Become a doctor: Doctors and medical students talk about what matters
Urged by her parents to study medicine, Nisha Gandhi was determined to become an actuary instead. But the math major’s equation for life worked differently after joining Harpur’s Ferry, the Binghamton University student volunteer ambulance.
“It became an obsession. I lived in Delaware Hall, next to the ambulance, ”she said. “I found that I had more fun doing emergency and intensive care than sitting at my desk solving math problems.”
To fulfill her new dream, she completed a year of graduate school to meet her medical requirements and then enrolled in a Caribbean medical school before training in both the UK and the United States. Today Dr. Nisha Gandhi Director of the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey.
“There is nothing better than sitting at the bedside and taking care of the patients. This is how you learn intensive care, ”she said.
She and several other Harpur alumni shared their stories about medical school and what followed during the Harpur Physician Alumni Panel on October 23, Grey’s Anatomy vs. Reality. About 80 people attended the Zoom event, which usually takes place in person during the homecoming weekend.
Preparation for medical school
Life sciences are a popular subject for future doctors, but as Gandhi’s story shows, it’s not the only one. Dr. Adam Fox ’92, the event host, graduated from Harpur with a degree in political science. He is currently Associate Professor of Surgery and Head of Trauma at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the Eric Munoz Trauma Center at University Hospital in Newark.
Contrary to popular belief, a less than spectacular grade in one of your courses won’t completely sink your application for medical school. There are some limits, however, Fox explained.
“I wasn’t doing very well in college and I went to podiatry school before improving my grades,” Fox explained. “But there’s a big push to see how people handle tests. If they feel you can’t pass the boards, that’s a strike against you because residency and scholarship programs are being prosecuted for it. You have to prove that you can be successful in a very strict academic environment. “
Having a compelling story behind your medical school application can help you stand out, especially if you get a bad grade or two, advised Dr. Desmond Sutton ’10. His own story is particularly interesting: both he and his twin brother visited Binghamton and have since become doctors after attending various medical schools. Along the way, Sutton discovered his passion for high-risk obstetrics, and he is now in his final year of a maternal fetal medicine scholarship at Columbia University.
Many people usually do a gap year or more before going to medical school, but that was not the case with Colin Pritchard and Alexandra Dolgetta. Pritchard, who graduated from Binghamton in May 2020, just started teaching this fall at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, where he is participating in the Rural Medical Scholars Program. Dolgetta, who graduated in 2018, is now beginning her rotations as a third-year medical student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
If you choose not to go into a gap year, be prepared for interviewers to ask you about it, Dolgetta said. Once you get into medical school, no matter how well prepared you are, the experience will be overwhelming, she said.
The first two years involve intensive learning; Dolgetta went to books every day between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., with few breaks. She is enjoying her third year of clinical rotations much more.
“You do all of this work to get a medical degree. None of this compares to the work you do in medical school. It’s really daunting, ”she said. “The hard work really starts when you get here. You will be surprised by your capacity. “
“Live it, love it”
Sometimes people choose to go into medicine to make money – which is the completely wrong reason, the panelists said.
While doctors are well reimbursed, the debt burden is real, said Sutton, who began applying for ten-year loan relief programs during his internship. This debt burden could influence your choice of subject; Gandhi’s husband became an anesthetist rather than a pediatrician because he realized that if he chose the latter route, he would not be able to pay off his pre-retirement loans.
Medicine is also extremely stressful. Trauma surgeons like Fox regularly deal with life and death scenarios, nighttime nights, and grieving families. Gandhi, who has three children, missed family gatherings and celebrations.
The tests don’t end with medical school either, panelists said. To maintain their board certifications, doctors have to retest every 10 years – and they’re grueling eight-hour exams, Gandhi explained. She should know: She has four board certifications to test for.
Internships and internships are good ways to find out whether medicine is right for you. Pritchard accompanied a colon surgeon in Sayre, Pennsylvania, as well as the local doctor in his small hometown. Dolgetta’s best shadowing experience came through the Mentoring program for doctors in the summerthat she matched with an alum from Harpur College. They’re still in touch after five years, she said.
Medicine is immensely challenging, but just as fulfilling for people who have the mission and the passion, according to the panelists.
“You have to want to do it. Enjoy it, live it, love it, ”said Gandhi of medicine.