Wait was worth it for this graduating Upstate medical student

SUNY Upstate Match Day

Khalia Grant, of Upstate's College of Medicine Class of 2014, wears her Match Day shirt announcing her residency match in pediatrics at Upstate. Khalia and more than 150 other members of the Class of 2014, along with graduating medical students nationwide, took part in the annual National Match Day last Friday.

Fourth-year Upstate medical student Khalia Grant paused for a moment before responding to a question about her undergraduate years at Smith College in Massachusetts.

“It was so long ago,” she said Friday afternoon, smiling and still enjoying Match Day festivities at Upstate. (Graduating medical students around the country learned Friday where they’ll spend the next several years as medical residents. Upstate’s graduating class, like many others, produced a “happy” video to mark the day.)

Khalia enrolled in Upstate in 2007 and completed her first two years of medical school. She then took time off to deliver her youngest son, and returned to Upstate three years later. After Khalia graduates in May, she’ll stay at Upstate to begin her medical residency in pediatrics.

“I built a real community within pediatrics, and have great relationships with every attending physician,” she said. “It’s the only place (among her clerkship sites) where it felt like home.”

Khalia always wanted a career that involved children, but she didn’t know she was headed for medicine until her junior year of college. As an education major with a concentration in art, she studied abroad and worked with hospitalized children in Jamaica.

Khalia liked it so much, she changed her thesis and focused on pre-med courses. The Poughkeepsie native completed some post-baccalaureate work at SUNY New Paltz to finish prerequisites for medical school.

“College is not the place to decide how you want to spend the rest of your life, even though that’s what it’s intended to do,” she said. “It’s really not the place to find yourself. … When I was 18 to 22, I had no idea what I wanted to do.”

Khalia marvels at the many medical students who set their sights on medicine early on and never waver. Even though she’s a few years older than many of her classmates, Khalia sees those intervening years as an investment in herself and in her family.

She’s happy she took the path she did, comparing those years to “stopping and smelling the roses.”

Khalia is looking forward to spending the next few years learning and treating kids in Upstate’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. It’s a special place with a positive environment fostered by dedicated people who simply love children, she said. “You feel great staying there and working there for the whole day.”

Khalia also chose to stay in Syracuse because her three children, ages 4 to 10, are already established in school and preschool. “It made sense for me to stay,” she said.

SUNY Upstate Match Day

Khalia Grant's family was on hand for the Match Day celebration in Weiskotten Hall. Photo by Richard Whelsky.

 

 

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First-year graduate student is first author of research paper

SUNY Upstate Pharmacology

Jacqualyn Schulman, a graduate student in the Pharmacology program at Upstate, is first author of a research paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Jacqualyn Schulman has achieved a rare feat for a first-year student in the College of Graduate Studies – she has a first-author credit in a scientific journal for her research into a protein that could play a role in cancer.

Jacqualyn came to Upstate in 2012 after earning a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She spent a year as a laboratory assistant before enrolling in the College of Graduate Studies.

Like most first-year biomedical sciences graduate students here, Jacqualyn has rotated through three different labs to help choose a program and a mentor for the rest of her doctoral program.

She will continue working with Richard Wojcikiewicz, PhD, professor and interim chair of Pharmacology. He was Jacqualyn’s mentor on the research project that was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in July 2013.

“Richard presented the topic to me, and it was all new,” Jacqualyn said of her research into the Bcl-2 protein family member Bok. “It sounded interesting, so we worked on it, submitted it and got some comments back. I just kept plowing through. We resubmitted it, and it was accepted and published.”

Jacqualyn said Upstate offers a demanding but supportive atmosphere for graduate students in the biomedical sciences.

“It’s challenging, but challenging in the best way,” she said. “I never thought of pharmacology as an undergrad, but I came here and got a better idea of what the departments were working on. It was a nice surprise, to fall in love with something else.”

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‘Match Day’ comes early for three Upstate med students

SUNY Upstate College of Medicine

These fourth-year medical students at Upstate have "matched" with ophthalmology residency programs. Left to right, Spencer Langevin, Laura Andrews and Mark Breazzano will graduate from Upstate's College of Medicine in May, then spend a year at other institutions before beginning their ophthalmology residencies in 2015.

Even though the official national “Match Day” for fourth-year medical students is two weeks away, three Upstate students already know where they’re going for their medical residencies in ophthalmology.

Tradition dictates that medical residency matches in ophthalmology are finalized earlier than other specialties.

Upstate’s Laura Andrews (University of Maryland), Mark Breazzano (Vanderbilt University) and Spencer Langevin (Nassau University Medical College) will report to those schools in July 2015 after spending a transitional/preliminary year at a medical center to be determined on Match Day March 21. Here’s a look at all three.

Laura Andrews

Laura is a native of Oswego, NY, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan.

On ophthalmology: It is a fascinating field with a good mix of medicine and surgery. I enjoy microsurgery and I like the pace of the clinic and getting better at my exam. It is also a very nice lifestyle for someone who plans to have a family, and there are several interesting subspecialty options. I’m currently most interested in retina but I also enjoy general ophthalmology.

Laura said she’s motivated by “a feeling that I want to be the best that I can possibly be, at whatever I do.” She’s not sure about a career goal, but there are things she likes about both private practice and academic medicine.

“My husband and I will probably try to stay on the east coast or maybe move a little farther south,” she said. “After my training, I’d love to live and work abroad at some point.”

Upstate highlights: Her favorite courses were Anatomy with Dr. Berg and Eye Pathology with Dr. Barker-Griffith. “The friends I made during first year are one of the best parts about med school,” she said.

Mark Breazzano 

Mark is from Manlius, NY, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology from Hamilton College.

On ophthalmology: I realized I was fascinated with the neuro-visual system as soon as I started poking inside optic nerves of horseshoe crabs with electrodes at Upstate’s Center for Vision Research between freshman and sophomore years of college. In my third year of med school, I realized the incredible impact that eye surgeons make. Results are often dramatic, positive and quick, and consequently, with high patient satisfaction. I think it’s really special to be part of a group that can often cure people’s blindness.

Motivation/inspiration: The late Dr. Robert Barlow, my first lab mentor the summer after freshman year of college, had enthusiasm for vision research that was infectious. He taught me a lot about, and instilled a great appreciation for, ophthalmic investigation before his untimely passing in 2009.  At a scholarship banquet during senior year of high school, Dr. Barlow introduced himself and graciously offered me a position in his vision lab.

Career goal: I would certainly enjoy coming back to practice in the area.  In the meantime, I’m excited about living in “Music City” in the South, and perhaps later, checking out other fun places in the country. I would like to have an academic career that combines a clinical and surgical ophthalmic practice with research after fellowship training.  I’m excited that the Vanderbilt Eye Institute has the incredible training quality, reputation, and resources to help make this happen.

Upstate highlights: Studying eye pathology with Dr. Ann Barker-Griffith. On one of my first days doing research in her lab, she was showing me how to “gross” (examine before dissection) an autopsy eye.  After she took the second eye from the jar, she immediately placed this whole eye in my hand.  Both the surprise of her immediate trust in me and having an entire formalin-fixed, human eye in my hand for the first time were quite memorable!

Spencer Langevin

Spencer is from Syracuse, and earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Syracuse University. He is a die-hard SU basketball and Buffalo Bills fan.

On ophthalmology: I chose ophthalmology because I love the mix of medicine and surgery. I also love that I can have an enormous impact on my patient’s quality of life every day. The ability to save or restore vision is one of the greatest honors I could have.

Inspiration/motivation: My father-in-law, Dr. Robert Lopez, at Columbia in NYC. “His vision-saving surgical interventions on children with advanced Retinopathy of Prematurity is why I entered the field,” Spencer said.

Career goal: to become a Vitreo-retinal Surgeon and complete a fellowship in Uveitis. “I want to work in academics in a large urban setting, and have the ability to instruct future residents and fellows,” he said. “I hope to be able to treat babies with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) and become a leader in the field of pediatric retina.”

Upstate highlights: Dr. Gregory Eastwood, who taught Bioethics at the Bedside. “He connects with students on an amazing level and really cares about our education,” Spencer said. “My favorite class at Upstate was Physiology, and my favorite clerkship other than ophthalmology was Psychiatry.”

 

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Third-year med student wins Sarah Loguen Fraser Scholarship

SUNY Upstate medical Sarah Loguen Day

Krista Tookhan, center, receives her Sarah Loguen Fraser Scholarship plaque from Alvin Roberts, left, coordinator of Upstate's Cross Cultural Awareness and Retention, and Bruce Simmons, MD, right, president of the Medical Alumni Association board of directors. Krista, a third-year medical student, plans to specialize in pediatrics. The Medical Alumni Association sponsors the annual scholarship.

Third-year medical student Krista Tookhan has been awarded Upstate’s Sarah Loguen Fraser Scholarship, named in honor of the pioneering physician who was the first African-American woman to graduate — in 1876 — from what later became Upstate’s College of Medicine.

Krista’s scholarship, sponsored by the Medical Alumni Association, was announced during Sarah Loguen Fraser Day Wednesday in Medical Alumni Auditorium. The annual award is presented to an Upstate medical student who exemplifies the values of Dr. Loguen, one of the country’s first female African-American physicians.

Krista, a native of the Bahamas, plans a career in pediatrics. Her autobiographical essay follows:

SUNY Upstate medical student

Upstate medical student Krista Tookhan.

I’ve always been somewhat of a dreamer.  I guess this all began when I was born in a dream-like environment on a beautiful October morning in Nassau, Bahamas.  I was the youngest of three children born to my parents.  My mom worked as a receptionist and my dad was a small business owner.

My parents could not afford to give us all the luxuries of life, but made a commitment to ensure that we did receive what they considered to be most important – an education.  My parents sacrificed to ensure that my siblings and I received the best education possible at a small private high school in Nassau.

While in high school I decided that because of my love of science and people, I wanted to become a doctor.  I was fortunate enough to earn a few scholarships that afforded me the opportunity to attend the University of Miami.

After graduation, I decided to take some time off and gain some work experience before committing myself to a long career as a physician.  I eventually landed a job teaching biology at a school for juvenile offenders.

Never had I imagined that I would work in such an area, but quickly became very aware and sensitive to the injustices in our society, especially where this population is concerned.  I loved my job, and advocated for my students’ education for five years.

I was still being nagged, however, by my desire to practice medicine.  I decided to apply to medical school to fulfill my dream.  During the time I was applying to medical schools I married my amazing husband; and two days after gaining acceptance to Upstate’s Medical School found out we were expecting our first child.

As excited as we were to begin our family, our emotions were mixed with feelings of fear and doubt.  I had always considered that being a woman in medicine would require some difficult decisions about child-rearing.  I never imagined that I would begin my career trying to “have it all” balancing medicine and a family.

My husband and I decided to defer acceptance to the following year, and I would begin medical school with a nine-month old baby.

Three years later, as we are quickly approaching the final year of medical school, I can confidently say that you can “have it all.”  These three years have been challenging academically, financially and emotionally; with the help of our family, friends, and our Upstate family we have been able to make it this far.

I have decided to pursue a career in pediatrics, in hopes of being able to work with and advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.  I hope to be able to help in the fight for access to care for children, especially mental health care.

I have also recently become very passionate about vaccination programs for children, and ensuring the public receives factual information about vaccinations.  I believe a great pediatrician must be a great advocator; and this now is my dream.

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