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MD Panel

Harpur alumni offer medical-school advice

by Kelly Caputo

Their careers range from obstetrician to cardiologist, and medical student to an assistant professor, yet seven Harpur College alumni agreed on one thing: Medical school is hard work, but worth it in the end.

"I went to med school, and I never made a better decision in my life," Dr. Anita Sargent '00, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said during a pre-med panel on Oct. 11.

The event, "Grey's Anatomy vs. Reality," was sponsored by the Harpur College Dean's Office and Harpur Academic Advising. Speakers included Harpur graduates from 1967 to 2010.

Dr. Robert Best '88, director of Medical Student Education in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and an assistant professor and attending physician at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University, agreed with Sargent.

"I finish a shift, I go home, and sometimes I think 'I got paid for that? That was fun!'" he said.

Best said that the hardest part of his career was getting into medical school.

"You have to look at yourself and say 'Do I really want it?'" Best said.

Dr. John Bisognano '84, a current professor and cardiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said it took him three times to get into medical school.

"I wouldn't really recommend that!" he said.

For some, grades were the major factor standing between them and medical school.

"I had people trying to discourage me in college," Best said. "'You got a C-minus in organic chemistry, for God's sake, how are you going to be a doctor?'"

Best said jokingly that in his career, he still hasn't come across the subjects that caused him grief.

"I just want to say I've been a physician for 21 years, and I have yet to see a benzyne ring walking around," Best said.

Jason Cohn '10, who is attending medical school at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, agreed that getting the right grades to get into medical school could pose a problem. But not if you have the right attitude.

"You're not going to get A's in everything," Cohn said. "Hopefully you do, but you know, just try not to lose hope."

Others believed that getting the right grades was the least of their worries.

The huge costs were a source of concern for Dr. David Cooper '67, who is board certified for life by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery.

"You have to say to yourself: 'How much is this all going to cost me? And what are the salaries going to be?'" Cooper said.

Despite such pressing challenges, the doctors agreed that a passion for medicine will help prospective medical students persevere.

"I think that's the key right there to me," said Dr. Rastafa Geddes '98, who conducts research at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "Love what you do."

Dr. Adam Fox '92, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, agreed.

"Everybody goes into medicine for different reasons," Fox said. "I'm not going to lie to you and say that everybody goes into medicine because they want to help the world. I'm not sure that I want to help the world. I really enjoy what I do!"

The panelists also agreed on the importance of taking advantage of Harpur College's helpful faculty.

"The most important thing at this point is just look at all those options, meet with the advisers," said Cohn, who cites Harpur College pre-health adviser W. Thomas Langhorne as a mentor. "I sat down with him and met with him four or five times. ... It was great because I was giving up on medicine, and he told me 'There are options for you; you can become a doctor.'"

"It's really important to use the resources at the University," Cohn said.

Despite the rocky road to becoming a doctor, all seven panelists agree that they couldn't have made a better choice.

"Would I recommend it? I'd say without question," Best said.


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Last Updated: 3/1/17