By Terasa Yu
Happiness should be a factor to any career plans that people may have, Adam D. Fox, associate medical director of the New Jersey Trauma Center, told students at a physician alumni panel.
Fox ‘92 was one of four Harpur College graduates who took part in the panel, which was held on Oct. 17 as part of Homecoming 2014. Also present were: Michael Needle ‘81, a former pediatric hematologist/oncologist in academic practice at Pennsylvania State University and Columbia University; Ilyse Genser ‘12, a second-year medical student at New York Medical College; and Morris Milman ‘73, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and board-certified in internal medicine.
Sponsored by Harpur Edge and Harpur Academic Advising, “Grey’s Anatomy vs. Reality” was conducted to inform students about medical school and medical practice.
The event began with much encouragement from the alumni. They assured Harpur students, specifically those who are thinking about entering the medical field, that the process is not as far-fetched as it might seem.
“You don’t actually have to be a science major in order to go into medicine,” Fox said. “You’d have to have the requirements to get into medical school. It’s very doable if you set your mind to it.”
Credentials also help with getting students into medical school, especially with the amount of competition, which raises expectations.
“Getting your name on a (research) paper that gets published is enormous,” Needle said. “(Medical school administrators are) trying to distinguish between the incredible and the outstandingly incredible.”
Once in medical school, students will have to work hard. There is no time for slacking.
“Med school is basically as much work as they make it out to be,” Genser said. “You’ll be studying just about every day.”
“When you go to med school, you are trained to be a scientist,” Milman said. Although difficult and tedious, medical school prepares students to enter various fields as physicians. Fox said that by the third year, students are exposed to major specializations, such as internal medicine, surgery and pediatrics.
“It’s important (for students) to understand that there are options out there,” Fox said. “One of the remarkable things about medicine is that there’s really a specialty that fits almost everybody’s personality.”
Residency was an important aspect that the alumni panelists discussed with Harpur students. Fox recalled his residency as exhausting and grueling. However, Needle remembered his hands-on training with much enthusiasm.
“I enjoyed residency infinitely more than medical school,” Needle said.
For some Harpur students, a key concern was if a medical career would negatively affect the relationships in their personal lives.
“You can make time for people,” Genser said. “It’s all about time management.”
Fox also said that regardless of the professions students end up choosing, there will always be a core group of people who understand their duties and would support them.
Other Harpur students were curious whether physicians should become attached to patients or not.
“I personally do become attached,” Needle said. “If you allow yourself to become more attached, there’s higher risk, but also higher reward.”
The question that brought much laughter to the room dealt with the accuracy of medical shows on television. Fox, who was featured in the ABC medical reality show “NY Med,” was particularly responsive. He said that editing plays a big role in the inaccuracy of medical situations on such shows. He also touched upon how romance is usually exaggerated.
“These programs pump up the romantic part of what we do from a day-to-day basis,” Fox said, “among ourselves, with the nurses or whatever. If it was like that, many more people would be going into medicine.”
“What we do, the complexity is so much more than what you can put in an hour show,” Milman said from a technical viewpoint.
Not all topics of discussion were humorous. One involved the effects of patient deaths on physicians.
“I’ve been to more funerals than anyone should have to,” Needle said.
“The closer you are to wrong (while performing surgery), the more difficult and emotional baggage it gives you,” Fox said.
“You have to learn from it,” Milman said. “You can’t beat yourself up about it.”
Realistically, all the alumni agreed that it is best to learn from mistakes and move on to the next patient. Milman said that no one is perfect in medicine: They can only get better at it.
The session concluded with Fox encouraging students to attend the Harpur College Physician Lecture Series. The panel allowed students to become more knowledgeable about the medical world.
“It gave me some insight to how things work,” said Vickie Li, an undeclared sophomore. “They told very interesting stories.”
Last Updated: 3/1/17