Live from BRB: ASK Panel Brings Alumni Experiences to Our Students
- from Senior Vice Dean Gail Morrison, M'71, FEL'76
Keep an open mind, follow your interests and passions, and don't be afraid to try every opportunity provided in the hallowed halls of the University of Pennsylvania. This was the advice to our medical students from the recent Alumni Student Knowledge (ASK) Panel, which this year focused on Alternative Career Paths in Medicine.
For the past five years the ASK Panel has provided a formal occasion for alumni to share their stories and insights with Penn Medicine students. While the topic varies, I know how greatly our students value this chance to learn directly from our alumni, and I am very pleased that the School can offer this program in these dynamic times.
According to attendee Grant Mitchell, president of Medical School Government, "Penn Medicine Alumni provide the best advice to combat the tunnel vision that can happen in medical school. They are always helping us craft our career visions." Mr. Mitchell expects to receive dual degrees from the Perelman School of Medicine and Wharton in 2014.
This year's panelists demonstrated a range of the incredible things you can do with a Penn Medicine degree, beyond practicing medicine:
Marie Savard, HUP'70, NU'72, M'76, INT'79, is a nationally-recognized and trusted voice on women's health, wellness, and patient empowerment and an ABC News Medical Contributor.
Ariella Poncz Golomb, C'99, WG'03, M'04, is a leader in health care investment.
Diane Jorkasky, M'77, FEL'83, is a highly regarded medical scientist and researcher in the pharmaceutical industry.
Andrew Krakowski, C'96, G'96, M'03, is a pediatric dermatologist who is the host of the boonDOCS Wilderness & Travel Medicine show on the Outdoor Channel.
I am very grateful to the panelists for making time for our students. Although they had diverse and varied experiences, their message was unified and clear: you cannot be fearful when you are finding your career path. The panelists' insights inspired our students, and will help bolster the confidence necessary to take chances, find new niches in medicine, and explore business opportunities.
Eamon McLaughlin, MS4, who recently matched with the otolaryngology residency program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said it was, "inspiring to be reminded that once you are a practicing physician, you are not locked in - if you have other interests you can explore them."
Penn Medicine provides our students with an incredible educational foundation and a tight-knit network of alums. The ASK Panel reminded them to leave themselves open to new possibilities and to use the contacts they have made at Penn Medicine to help guide them on their way.
We welcome your involvement with our students. For more information on future panels, or programs like the HOST program, or other mentorship opportunities, please contact Page Pepper at email@example.com.
Turning Adversity into Service
Dave Fajgenbaum, M'14 Is Already Restoring Lives
Few medical students know the power of loss, illness, medicine, and philanthropy to change lives so well as David Fajgenbaum, M'14. In 2006, Mr. Fajgenbaum lost his mother, Anne Marie Fajgenbaum, to brain cancer after his freshman year at Georgetown University. This experience and the requests for help from other students motivated him to co-found Students of AMF, a peer-support group for college students dealing with grief.
Named for both his mother and the phrase "Actively Moving Forward," the organization quickly expanded to reach 42 campuses nationwide. This February, Mr. Fajgenbaum received the prestigious national "Welcome Back" award from the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare for the impact his work has made in the fight against depression.
Mr. Fajgenbaum's experience with devastating illness - and his appreciation for medicine and philanthropy - didn't stop there. In 2010, he was diagnosed with Castleman's disease, an exceedingly rare, cancer-like condition. He was hospitalized for 4 1/2 months in a 6-month period in 2010-11 with multi-system organ failure and left eye blindness. He was actually read his last rites and told to say his final good-byes in November 2010.
After a one-year leave from medical school to receive an experimental drug treatment, David returned to Penn in the fall of 2011. While his health insurance covers his medical care, he was looking at daunting travel costs to fly to South Carolina every three weeks for experimental chemotherapy. His classmates stepped into the breach, showing tremendous support in a fundraiser that netted $7,000 to cover David's travel (and a special "get well" video message from Sacha Baron Cohen, David's favorite actor, which required significant behind-the-scenes work from classmates Grant Mitchell and Aaron Royston as well as Dr. Jon Morris). He continues to participate in a clinical trial, now every four weeks and in North Carolina, and will do so on an indefinite basis.
Since his return, David has been trying to cram as much as he can into each day. He recently had an article published in the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy on the transformative effects of the National Students of AMF on grieving college students nationwide. He is also putting the finishing touches on a case report (his own) and research that he conducted about multicentric Castleman's disease, in collaboration with a few of his doctors. In addition, David is thrilled to be able to share what he learned as a patient with his own patients.
Having been accepted into the joint MD/MBA program at Wharton next year, David is planning on spending extra time at Penn. He hopes to develop health policy and advocacy skills for patients who suffer from rare diseases. In fact, he is receiving medical school credit as a strategic planning consultant for the Penn Center for Orphan Disease Research and Therapy, established with a multimillion dollar gift this past summer. In March, he served as a member of the search committee for the Center director, interviewed officials from other rare disease centers nationwide, and created a Strategic Direction document for the Center. Not busy enough, David compiled a "perspectives" piece addressing orphan drug development, the potential for a center like Penn Medicine's CODRT to save patients' lives, and his own experiences as an orphan disease patient. He also recently met at the NIH and FDA with key stakeholders in the rare disease community.
David plans to use the $10,000 honorarium associated with his "Welcome Back" award to promote and expand National Students of AMF.
Nobel Laureate to Speak at Commencement
Nobel laureate Peter Agre, M.D., will deliver the keynote address at the Perelman School of Medicine commencement ceremony May 13 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Dr. Agre was jointly awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Roderick MacKinnon, M.D, for the discovery of aquaporins. Aquaporins are proteins embedded in the cell membrane that regulate the flow of water. As Dr. Agre puts it, they are "the plumbing system for cells." This discovery opens new avenues for addressing many medical conditions including fluid retention in heart disease, brain edema after stroke, heat prostration, and dry eye syndrome. Dr. Agre's pioneering discovery resolved the 100-year-old biology controversy concerning water movement in cells.
Dr. Agre did his hematology-oncology fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he and Dean Larry Jameson met. Because of their connection, Dean Jameson invited Dr. Agre to speak at commencement.
A former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Dr. Agre has supported the role of sound science in American government. In 2006, he appeared on The Colbert Report discussing the decline of the American public's knowledge of science, and advocating for a more science-literate society, among other topics. Dr. Agre is currently professor and director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Learn more about Dr. Peter Agre through his autobiography here.
Not registered for Medical Alumni Weekend yet? Don't miss this chance to catch up with the latest in medicine and medical education as well as your classmates and friends. Register now!
For more information, please contact the Office of Alumni Development and Alumni Relations at 215-898-5164
Stemmler Classroom Fixtures Go Back to School in Nicaragua
Thanks to Penn Space Planning and Operations (SPO), cabinetry, countertops, and other materials made available in the Stemmler renovations are back in the classroom again - this time in Nicaragua. SPO joined forces with the Recycling Network (IRN) and Corporate Interiors to donate over 180 furnishings to the Enrique de Osso School.
Among its programs, IRN connects institutions with not-for-profits who can use materials that would otherwise be discarded. Enrique de Osso was identified by the IRN as needing the kinds and amount of items Penn had to offer. Penn donated lab equipment, audio visual equipment, cabinetries, sinks, and countertops that added up to more than 6.5 tons of material. This charitable donation project also supported the University's Green Initiative by keeping usable materials out of landfills.
Sister Martha Silva, the principal at Enrique de Osso, was delighted with the donation; she considers this "a rich blessing from God and from you." The Enrique de Osso School in Nicaragua supports more than 1,300 students.
All the donated furnishings were certified by the Recycling Network. The University of Pennsylvania was also recognized by the IRN for its valuable contributions to the IRN's Surplus Reuse program.