First Place in National Jeopardy Contest

Fellows win JeopardyEach 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 against 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 semifinals, and three teams competed in the final round.

“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.”

In the final round, the team put on a masterful performance—placing 3,400 points ahead of the second-place team. The Virginia Chapter received a first-place trophy and plaques and three $1,000 travel awards to send next year’s team to the 2020 conference in Chicago. Each team member 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 and 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 who constantly pushed us to a higher level by testing us and helping us to understand and prepare for the competition.”

“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.”

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.”

PICTURED ABOVE: FROM Right to Left: DRS. GURU KOWLGI, SAMPATH GUNDA (HOLDING TROPHY) AND PRANAV MANKAD, who won the national Fellows-In-Training Jeopardy contest at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session in March.