careers.
Kadavakollu, or “Dr. K.” as he is known to his students, triple majored in mathematics, physics, and chemistry at Andhra University in India. He then earned his master’s in organic chemistry and moved to the United States for a career in pharmaceutical research. An opportunity to pursue his Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry at NMSU shifted his career goals. While working as a teaching assistant, he began tutoring students and teaching undergraduate labs. He found his niche helping them prepare for exams.
In 2012, Kadavakollu finished his doctorate and took a position at Western New Mexico University (WNMU) in Silver City. He collaborated with FORWARD NM’s Southwest Center for Health Innovation and the University of New Mexico’s Health Science Center to offer summer camps for students hoping to improve their performance on the American College Test (ACT) and the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The intensive six-week course helped high school students raise their ACT scores 28 percent, while his college students saw a 44 percent increase in their MCAT scores.
“My passion is exam preparation,” Dr. K. says. “These types of exams are very broad spectrum; they cover a number of different subjects. I can teach math and physics. I can teach organic chemistry and biochemistry, so this type of work is an ideal match for my background.”
BCOM recognized the need for his expertise and hired him on in 2016. Last spring, he launched BCOM’s first community MCAT prep course. Out of 120 applicants, 70 were selected to participate in the 15-week program that ran from January to April. Some made the trip to Las Cruces two evenings a week from El Paso, Anthony, Vado, Mesquite, Radium Springs, Hatch, and other nearby communities.
Over the summer, Dr. K. hosted an eight-weekend prep camp in Deming and Silver City. “These students spent all their summer weekends, eight hours a day, preparing for the MCAT,” he explains, adding that many now plan to apply to BCOM.
Similar courses at major universities around the country typically cost thousands of dollars and are often taught by students that earned a high score on the exam. Dr. K offers his courses at no cost or for very minimal fees when necessary, and they are taught entirely by university-level faculty using material from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the organization that administers the MCAT.
The MCAT students say he made the material relatable and showed them different ways to study beyond just memorizing content from a book. Kyle Kozloski, a firefighter and an NMSU senior with medical school aspirations, said, “This course has given me direction on how to study and what is most important to study. It’s really helped me narrow down the areas I’m strong in and the areas I need to give more focus.”
Turns out, his methods are extremely effective. Based on their pre-course practice tests, Dr. K. says students improved their scores on average by 30 percent. “The MCAT is a seven hour, 33 minutes test and getting 500 is good score,” explains Dr. K. “Nine out of 40 students from our community prep course scored 500 or higher.”
Emma Robertson, one of Dr. K’s students, recently scored in the 80th percentile. She says, “Without this course, I would not have attained such a score. From lectures to practice tests, Dr. K. gave me all the tools I needed to succeed. I was impressed by how he genuinely cares for his students.”
Michael Delahoussaye gives credit to Dr. K., and guest lecturers like WNMU’s Dr. Jeffery Hill, with helping him achieve an astounding score of 521 (out of a possible 528), putting him in the 98th percentile. Samuel Bayliss, who scored in the 89th percentile, sums it up best in a message he wrote to Dr. K after receiving his scores: “I cannot thank you enough for all you have done to help me prepare for this exam. You have been an integral part in helping me achieve my medical aspirations.”
Want to Learn From the Master?
For more information on the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine’s MCAT prep courses, visit the Academics section at bcomnm.org.
In addition to his MCAT courses, Dr. K. is planning a community ACT prep course next summer for 100-120 students. Community donations are invaluable for keeping these courses affordable to all students. If you’d like to contribute to the continuing education of numerous high school and college students in the region, contact Dr. Fred Hueston at the Southwest Foundation for Osteopathic Education and Research at firstname.lastname@example.org.