Dr. Arkady Komsoukaniants and Dr. Rebecca Yarborough: Vanatta, Hesser, Schmalstieg Excellence in Tutoring Award

A fascination with making origami shapes as a first-grader may have been the first clue that Dr. Arkady Komsoukaniants was no ordinary child. His attention to detail and fondness for the logic of math led to an interest in medicine, intertwined with a love of learning.

Dr. Arkady Komsoukaniants
Dr. Arkady Komsoukaniants

Understanding the complexities of disease on a broad scale and putting this knowledge into practice as a pulmonary intensivist is Dr. Komsoukaniants’ long-term goal.

“That’s the end product. It is not the knowledge, awards, or good test grades, it is actually having a tangible impact on someone’s life,” he said. “I’d also like to teach. I hope to become a member of an academic medical faculty, enmeshed in the medical school experience.”

Dr. Komsoukaniants started tutoring in college and continued throughout most of medical school. His dedication, as well as Dr. Rebecca Yarborough’s, to helping students learn the complex medical school curriculum earned both of them the 2014 Vanatta, Hesser, Schmalstieg Excellence in Tutoring Award. The award, which includes a certificate and $500, honors graduating seniors who have made a significant contribution to tutoring fellow students.

“Tutoring is a wonderful review for me. Medical students ask questions and phrase subjects in ways I had never thought of, so that’s always refreshing. I can research those topics and increase my knowledge,” said Dr. Komsoukaniants of the benefits of tutoring.

Dr. Yarborough, also winner of the Dr. Richard Mays Smith Award in Internal Medicine, said tutoring helped her realize how much she enjoys teaching, so much so that she may go into teaching later in her career. (See related article on Dr. Yarborough above.)

“I have tutored before, but became aware of how passionate I am about teaching during this past year,” she said. “Watching my students grow in their knowledge from week to week was very rewarding.”

Dr. Rebecca Yarborough
Dr. Rebecca Yarborough

Carol Wortham, Manager of Student Academic Assistance Services in the Office of Medical Education, said both award recipients proved their dedication to peer tutoring with consistently high-quality work throughout the year.

“Student comments were always extremely positive, with special appreciation for the careful organization of information, practice question opportunities, and responsiveness to feedback. The word ‘awesome’ often described their sessions,” Ms. Wortham said.

For Dr. Komsoukaniants, whose parents emigrated from Russia when he was 5 years old, challenging himself intellectually has been ingrained since childhood. He grew up in The Woodlands, a Houston suburb, and graduated from Oak Ridge High School in nearby Conroe. At UT Austin, he double-majored in biochemistry and chemistry, and initially considered a career as a scientist before focusing on medicine.

“I felt basic science was too limiting,” he explained. “Everyone was doing very advanced, infinitesimally focused research, whereas I wanted a more broad scope of knowledge and more utility.”

Dr. Komsoukaniants now intends to put that vast medical knowledge to the test with a three-year internal medicine residency at the University of California, San Diego, followed by a potential fellowship in pulmonary and critical care.