Research at NYCOM

By: Adam Guss, OMS-II

Besides simply trying to learn material and pass/honor systems many students look for new ways to differentiate themselves, bolster the resume, and catch an edge. We have many clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities on hand. Others find new things simply as good scientists do; with curiosity. Research is one of those ways to put our academic skills to the test and create with our hands and minds.

During this last summer I participated in NYCOM’s Summer Research Program. Dr. Beatty of the anatomy faculty served as my mentor and research advisor as we investigated the hardness in molar substances. Over six weeks we setup an experiment to investigate hypothesized differences in hardness between enamel and dentin based on its location on and within teeth harvested from rats in the lab. After a lot of background reading on microstructure, microindentation, and how exactly to go about working all kinds of new machinery, we set out. After submitting a proposal for the Summer Research Program and getting approval for the project, we performed the experiment, gathered data, and created a detailed poster for presentation. The project certainly exceeded the six weeks allotted due to the level of prep required to write a detailed proposal for approval.

While it may seem at times that the course work is enough to keep anyone busy, research starts with curiosity and a large amount of background reading and this takes time. Part of engaging in any extracurricular is time management and balancing life functions. This remains something to keep in mind even for Officers in clubs and other positions.

But getting into research can often seem to be a difficult leap. NYCOM’s Summer Research Project not only gets students the opportunity to work with the faculty to perform research but also come face to face with the challenges of academia. It can be an incredible experience. But while NYCOM may offer $500 for supplies and a $1500 stipend to the student for the 6 weeks, actually planning and performing the task is rigorous work.

How does a first year go about finding a research project? Well step one is to get acquainted with the faculty. In both OMM and Anatomy lab students have a great opportunity to learn from faculty directly. Approaching a faculty member maybe daunting but they are often incredibly happy to share what they are working on and often will take the time to explain their own research. Finding a project that interests you is often one of the best ways to get involved. Step two normally is just approaching that faculty member and asking about involving them in a summer research project.

Academic Scholars are also close to the research action. Part of being an Academic Scholar is performing a research project with a faculty advisor. Academic Scholars have office hours which can be a good downtime to ask about how they became involved or the projects that they know of currently underway. Because of this, research is also a good means to distinguish someone whom is considering the Academic Scholars program.

Research is incredibly rewarding though, and I’d highly recommend it to students who have not had the opportunity to perform research before .

Summer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center

By: Rita Aidoo, OMS-II

This summer, I interned as a summer medical fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center as part of what I consider to be the best summer opportunity of my career thus far. I spent 8 weeks doing research in Gestational Trophoblastic Diseases as well as shadowing an Obstetrician/Gynecologist Oncologist. It was a great learning opportunity for me because of my interest in the field of ob/gyn and cancer research. Alongside spending time in research labs and the hospital, I attended lunch time seminars on a variety of topics with my favorite being a workshop on reducing stress level via a special form of Yoga.

The disease I chose to study generated a small sample size due its rare nature, which made my findings not as strong. Nonetheless, I did write a paper for publication that will be submitted soon and hopefully published. I ended the program by partaking in a poster presentation of my study.

This summer program opened a lot of opportunities for me: I met a lot of potential mentors and formed new friendships.  It is an amazing program, and I urge all current first and second year to consider applying for it next summer.

In The Mind of an HPSP Student at Summer Training

By: Daniel J. Rausa, OMS-II

I stood at attention, saluting the flag of the United States of America as the National Anthem played.  I spent nearly an hour that morning at 5:00 AM making sure my uniform was perfect, down to the smallest of details.  I heard our National Anthem play hundreds of times in my life, but this time was different.   This time, I was listening to it as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy and in a military uniform for the very first time.

This past summer, I reported to the U.S. Navy’s Officer Development School (ODS) in Newport, Rhode Island.  ODS is a 5 week intensive training program designed to develop future physicians and other professionals into trained Naval officers.   While I knew that upon graduation, I would have undoubtedly understood my role as a future Navy physician better, I never anticipated the extent of the personal growth I would experience.

There is something very specific about hearing a Navy Chief screaming at 4:30 AM that made me think critically about life and the choices I made which brought me to that very moment.  I chose to be a Navy doctor very simply because I felt a significant connection to the men and women who serve our country.  I wanted to be their doctor and in a more cliché sense, I wanted to be a part of something greater than myself, a team of people who worked together to achieve one goal.

There were many times when I felt like an integral member of an extraordinary team.  Our training staff pushed us to mental and physical barriers that we have never experienced before and we relied on each other to succeed and keep morale high.  Each day we heard the phrase “together we rise, together we fall.”  Any sense of self was removed from our psyche and we learned to look out for one another while encouraging the success of the team over the individual.   From having twenty minutes for a sixty five person company to shower and be inspection ready in our uniforms to doing pushups together because one person did not memorize the words to “Anchors Aweigh”, every single part of our day exemplified how it was impossible to succeed at ODS as an individual.

This sense of team is an important ideal for our men and women in the military.  It is more than wearing the same uniform or carrying out the same mission; it is having a collective sense in pride in what you do everyday that is beyond words and that can only be felt deep down and only understood by those serving next to you.  ODS instilled in me this pride that I fail to express no matter how hard I try.  We were evaluated as more than just future physicians filling a necessary medical role, but as officers who must demonstrate the highest ideals of leadership and duty.  Without my newly ingrained sense of duty and pride, I would be doing a grave disservice to adequately care for our military service members, to fulfill my duties as an officer, and to loyally serve the United States of America.

I was trained to understand that I would be more than a physician who happened to be in the military, but rather that I would be military physician.  This learning process began with my experiences at ODS which taught me that my choice to accept the HPSP scholarship was more about my duty to my shipmates and my country than it was about myself.  The pride I felt saluting the flag in uniform marked a very memorable beginning to a career that promises to be defined by unique challenges and stresses but nonetheless rewarding in many ways.   Standing in formation with nearly two hundred other medical professionals who felt the same way I did at that very moment reaffirmed my sincere desire to become a Navy physician for all the right reasons.

Exploring New Medicine

By Joshua Feldman OMS II

This is a vignette about how invaluable experiences, mentors, and opportunities to mature as student physicians will present themselves at the least expected times.

In anticipation for the summer, every free second I had between studying, labs, and other obligations was spent setting up a research position in a field of my interest.  I knew I wanted to stay involved and keep my first year’s skills sharp.

My preliminary search for something to keep me busy went well. I found a great project working with medical professionals from various specialties at a local hospital. It was exactly what I was looking for; an opportunity to surround myself with compassionate physicians and experts in their field. I sighed a breath of relief and finished up my year with enthusiasm for the coming months. Little did I know, I would soon meet a doctor at a friend’s engagement party who would expose me to a specific niche of medicine I had never before seen.

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Kurzweil, an Internal and Geriatric Medicine specialist, after our two month intensive course in immunology.  The importance and all-encompassing nature of this system dumbfounded me.  And unbeknownst to me at the time, familiarity with this system would comprise a significant portion of my experiences for the summer.

My initial conversation with Dr. Kurzweil was filled with common interests, familiar experiences, and shared insights for the future of healthcare; it ended with an opportunity for me to experience a scope of medicine that I never imagined would spark my interest. The invaluable experience that followed gave me a tangible way to reinforce and develop my medical skills, and subsequently changed my understanding of medicine forever.

I had the opportunity to be part of a team that inquired about and managed many of the aspects of the aging process in the context of the whole being.  More specifically, I was exposed to people with a wide range of disorders, everything from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, carcinoid, WPW syndrome, to a variety of cardiovascular disorders and cancers.  It amazed me that following perhaps a hundred people in a two-month stint could largely touch upon a textbook of medicine.

Dr. Kurzweil attended medical school at UMDNJ, Newark and completed an internal medicine training at Johns Hopkins and UCSF.  Over his 32 years practicing in Glen Cove, he attended patients at St Francis Hospital and Glen Cove Hospital, as well several SNF’s and Assisted Living Homes; currently he is devoting the practice to ambulatory medicine in his office and two adult homes in the community. Over the years, he has served as a teacher and mentor for a multitude of students.

His passion for medicine and his genuine care for his patients were both obvious the moment I walked into his office. It was clear that Dr. Kurzweil had developed finesse for treating his patients that included creating a dynamic relationship with each one. Most impressively, he, as well as his entire staff, shared a common investment in every individual that walked into the office, often times the same patient for over 23 years.

I continued to shadow Dr. Kurzweil all summer and took note of his artful management of his patients.  Each visit, I would learn from Dr. Kurzweil’s rather unorthodox teaching, which involved an open discussion about the relevant pathology and management of his patient. In every case, the patient would encourage his teaching and listen intently to our discussion, interjecting with their insight to support our differential. The enthusiasm and fervor he showed for his field most certainly allowed for an unforgettable experience in medicine.

My message with this article — is that you never know whom you might meet and that you should always maintain a genuine interest in our work. I may be speaking for myself, but we are all young student doctors, and everywhere we go, we need to beam excitement and enthusiasm for the very thing we are devoting our lives to. You never know who is listening or who might cross your path.

My meeting with Dr. Kurzweil may have been unconventional, but I owe him a great deal of gratitude for the extraordinary opportunity he provided for me this summer.

He welcomes any young physicians looking for shadowing opportunity to contact his office at (516) 671-7770.

Learning Cultural Competence Through Service

By: Mark Yassa, OMS-II

Global Health is a topic discussed quite often in medicine today. Even here at NYCOM there is an entire organization, GHO, dedicated to teach students more about multicultural competence. What does the term multicultural competence really mean and why is it so important? Most medical schools now hold lectures discussing topics like global health and global awareness, but does just listening to information presented in a lecture format truly aid in understanding the culture of our patients?  Many, including myself, feel that the best way to truly understand culture is to experience it. It is active learning at its finest. This is why this past summer two other NYCOM students and I decided to take part in a medical mission trip to Nicaragua for 15 days through International Service Learning.
Me and a Pediatric Patient            Choosing Nicaragua was an easy decision for me for two main reasons. First, it is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, so I felt that my presence there, however short, would be of more benefit to the people there than somewhere else. The other main motivating factor to go to Nicaragua was that it was a great chance to increase my proficiency in Spanish. This was beneficial because Spanish is the second most spoken language in New York City, where I ultimately wish to end up practicing. These factors combined with my personal interest in Latin American culture made Nicaragua my destination of choice.
While there, my peers and I gained a wealth of experience. Aside from the three of us from NYCOM, there were another ten pre-medicine Becky With A Newebornundergraduate students with us. It was great to be with such a dynamic group made up of eager, curious, and enthusiastic students. We assisted in the management of two temporary clinics during our stay, one in an orphanage in a very small village called Los Angeles and another that was run out of a church in Managua, the country’s capital. The orphanage was a great experience for me personally, and much to my surprise spiked my interest in dealing with pediatric patients. I also know that some of my peers got to witness a live birth while they were shadowing the program coordinator at the local hospital, which was of special interest to a few of the students  who may have a future in obstetrics and gynecology.

While we were in the clinic we were paired with translators to assist us during history taking, which was mostly done without supervision of the Katrina Auscultating Heart Soundslocal physicians so it was important to be efficient since there was a large amount of patients to see. While we were taking these histories I became aware that if I was back in the United States, I would most likely be asking much different questions. The factors that were directing my questions came from the bits of knowledge I gained about the culture when I arrived there a few days earlier. I arrived in Nicaragua a few days before the beginning of the program, so I had a chance to experience a little of the culture before the program began. I learned as much as I could by chatting with the locals that spoke English and other Americans who had been in the country for an extended period of time, educated me on many of the other social issues that I was unaware of.
Through talking to a female college student that had just finished studying in Managua for a semester I learned more about the “machismo” attitude that is prevalent in many areas of Latin America. In a nutshell, it is the attitude of masculinity being greater than femininity. This is coupled with the general acceptance of males in the society having multiple sexual partners outside of their marriage. Now, the point of this information isn’t to discuss morality or form judgments about the culture, it is just information. In fact as future physicians we should avoid alienating a patient by counter-transference of our feelings, since this could affect patient compliance to treatments or suggested lifestyle modifications. Cultural information like this has investigative importance during history taking and narrowing down differentials. In this specific example, we all knew that it was important to thoroughly investigate a patient’s sexual history if the he or she presented with any type of genitourinary problems. The cultural knowledge we gained helped us correctly diagnose several patients with bacterial kidney infections.

This is just one example of how knowledge about culture will benefit us in our careers. Benefit would also arise from knowing more about their diet, environmental exposures, home and family life or any other aspect of culture. Gaining multicultural competence is a challenge that all medical personnel will face. The moral of the story here is to attempt to learn as much as possible about our patient’s cultures. With New York City and surrounding areas being home to over 800 spoken languages, the most linguistically diverse city in the world, it is a fair bet that we will have many opportunities to learn about these cultures. The more we learn about the cultures of the communities we treat, the better we will be able to serve them.