Meet Our Students

Christopher Clayton - Class of 2018

Northampton, MA

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

My first impression of the Columbia-Bassett program was that it is change-oriented. It is universally recognized that there are major issues in health care: high costs, poor outcomes, inefficient systems, and physician burnout, among others. The Columbia-Bassett program is predicated on the idea that students should be involved in creating solutions to these problems form the moment they begin their training. I was particularly drawn to the health systems (SLIM) curriculum, both for the incredible utility of learning skills in quality improvement, and for the empowerment that the training promotes for new members of the medical profession.

What do you hope to do in the future?

Being a part of such an innovative medical school program has inspired a strong interest in medical education. I will be taking time away from Columbia to participate in the Zuckerman Fellowship at Harvard to earn a Master’s in Higher Education, with the goal of pursuing a career in medical education. While I’m still deciding between specialties at the moment, I hope to stay attached to academic medical institutions and eventually work in medical school administration.

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

The Cooperstown community, my classmates included, has been the highlight of the program so far. Now back in NYC, I’m missing Cooperstown more than ever!

Some of the highlights:

  • Summer afternoons barbequing on Fair Street
  • Watching the sunset from the docks at Fairy Springs
  • Seeing my attendings perform in a community production of The Crucible
  • Saturdays at the farmers market and our delicious CSA shares
  • Bonfires at Origins Café
  • Cross-country skiing through the woods behind Beaver meadow
  • Knowing everyone at the gym and the town coffee shop

All of these things, and more, make for a truly unique clinical year experience! Cooperstown will always feel like home to me. 

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

At Columbia in New York, I am a member of the student run clinic CHHMP which serves a homeless and uninsured population in Harlem every Tuesday night. I’m part of the Lambda LGBTQ student group and also served as a curriculum representative for my class. During first-year summer, another Columbia-Bassett student and I created the “Dígame Bienvendos” pre-orientation program for incoming students, designed to introduce new students to the Washington Heights community while exploring themes of social justice in medicine. Whenever I have the time, I’ll ride into Queens to go rock climbing or go wander through the trees in Inwood Hill Park.

Up in Cooperstown, I joined a community volleyball team (we won 1 game the whole season) and took pottery classes with my classmates. I had a kayak locked to a tree by the lake for emergency paddling excursions and cross-country skis ready to go on my porch for any signs of fresh snow. I also developed a bit of an antiquing habit.

What did you do before med school?

I studied Biology and Spanish and Latin American Studies at Duke University in Durham, NC. After graduating, I spent a year with a Fulbright Scholarship in Bolivia and Ecuador working on a public health research project. I studied the use of traditional Andean medicine in urban centers, exploring the intersection between the formal and informal health systems.

Rachel MacLean - Class of 2020

Fall River, Nova Scotia

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

 

I remember the feeling of excitement I had the first time I heard about the Bassett program. A friend was telling me about his interview experience in Cooperstown, and with every sentence, I became increasingly certain that the program's curriculum represented the way I wanted to study medicine. Bassett's multi-disciplinary approach to improving healthcare delivery and medical education, as well as its emphasis on understanding the healthcare system through longitudinal patient experience, stood out as unique among all the schools I explored. My initial interest in going to medical school arose from studying healthcare policy in college, and Bassett seemed like the best place to continue nurturing this interest while learning how to improve patient care on a systematic and individual level.

 

What do you hope to do in the future?

There are so many potential career paths that I've discovered since coming to medical school, so I'm very unsure of what I'll end up doing. With that in mind, I'm definitely glad that Bassett's curriculum allows for continuous exposure to different fields throughout clinical year, as I think the un-siloed clinical experiences will help me compare fields when the time comes.

 

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

It only took one week of orientation in Cooperstown to know that I had made lifelong friends in this program. I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by 9 people who share my values and my interest in taking a multi-disciplinary approach to studying medicine. Aside from my classmates, Bassett's emphasis on mindfulness and wellness has transformed the way I approach my daily activities; our weekly meditation and yoga sessions have taught me as much about myself as any medical school class.

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

I've been a Celtic fiddler all my life, so I enjoy playing tunes with friends whenever I get a chance, including at the monthly P&S coffeehouses! I also love the outdoors and am particularly excited to do some cycling this summer in Cooperstown. My favorite sport is basketball, and I play on an intramural team named after the P&S anatomy course director (Bernd's Ballers). Last, but certainly not least and possibly above all, I love food. I started baking sourdough bread this year, and I'm very excited for the "Cooperstown Food Commune" that we plan to start during MCY!

What did you do before med school?

I started at Williams College in 2010 certain that I would go into anything but medicine and graduated in 2014 with most of my pre-med requirements complete. I finished the rest of them in Boston, where I lived for two years while doing HIV research at Massachusetts General Hospital. The two years I took off between undergrad and medical school really helped me ascertain that medicine was the right career for me. Living in a new city without any homework assignments gave me time to explore the northeast and make very close friendships in the process, making those two of the most enjoyable years of my life.

Peter Young - Class of 2015

Corning, NY

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

I was completely enamored with the Bassett program after my interview day, but what initially drew me to the program was the opportunity to work with patients longitudinally. I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to form meaningful, healing relationships with other people. I wanted to be present for others as they traveled through life and through illness, to help them and to learn from them. This was such a unique aspect of the Bassett program that I could not imagine medical school elsewhere.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I am training in Internal Medicine with the goal of becoming a primary care physician at a teaching hospital. Teaching inspires me, partly because of the wonderful teachers I encountered in medical school, and I want to pay that gift forward. I also hope to continue writing short fiction; I completed a scholarly project in Narrative Medicine and discovered how important that process is for my own well-being as a doctor in training. My ideal job would have me teaching and seeing patients most of the time, but would leave me a day each week for my writing.

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

I will always remember my clinical year in Cooperstown as one of the best years of my life. I owe that primarily to my peers. I have never been surrounded by such an inspiring, compassionate, and supportive group of people. Despite the academic challenge and rigor of that year, we somehow always found time for fishing, bike rides, backyard grilling, rock climbing trips, and countless dinners together. Each one of them challenged me to become a better doctor and a better version of myself. My roommate that year was the best man in my wedding and each of our friendships will be invaluable during residency and beyond.

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

I love the outdoors and spend most of my free time rock climbing and running. I am an avid reader of short fiction and try to write as often as I can. 

 

What did you do before med school?

I attended Williams College where I majored in Chemistry and also studied creative writing. I came straight to medical school after graduating.

Andrew Tuck - Class of 2019

Traverse City, MI

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

Cooperstown seemed like a beautiful rural break from New York City, and the small program appealed to me as it seemed to promise more individualized attention. The biggest draw, though, was that the Bassett program seemed dedicating to teaching students how to improve patient's lives through more than just clinical treatment. In addition to our traditional education in the clinic and hospital, we also learn about how patients are affected on a systemic level through our SLIM curriculum, and, through our longitudinal curriculum, get to experience what it is like to be an individual patient learning to navigate the health care system as a whole. Every medical school will teach its students how to help patients through one-on-one clinical encounters, but only the Bassett program seemed dedicated to including both the importance of systems and of an individual patient's experiences.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I'm interested in a variety of fields, especially psychiatry and neurology right now. I have a special interest in addiction psychiatry and the pharmacological management of addiction, and the opioid crisis has only solidified this interest. Ultimately, I think I will be happy in any field that lets me balance my interest in treating patients with my love of pursuing and writing about scholarly questions that interest me.

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

My favorite part of the program has probably been getting to know my nine classmates as we explore Cooperstown together.  Our group became fast friends from the start, but working together in the clinic has only highlighted just how well-suited we are for each other as a group!

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

In school, I have led the Psychiatry Student Interest Group and helped to establish a new free clinic for LGBTQ homeless youth. Outside of school, I enjoy getting my hands on a variety of projects in whatever interests me, like presenting a poster on the portrayal of addiction in The New York Times at the APA convention last year as well as a small paper on the use of ketamine as an antidepressant with fellow Bassetteer Danish. Beyond that, I like playing music on my piano or harp. I also enjoy traveling when I get the chance!

What did you do before med school?

I got a B.S. in English at the University of Michigan, then did a gap year at Hunter College in Manhattan doing behavioral health research on risky sexual behaviors in relationships.

Eric Sun - Class of 2020

Rocky Hill, CT

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

I was very intrigued by the way the program was designed. I had prior interests in public health, health care quality, and health system design so the SLIM curriculum and longitudinal clinical curriculum jumped out to me as unique and highly attractive aspects of the program. The opportunity to participate in a fully integrated curriculum where students learn both clinical medicine and system-level issues appealed to my desire to practice medicine in a way that consciously pushes the field toward more patient-centered care.

Beyond the exposure to SLIM and longitudinal care, I was also very attracted by the diversity of experiences available through the Columbia-Bassett program. The opportunity to train at both a progressive rural health care system and a major urban academic medical center, and exposure to both of those environments, cultures, and patient populations was a big draw for me as well.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I have a strong interest in public health and primary care and hope to improve care for vulnerable populations in my future medical practice. I have not yet decided on a specialty but am grateful for the freedom that the Columbia-Bassett program allows to choose whichever specialty appeals most to us.

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

I have really enjoyed the tight-knit community that I’ve found in the program. Everyone from my fellow classmates to students from previous classes and faculty have been very warm, encouraging, and supportive. In particular, I had a great time during the initial orientation week in Cooperstown where we spent a day volunteering in the community and got to know both the surrounding area and one another.

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

At P&S I volunteer at the Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership (CHHMP), a free clinic that provides care for homeless individuals, the uninsured, and other vulnerable members of the surrounding community. I also am the co-director of the Family Medicine Interest Group and a member of Primary Care Progress, which works with students from all affiliated schools at CUMC to promote interdisciplinary care and innovative models of care. I have also started lecturing as a part of the Student Success Network, which is a student-run group that organizes review sessions for fellow medical students. Outside of campus, I enjoy playing tennis, hiking, and cooking. I have also been taking advantage of living in NYC for part of medical school and go to shows and events in the area.

What did you do before med school?

I graduated from Brown University in 2013 with a degree in Biology. After graduating, I worked as a health care consultant in Washington, DC, helping health systems design and implement programs to improve population health.

Joanna Tu - Class of 2016

Los Altos, CA

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

I was very excited by the Bassett program's SLIM curriculum. I have had an interest in health policy and quality improvement since college, and the Columbia-Bassett program was a unique way for me to merge those interests with my clinical training. I was also drawn by the opportunity to train in academic hospitals in both a bustling metropolis and an idyllic small town. The quality of teaching at Bassett hospital and individualized curriculum were also incredibly appealing.  At the time when I was applying, I just thought that the longitudinal curriculum was an interesting approach to medical education, and I was both hesitant and excited to be part of a progressive program that was receptive to changes in the medical field.  However, I am happy to say that it was a great bonus to all of the aspects that drew me to Bassett initially!

What do you hope to do in the future?

My goal is to be a pediatric dermatologist - I am starting dermatology residency at Stanford in July 2018, and I hope to do a pediatric fellowship after that. I really enjoyed working in children's hospitals, so I envision my practice will incorporate in-patient and out-patient care, in addition to teaching future dermatologists. I also plan to incorporate the quality improvement skills that we learned as Bassett students in my future practice as well. Healthcare is a changing field, and I find it exciting that we were able to learn some tools to face the challenge of improving our system from within while still practicing clinical medicine.  

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

My favorite part is definitely the people. My classmates in the Bassett program were all wonderfully kind and amazing people with diverse interests and passions, and I feel so lucky that we were able to explore all that Cooperstown had to offer. It was also so nice to be part of the overall Columbia class as well, so it felt like I had family in both NYC and Cooperstown. In addition to my classmates, the faculty at Bassett are exceptional, and I felt so supported throughout the entire process of medical school.  It was such a privilege to have such compassionate, insightful, and kind physicians as my teachers and mentors.  In fact, I loved the learning environment at Bassett so much that I returned for my intern year before dermatology!  

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

Biking, swimming, yoga, working out, baking, and of course eating delicious food to fuel all of those activities. I enjoy exploring in general - new places to eat, new activities, different locations, and nature. My newest interest is wilderness backpacking, and my oldest (and perhaps most consistent) interest has been learning about all of the neighborhood dogs. Occasionally I also like to pull out my violin, but I am a bit out of practice since college.

What did you do before med school?

I graduated from Stanford in 2010 with a degree in Human Biology (my focus was in health policy on domestic and international healthcare systems). After college, I worked as a business analyst for DaVita, a kidney dialysis company, in their Los Angeles office. I worked on projects in clinical improvement and alternative modalities of dialysis, and in my spare time, trained for an Ironman 70.3 and spent lots of time with my newborn niece.

Krista Suojanen - Class of 2014

Medfield, MA

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

The SLIM curriculum is what initially drew me into thinking about the Bassett program. I think physicians who understand a little about how our healthcare system works and are taught some basic quality improvement tools have the potential to make positive changes in the way health care is delivered-changes that are desperately needed. While this is what sparked my interest at first, once I started to learn more about the program, I was also really impressed with the longitudinal curriculum and the emphasis it placed on the development of relationships with the patients.

What do you hope to do in the future?

Still working on that one...

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

My favorite part of the program so far has definitely been the people--my classmates, the attendings, the deans, the patients. I feel so lucky to be part of such a wonderful group. My classmates have become my second family and growing closer with them has been such a treat. The people who work at the hospital have made the transition from classroom to clinical setting as smooth as can be and have created a welcoming learning environment.

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

Interests include running, hummus and peanut butter.

What did you do before med school?

I graduated from Williams College in 2007 as an economics major. After I finished, I went on to do a post-bac program at Tufts. While doing the post-bac, I worked as a physical therapy aide. After a year of that, I moved on to do clinical research at MGH. While there, I worked on a study looking at some of the genetic and environment risk factors for the development of lung and esophageal cancer.

Maeve O'Neill - Class of 2016

Clinton, NJ

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

The opportunity to learn medicine in a rural community hospital was incredibly appealing. I had mostly lived in US cities or suburbs prior to medical school and thought this could be an amazing opportunity to train in both rural upstate NY and NYC. I intend to work in underserved communities in the future and felt that it would be beneficial to have a wide array of different types of clinical settings as a base for my future. Another major draw for me was to learn about health care systems. It is an under-addressed but critical component of medical education, and I wanted to gain knowledge on the larger scope topics and also participate in quality improvement work, which Bassett uniquely offered. I hoped to use this extra educational thread to begin to think about and address access to care for underserved communities after becoming a physician.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I'm currently in psychiatry residency at Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital in Boston. I hope to work in community psychiatry and global mental health with a focus on bringing evidence based mental health treatments to underserved communities.

 

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

It is very difficult to pick a favorite part. A few of my favorites include my incredible mentors, the supportive community (both within the hospital and in the town of Cooperstown), the healthcare systems curriculum, working on a quality improvement project during clinical year and my longitudinal patients.

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

Work related: I’m involved in the residency advocacy committee and community health/health care systems research in addition to curriculum and medical education work.

Non work related: I attempt triathlons (my first one was the Cooperstown tri!) and an occasional long distance race. I love yoga and cooking. I married my high school sweetheart and we enjoy exploring New England through coffee, food and hiking. I also spend an inordinate amount of my free moments on facetime with family and friends.

What did you do before med school?

 

I graduated from GWU with a degree in international development and did a post bacc program at Bryn Mawr College. Then I worked in public health in El Salvador (childhood malnutrition) and NYC (NY State Department of Health AIDS Institute) for two years.

Mark J. Harris - Class of 2014

Rye Brook, NY

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

I was initially drawn to the Bassett program because of its SLIM component. I am interested in the way that health care is accessed and delivered, and I was excited to have the opportunity to learn about these subjects in medical school. I was also attracted by the level of personalization and individualized attention that a program like this would offer.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I am planning to take a year away from medical school (between 3rd and 4th years) to get my MPH at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. In the future, I hope to practice medicine but also work in a setting that allows me to apply public health tools to clinical problems.

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

I am really enjoying the amount of one-on-one time that I get to spend with attendings in the hospital. I am also happily overwhelmed by the institutional support that we get as students from Bassett - sometimes it certainly seems like the sky's the limit in terms of our education and our academic endeavors.

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

At P&S, I was involved primarily with SIGNN, IMIG, P&S for the Arts Club and the Lambda Health Alliance. I like to cook, exercise, and do crossword puzzles.

What did you do before med school?

I worked as a Post-baccalaureate IRTA at the NIH doing research on autism at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Anything else to share?

This program has so much to offer so many different types of students - there's no "one type" of student that they're looking for. We all have different backgrounds, different interests, and different goals. This is NOT a program strictly for people who want only to study Primary Care or practice in a rural area (two common misconceptions).

Monika Laszkowska - Class of 2014

Queens, NY (Born in Lomza, Poland)

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

The Columbia Bassett Program gives us the best of both worlds - access to Columbia's extensive resources as a prominent academic medical center as well as the hands-on longitudinal experience and clinical exposure that Bassett Hospital provides. As students, we work directly with attendings much of the time and take ownership of patient care from the first day of our clinical education. The longitudinal component of the curriculum fosters strong patient relationships by enabling us to follow our patients through the ins and outs of the health care network across a variety of clinical fields. This translates to into a high level of responsibility, flexibility, and personalization that has a profound impact on how we learn and practice medicine.
The SLIM curriculum is a parallel venue in which we can further develop a well-rounded understanding of medicine. With a mix of formal lectures from professors at the Columbia Business School and the School of Public Health, intimate discussions with prominent guest speakers, and practical hands-on experience through serving on functional committees with executives at Bassett Hospital and individually leading projects to address real challenges the hospital faces, we are able to get a realistic glimpse at what it takes to tackle concrete problems in today's health care environment.
These are all attributes of the program that first caught my attention when I was applying to medical school. Two years into the program, they are still the reasons why I have no doubt that I made the right decision.

What do you hope to do in the future?

Undecided.

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

My favorite aspect of the program has been starting clinical rotations. Since we focus on all specialties longitudinally throughout the year, I feel like I am growing as a doctor as a whole rather than tucking away skill sets as each rotation comes to a close. I like having this opportunity to integrate what I learn across the various fields. Each day brings something new, while at the same time forces you to continuously reinforce what you have already learned.

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

  • Curriculum Representative for Class of 2014 (Student Council)
  • Lang Youth Medical Program (Academic Success Tutor) 
  • CUMC Blood Drive Co-Coordinator 
  • P&S Dance Club 
  • Summer Experience: Clinical rotation at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain & travel to India, Thailand, Poland, and London

What did you do before med school?

Undergrad: Harvard, Class of 2007
Major: Biology 
Work Experience Prior to Medical School: 

  • Google - Account Manager (AdWords, Online Advertising)
  • UCSF Department of Surgery, Transplant Lab - Research Associate

Seth Mathern - Class of 2015

A town in the Riverton, WY

What drew you to the Bassett program initially?

Initially I was drawn to the program because of the longitudinal portion of the program and the incredible opportunity to be exposed to the Bassett Healthcare System and the Presbyterian system. I really loved the interview experience at Bassett and I immediately fell in love with Cooperstown and its people. The opportunity to work in such a great system with such eager-to-teach, supportive staff was a huge draw.

What do you hope to do in the future?

Currently, I'm not certain. I will definitely continue acting (which I discovered a passion for in my first year of med school here at Columbia), perhaps write some music and play in local bands, and continue hiking and gazing in awe at the stars, hopefully with a wonderful family of my own some day. I would love to be out west again (I'm not a big city kind of guy). If we're speaking medicine in general, I'm currently drawn to family medicine, or just medicine in general. I'm really starting to love healthcare policy and I would love to be involved in quality improvement and creating healthcare systems that can provide efficient and quality care to patients.

What has been your favorite part of the program so far?

The family-like experience... My Bassett family is very dear to me and they are a constant group of individuals who have provided continuous support for me. I love how much I feel cared for by the Dr. Weil, Dr. Frank and the entire Bassett staff. We are so fortunate to have meetings with such prolific figures and to have such constant support. I continue to be surprised at how supported I feel...

What outside interests, clubs, or hobbies do you enjoy?

Bard Hall Players, Coffeehouse, guitar/music/singing, juggling, hiking and exploring the world at large, Cultura, Bacchus. 

What did you do before med school?

Double major in Physiology and Spanish at the University of Wyoming. I took a victory lap (i.e. a fifth year) in undergrad before coming to medical school.
Anything else to share? Honestly, I know this advice is perhaps cliche, but think long and hard about what matters most to you for a school. I think going to a place in which you can strive is perhaps the most important factor. Also, if something doesn't feel right about a school, give attention to that feeling.

Bassett is not just a primary rural care program... it is an incredibly rich opportunity with no strings attached minus the fact that you have to like Ommegang beer (jokes, but seriously...).