Each year, cardiology fellows from around the country compete in the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) “Fellows-in-Training Jeopardy Competition: Battle of the States” held at their annual Scientific Session conference.
Virginia Commonwealth University cardiology fellows represented the ACC’s Virginia Chapter and won first place in this year’s competition. Drs. Guru Kowlgi, Sampath Gunda and Pranav Mankad made up the team and won the state competition against others from the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech Carilion to face off again the other chapters at the national conference. This is the third year in a row that VCU fellows have comprised the team.
Kowlgi, who serves as chief fellow for his class, has been a member of the Virginia Chapter team for three years. Last year, the team placed second nationally in a close race. Did that drive him to try again? “Absolutely. I felt it was unfinished business last time,” he said.
“It was amazing,” said Kowlgi. “My teammates and I worked really hard for this. We also got great training from VCU, and had a lot of supporters there, cheering for us.”
The competition was held during the ACC’s 68th Annual Scientific Session at New Orleans in March. Teams from 35 ACC state chapters and Canada participated in the competition, which featured nine 30-minute preliminary rounds. Teams answered questions from four Jeopardy categories based on the American Board of Internal Medicine Certification Examination Blueprint. Nine teams advanced to the semi-finals, and three teams competed in the final round.
“Our first round was actually the most challenging round. We were neck and neck with a team from Louisiana,” said Kowlgi. “But then we got some crucial high point questions right and made it to the semi-finals.”
After winning in the semifinals, the team advanced to the finals where they put on a masterful performance. The California Chapter took second place, finished 3,400 points behind them. The Virginia Chapter received a first-place trophy and plaques, and three $1,000 travel awards to send the next year’s team to 2020 conference in Chicago. Each team member from the chapter received $1,000.
Upon learning of the victory, “my response was pure jubilation, because I think it’s a real credit to VCU, and VCU Health’s Pauley Heart Center, to have the caliber of trainees that are that smart and phenomenally excellent. They basically beat every other institution including Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Hopkins, Harvard. It says something about them and our institution,” said Dr. Kenneth Ellenbogen, chair of the Division of Cardiology at VCU School of Medicine.
Dr. Peter Buckley, dean of VCU’s School of Medicine, agreed. “All of us at the medical school are so very proud of Guru, Sampath, and Pranav. Their success in this very prestigious contest is a testament to their talent and hard work and reflects so well on the quality of their education at VCU.”
During their training, the team spent “hours and hours, day and night to get ready for the competition,” said Gunda. In addition, “our program director, Dr. Gautham Kalahasty, was always supportive and encouraging. Drs. Jay Koneru, Santosh Padala and Nayef Abouzaki also helped as well as other fellows constantly pushed us to a higher level by testing us and helping us to understand and prepare for the competition.”
The team sent each other questions by text, which helped to improve their speed. While all the teams were well-prepared, “the strategy of how you buzzed and answered fast, that made the difference,” said Kowlgi.
“It was my first time at the competition so I enjoyed all of it. We faced really strong teams and it was fun to compete and network with colleagues across the country,” said Mankad. “I loved the enthusiasm from the crowd as the studio was packed, with half the people having to stand in the back. While our team wasn’t competing, I enjoyed being in the audience while other teams were in the hot seat.”
Following their win, that evening, the team walked around downtown New Orleans. “The whole place was filled with cardiology fellows and faculty from all over the country,” said Kowlgi. Wherever they went, “there was not one place where they didn’t stop me and say they were so happy to see VCU win and they wanted to know about the kind of training we get.”
Echoing the thoughts of his other team members, Gunda noted that “VCU certainly is an amazing place. The academic environment, friendly colleagues and wide exposure to almost every case in the book helped us get to this point.”
The ACC’s Annual Scientific Session brings together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists from around the world to share the newest discoveries in treatment and prevention.
Pictured above: From R-L: Drs. Guru Kowlgi, Sampath Gunda (holding trophy) and Pranav Mankad