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Cardiologist/professor offers advice to students

By Chris Ertel

Dr. John Bisognano

Dr. John Bisognano loves his work as a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Rochester, but it took him years of experimentation and perseverance to find his niche.

Bisognano passed this message along to aspiring medical school students at Harpur College on April 26 as part of the Harpur College Physician Alumni Lecture Series. He encouraged students to stick with something they truly enjoy in order to find future satisfaction in medicine.

"As long as you keep listening to yourself and be honest with yourself about what you find interesting and what makes you get up in the morning, you'll do OK," Bisognano said.

Bisognano earned his doctorate in chemistry from Binghamton University in 1987 after he was initially rejected for medical school. Bisognano was discouraged at first, but he took the opportunity to regroup and plan for his future—something he considers important for students pursuing a career in the medical field.

"At some point in your medical career, there's going to be a reason to have to bounce back," Bisognano said. "It's important to regroup and not despair over it."

While at Binghamton, Bisognano received valuable mentorship from Jim Dix, associate professor of chemistry. Although he chose to pursue a career in medicine rather than chemistry, he said Dix was always interested in helping him achieve something that made him happy.

"Every day when I go to work, I take a little bit of Jim Dix with me," Bisognano said. "He was the guy who taught me how to reset and how to persevere."

He also expressed the value of his doctorate in helping him communicate with patients. "Being a teaching assistant and getting my PhD gave me perspective in how to explain things to people," Bisognano said. "With patients I have to teach them why, even if I've only known them for two minutes, that they need a major invasive procedure and that they should trust me."

Bisognano stressed the importance of mentorship in finding success for students of all interests and career paths.

"It's important to find a good mentor because we all need role models," Bisognano said. "A good mentor should allow you to be you and help you shape and identify your goals, and that's something I found here in the Chemistry Department."

While Bisognano ended up finding his niche as a cardiologist, he encouraged students to explore several different avenues in medicine before deciding on a specialty.

"If you think you want to be a cardiologist and that's why you're here today, keep an open mind," Bisognano said. "It's important to see what you like and what you mesh with."

As both a professor of medicine and a practicing doctor, Bisognano emphasized the wide range of opportunities available in the medical field. Rather than focusing on one specific goal or destination, he advised students to remain open minded and to expect a certain level of randomness.

"Wherever you are, look for the opportunities around you," Bisognano said. Although Bisognano acknowledged impending changes in the economics of the medical industry as a result of "Obamacare," he left students with one final piece of advice regarding their reasoning for pursuing a career in medicine.

"The economic model will always change, but you have to love what you do and just roll with it," he said.

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Last Updated: 3/1/17