Undergraduate students who participate in the Baylor College of Medicine Summer Medical and Research Training (SMART) Program leave with practical experiences with some of the top researchers in biomedical sciences. In the summer of 1992, two SMART Program students also left having met the person they would spend the rest of their life with.
Drs. Sandeep and Kathryn Sowell Agarwal were both rising seniors in college, the former at the University of Texas at Austin and the latter at the University of Tennessee, when they came to Houston to participate in the SMART Program, a nine-week summer research program designed for prospective physicians and researchers.
Both knew that they wanted to pursue medicine and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to do basic science research at Baylor.
“We met in the line to get a parking card,” recalls Dr. Kathryn Sowell Agarwal, who recalls meeting her now husband on their first day of the program.
Through the summer program, the two became friends and eventually started dating. Both recall that the program helped confirm their decision to go to medical school.
“What was good about the program was you had the research exposure, conferences that were targeting the participants talking about different research and clinical aspects and really encouraging people to go into medicine – research as well as clinical,” said Dr. Sandeep Agarwal. “It’s not easy to get into the program so it was an honor and it was fun to have other students, many of whom we are still in touch with, and it was a very good career development experience.”
“It was a wonderful experience to be able to go somewhere new outside of your undergraduate program and then to make friends and to get all of this research and clinical exposure,” said Dr. Kathryn Sowell Agarwal.
After completing the program, they went back to their respective undergraduate institutions and then on to medical school – him at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and her at the University of Alabama School of Medicine and then her last two years at Baylor College of Medicine. They were married in 1995 and now are both on faculty at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Sandeep Agarwal is an associate professor of medicine in the section of immunology, allergy and rheumatology and Dr. Kathryn Sowell Agarwal is an assistant professor of medicine in the section of geriatrics. The couple also has two children, ages 8 and 13.
“The SMART Program was an outstanding program and Dr. Gayle Slaughter was an outstanding leader for the program,” said Dr. Kathryn Sowell Agarwal.