Tutor Spotlight: Kevin Kleffman – Med School Tutors

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Kevin Kleffman is a superb tutor and team player. He is devoted, highly energetic, and understands the importance of balancing life and study. He is dedicated to the success of his students, and we couldn’t be happier to have him on our team.

    Without further ado, here’s Kevin:

    Where did you go to medical school?

    I am currently a 3rd year MD-PhD student at NYU School of Medicine.

    What are you studying for you PhD?

    I am getting my PhD in Molecular Oncology and Tumor Immunology. My thesis project investigates the molecular mechanisms of brain metastasis in melanoma.

    What are your career plans after residency?

    I plan to enter into an Internal Medicine/Medical Oncology or Radiation Oncology research fast track residency. I plan on becoming the principle investigator of a translational cancer research lab and practicing medicine as a medical or radiation oncologist.

    Do you do any research? Any publications?

    During my undergraduate education at UC Berkeley, I did research on the molecular mechanisms of gene expression in KSHV. This research led to a publication in Molecular Cell, of which I am an author, entitled “Global Mapping of Herpesvirus-host Protein Complexes Reveals a Transcription Strategy for Late Genes”.

    What brought you to Med School Tutors? Why did you choose to be a tutor?

    I chose to be a tutor for a few reasons. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and have found it to be one of the best ways to strengthen and reinforce my knowledge. Identifying what a student is having trouble with and why he/she is struggling has forced me to think about medical knowledge in new ways and has deepened my understanding. It also is extremely rewarding to be able to work 1-on-1 with a student over time and see them reach and even exceed their goals. Lastly, as an MD-PhD student, tutoring for USMLE Step 1 during my PhD will allow me to to remember all the medical material I learned during preclinical, which will be very advantageous come clerkship year.

    What is one piece of advice you would give to students as they are are looking for research opportunities?

    What is most important about research, whether it be clinical or basic science, is that you are passionate about what you’re doing and self-motivated. Think about what part(s) of medicine and science excite you and read some review papers from PubMed. Don’t hesitate to reach out to faculty you may be interested in working with. Principal Investigators are very open to working with students who are motivated and can demonstrate interest. Invest yourself in your project and go the extra mile. If you are doing the minimum to check the “research box” on a future application, the experience will be unpleasant for everyone involved.

    What is the most awkward patient encounter you have ever had?

    During preclinical, I was the referrals coordinator for the med school free clinic. We had a patient who was an old woman who had lived abroad most of her life, only spoke an uncommon Portuguese dialect, and had not ever really had medical care. Through a translator, I had to explain to her what a colonoscopy is and why she needed one. She had never heard of a colonoscopy. When the translator was explaining what it was, she seemed shocked and a bit offended. She gave me a look that said “You are a crazy med student who wants to put tubes in places they don’t belong.” It was pretty awkward, but after some more talking and a visit with the attending, the patient came around and decided to go forward with it.

    What is your favorite thing to eat?

    So hard to choose just one, but probably my favorite, is good vanilla bean ice cream. Happiness in a spoon.

    What is the most exciting place you have ever traveled?

    I went to Thailand and Cambodia as a celebratory post Step 1 trip. One day, I got up before dawn and rode a motorbike about an hour away from Chiang Mai to see the sunrise at a mountain top temple Doi Suthep. It was kind of nerve-wracking riding alone in the dark, navigating on memorized directions in a country I didn’t speak the language. It was an amazing experience and the sunrise was definitely worth the journey.

    If you weren’t a doctor, what would you do?

    If I couldn’t become an MD-PhD, I think I would either want to be a judge or work in the tech industry on artificial intelligence.

    What do you like to do outside of medicine?

    My main hobbies outside of medicine are cooking, tennis, running, and playing piano. I also play in an intramural kickball league in Spring through Fall.