A Survey of P&S Alumni: Assessment, Memories, Regrets, Advice

College of Physicians & SurgeonsWith a wholesale change in the curriculum at P&S, two members of the Class of 2013 wanted to find out how much the medical school has changed. Working with the alumni association, Robert Spang’13 and David Bejar’13 wrote a survey to send to all P&S alumni.

Nearly 7,000 e-mail invitations to take the online survey, a few short open-ended questions, were sent to alumni in March, while Mr. Spang and Mr. Bejar were first-year students. The survey intended to find out what P&S was like when the respondent was at P&S (“We lived medicine, morning, noon and night.” “I have often wanted to start med school all over again to relearn what turned out to be important and to see what had changed.” “Could not have asked for a better medical school experience.” “Best 4 years of my life.”) and to ask for any pearls of wisdom alumni would be willing to pass along (“Do it for the good it does rather than the money you’ll get.” “Keep your eye on what you enjoy doing; you’ll be doing it for a long time.”)

The survey also asked alumni, What was the highlight of your time as a student here? Are there any opportunities that looking back you wish you had explored?

“We thought the response was great,” says Mr. Spang. “The 77 completed surveys make for interesting responses. Because our class was the first to go through this new curriculum, we wanted to get the perspective of people who went through a different curriculum.”

Mr. Bejar and Mr. Spang intend to share results with their class and with the classes above and below them.

Many alumni filling out the survey spoke of their medical school years as a transformative experience (“an important life event”) not just because it was the place they learned how to be a doctor or a researcher, but also because of the lifelong friendships started at P&S, the New York City experience, and the way P&S helped them learn to balance medicine with the rest of their lives. One alumnus summed it up this way: “The most important life lesson I learned at P&S was to identify, follow, and solidify the parts of me that were passion-making – music, exercise, patient-doctor relationships – and integrate them indelibly in my life so that I would be a doctor who loves my job and has a multifaceted life outside my work.”

A sampling of responses (mostly unedited):


enjoyable, in general

Some of the best years of my life

excellent teaching, great classmates

excellent, inspiring, not too exhausting, a great starting place for my career, expensive!

probably the most intense experience of my life

a period of personal and professional discovery

It was hard work, but an eye-opening learning experience.

I loved P&S. I had so much fun during medical school. There were always so many fun things to do--wine club, dance club, impromptu outings, formal dances, rooftop parties. My classmates were a diverse group of people from all different backgrounds. We always got along so well.

Hard grind, great friends, a rite of passage

Mostly enjoyable. Frightened on the first days of Medicine rotation. Bored with the lectures by some old respected M.D.s that overstayed their peak years.

It had its ups and downs


Great experience. Very bright, engaged and serious classmates who wanted to make a difference in the world and have some fun too

wonderful, intense learning environment but with excellent camaraderie among classmates

Very exciting. Intellectually stimulating. The teachers were concerned with the students and exerted great influence in my life. Bard Hall was a great sanctuary for relaxation with music and other activities. Challenging, but learning important information that was extremely useful in residency

The late 60s were an incredible time anywhere in the USA, but particularly in NYC. Life in school and on the outside was intense.

Wonderful classmates; somewhat frightening attendings; much class spirit and excellent teaching

Excellent. Could not have asked for a better medical school experience.

Challenging. Exciting. Rewarding.

Under the pass fail system it was more relaxed than I anticipated. There was time for other things. In my case, Bard Hall Players.

Diverse, Challenging, Enjoyable

One of the most intense times of my life but stimulating. Physically demanding because we helped the interns and residents work, literally, 36 hours at a time. It was the only time in my life that I fell asleep into my breakfast after working 36 hours straight.

The first 2 years were very uneven. Some parts were good, others were pitiful. The clinical years were the strength of the school. The other exciting part was being able to work in the basic science research labs.

Mixed. Enjoyed rotation through Neurological Institute where students were treated with respect, hated IM where the opposite was true. Disliked competitiveness of students.

stressful during first 2 basic science years -- during height of Vietnam conflict and many student peers were in school for military deferment. I found this demoralizing even though my grades were very high. I took off a year to conduct medical research away from P&S and renewed my commitment to medicine and returned, thoroughly enjoying all my clinical rotations but especially those medicine clerkships and sub Is at Harlem Hospital and St Luke’s and psychiatry at Roosevelt Hospital. I was an exchange student in my fourth year at the Imperial College of London St Mary’s and Guy’s Hospitals for sub-Is in medicine and nephrology. This was for 6-7 months with Oxford students and I was thoroughly enriched by the experience. It was the London experience that allowed me to paradoxically commit to rural medicine upon return home. While in London, I matched with Dartmouth Hitchcock medical center and have remained in rural New England ever since.

First two years were like college but with double the work. It was fun exploring NYC and learning to be an adult but with only a fraction of the responsibility. Third year was mentally tougher than I expected it to be with rotation grades often not reflecting how much work I put in but being rather random (I honored some I tried less in and passed those that I worked hardest at). 4th year was a blur with all the time spent on residency interviewing.

Very intense

Excellent clinical training

My time at P&S was great--surrounded by very intelligent and compassionate classmates. It was an intense 4 years, but it prepared me well for residency and beyond.

exciting; stimulating; wonderful

best 4 years of my life

Excellent. Great education; committed faculty; great student body

Challenging and unique. Very exciting. Regretfully, in retrospect, I was so wrapped up in trying to master the breadth of material to be mastered and the professional uncertainties of my future, that I did not fully appreciate “the ride” I was on.

time of tremendous personal and intellectual growth. worked hard, learned a lot, made good friends

Excellent, stimulating, and rewarding. Made life-long friends and got married in my 4th year- now approaching 60th anniversary. Still feel the P&S emphasis on the computer in our heads is the best diagnostic tool of all, even today!

Busy, incredible learning, collegial

It was a great combination of people, place and practice. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it.

Best four years of my life. I loved being a student at Columbia, academically and socially. An important life event.

I received an excellent medical education. Great foundation for the future.

I loved learning to become a physician in a stimulating and prestigious environment

I was an MD/PhD, so it was disjointed; furthermore, 4 of my PhD years happened at UCLA because my thesis advisor moved from NY. I think the first two years felt very difficult because I had to make my studying much more efficient and memorization-based than I ever had before. I also was not used to being at the mean of the class - this was an ego blow. The 3rd and 4th years were wonderful. Part of this was because I had extra life experience, having built some skills (oral presentations, self-confidence) while in the lab. The very ability to interact with patients suits my personality very well, and to do this in an authentic way, rather than in drib-and-drab interviews here and there, was very exciting to me.

Busy, all consuming.


The classmates. In a class of 150+, there were some people I actively tried to avoid. But for the most part, I met some very intriguing and interesting people. The same can be said for the faculty.

Intro to clinical medicine during second year, first exposure to patients and history taking

The faculty and the comradeship of classmates.

some of the clinical experiences in 3rd year are still really memorable to me. The biggest highlight is the lifelong friends that I made throughout my 9 years of medical school - fantastic brilliant people with passions outside of medicine and amazing talents, both work-related and not. Sharing some very tough experiences with them (studying for 2nd year exams - one of the low points of my life!; psychiatry rotation at Creedmoor, which was extraordinarily challenging and traumatic and big learning and hugely bonding with my 3 classmates who were with me) along with some amazing experiences (Bard Hall Players productions, which all somehow got done - some of them incredibly - in the interstices) has made many of them absolutely dear to me throughout my life, now up to 15-25 years later. But a lot of it was the mundane daily life of just living in New York, 20 minutes away from Lincoln Center, getting standing room tickets to City Ballet for $4 and going 3-4x/week and bringing as many friends as would come; going to Little India and eating for dirt cheap; summers with gluttonous dinners, going on runs with friends across the GW Bridge or up into the Cloisters, late night runs to H&H and Empire Szechuan (before they had a branch at 170th St)...a lot of great memories.

my teachers and the other students learning about the satisfaction of helping patients

My classmates, excellent clinical rotations.

Excellent 3rd year clerkships.

P&S club (I sang in the P&S chorus and the barbershop quartet)

Bard Hall Players

Friendships. Bard Hall Players

Definitely my involvement with the Bard Hall Players - I had a blast!

Classmates for sure and both the pre-clinical and clinical years. I loved biochemistry and neuroanatomy and the teachers were “characters” but wonderful and unforgettable.

P&S Club, Clinical years

A great education with really strong clinical training. Also, some great classmates (and meeting my husband, a classmate)

anatomy lab, hanging with friends

P&S Club activities, meeting my wife (a classmate), faculty relationships

I enjoyed the extracurricular activities: yearbook, camping out club, Super Night

Meeting my wife; clinical rotations in Neurology and Internal Medicine; Immunology and Microbiology course; research experience in neurology which has had major influence on my subsequent career

Combination of studies, sports, and social life

overall class spirit. Class motto (tongue in cheek) was “we love us.” (Class of 1990)

the friends, the socializing, the fourth year clerkships

The most important were the great educators who taught. The best advice was “treat every patient as if it were your mother”

Friday afternoon “cocktail parties”, medicine rotation at Harlem Hospital, meeting my future wife (introduced through a classmate)

The highlights were being exposed to so much new knowledge (like drinking from a fire hose), learning from such brilliant and accomplished teachers, and bonding with classmates and other new friends. Living in New York was also a highlight. I loved the views of the river, the Palisades (especially at sunset), and the Manhattan skyline from Bard Hall and the Bard-Haven Towers.

The clinical years, especially my medicine and surgery rotations, and my class: coming out of the student revolution of the 1960s, it was invigorating to be surrounded by classmates with such a strong shared interest in medicine.

Great friendships that have lasted to this day, wonderful mentorship from department of neurosurgery, great research experience, great people and faculty

meeting some of my best friends whom I will be friends with for life, including my husband and father of my daughter

Working nights on some clinical rotations, sharing “war” stories, certain courses (e.g, AHB, parasitology, neural sciences)

Great curriculum

Senior night, P&S club activities like rugby and shows, drinking at Rosie’s back when it was still a hole in the wall

In no order: people, fellow students, living in New York City, opportunities (P&S provides many “connections” both within CPMC and alumni throughout country)

Path externship at NYC medical examiner’s office for a month with Drs. Halpern and Gross; clerkships and sub internships at Harlem Hospital, St. Luke’s and Roosevelt. 7 month exchange to Imperial College of London School of Medicine in fourth year. clinical teaching rounds with Drs. Young and Tapley.

Exposure to brilliant faculty, especially J. Lawrence Pool, at that time Prof and Chair of Neurosurgery

classmates, new york city, education faculty

I very much enjoyed the coursework of the first two years, especially how the basic science knowledge evolved and then was integrated with human biology/pathobiology (AHB, or Abnormal Human Biology, was the main integrative course in those days, and generally thought of as the highlight of the academic portion of our studies). My classmates were of very high caliber, and it was a pleasure to learn from them as well. Outside of school, NYC was an incredible experience. My most memorable experiences were not necessarily “highlights.”

1) Anatomy lab (4 students per cadaver). My cadaver turned out to be Asian, like me. 2) Best and favorite subject: Parasitic diseases under Professor Harold Brown. 3) Fabulous neurology dept under Dr. Merritt.

Working in a research lab, and working in Presbyterian Hospital.

Meeting, enjoying and working with those who will be my peers and have been my greatest supporters through good times and tough times.

Broadway shows (Golden Age of Broadway), 9 week rotation through NI.

Building more knowledge and confidence that you can take charge of the care of your patients. Learning to use others expertise. Attempting to get a balance between work and play, esp through P&S club theatrical productions. Meeting my future and still current spouse. Going through the “wars” of the wards.

Being able to associate with so many dedicated, hard-working, brilliant, accomplished colleagues at multiple levels.

Several of the attendings on my third year medicine rotation were outstanding: Dr. Robert Whitlock especially. Also I had the privilege of going on rounds with Dr. Sydney Werner and saw his approach to the thyroid. This influenced my entire career!

Interaction with classmates and the establishment of lifelong friendships. Experiencing New York. This overlapped my residency training which was at CPMC as well.

extracurricular activities sponsored through the P&S Club

clinical electives

Actually, living in New York. I’m from Chicago, and it was great to have the NYC experience before moving on

Met and learned from the great teachers like Robert F. Loeb, Dana Atchley and of course the associate dean Aura Severinghaus. Learned so much from my fellow classmates.

3rd year rotation in Neurology, 4th year rotations in surgery and medicine

Puglia's Restaurant (Hester and Mulberry), my classmates, living in NYC, running in Washington Park under the Bridge, climbing in the Shawangunks, living at 80 Haven Ave. which is still there

classmates, teachings, variety and quality of clinical experiences, living in Bard Hall

smart people in my class, wonderful teachers, loved the camaraderie of Bard Hall and all the classes, love the professors, especially anatomy and herb chase in physiology, loved NYC

the clinical years, Steve Miller and the Pediatric ER, Dr. Robert Kazim (Pediatric Anesthesia rotation, Dr. Kazim was, by far, the best clinical educator I had in all my medical school years.)

Met my husband. Made some close friends. Was in Dr. Frantz’s 2nd year Endocrine small group which decided much of my career trajectory.

Rotating at Whiteriver Indian reservation for my primary care rotation. Bacchus. The people.

clinical exposure and classmates

First clinical contact with patients. Electives in 4th yr.

friends, Musicians guild, NYC

Getting married, of course! (My wife is typing this!) Also, the wonderful experiences in NYC, my professors, Drs. Robert Loeb, Dana Atchley, et al, the personal and individual teaching methods emphasizing the patient, and our close-knit class.

Friends, education, NYC.

getting to know my classmates, getting clinic experience, taking a year off as a doris duke fellow to perform research abroad

P&S dances at The Red Parrot Club in NYC, restaurants, squash in Bard Hall, the view from the Towers, dinner at Terry Hensle’s house and meeting my wife.

The camaraderie with classmates. The first day of anatomy lab and then having beef ribs afterwards in Bard Hall for lunch. Examining a patient for the first time and wearing a white coat. My entire surgery clerkship. Match day! Graduation.

Great teachers, great friends. Enormously interesting clinical experiences. Plus, of course, the joy of New York City.

Goldwater Island rotation

The close friends that I made. Still in contact with some of them.


Developing close relationships with 10-20 classmates. Exploring and experiencing the culture of NY City.

learning from patients - medical knowledge based on cases as well as patient experience of disease

The clerkships in internal medicine and pediatrics.

Establishing long-lasting friendships. Sorted out what I wanted to do in Medicine.

the most important life lesson I learned at P&S was to identify, follow, and solidify the parts of me that were passion-making -- music, exercise, patient-doctor relationships -- and integrate them indelibly in my life so that I would be a doctor who loves my job and has a multifaceted life outside my work.

helped change the curriculum

summer research job in neurophysiology

learned to organize

Transformed into a physician

probably should have worked a little harder

I continued to do fun things, even when school got stressful. It gets harder and harder as the years go by (especially in residency!) to maintain a life outside of doctorhood, but yet it is so important to do so. Columbia gave me wonderful opportunities to cultivate my non-medical interests.

Learned to listen to patients with compassion.

Participated with Bard Hall Players, explored interesting electives 4th year.

Very strong clinical training

anatomy lab, focusing on pathophysiology

Figured out what sort of specialty to pursue. I only aimed at med school starting half way through college and had no inclination toward surgery at the time.

I think being the member of the clinical team who could really sit with the patient and explain things clearly to them was an important role for me as a student.

Neurology research; Immunology, Neurology and Internal Medicine; work on the freshman class show and the sophomore holiday show

I absorbed as much knowledge as I could (and subsequently used every bit), and I experienced great personal growth. Through my faculty advisor, I identified an opportunity to work overseas during the summer after first year. This was my first trip abroad. I haven’t stopped traveling since then.

In-depth Engineering and Biology courses

started to grow up and learn how to become a critical thinker and an engaged adult

I learned a way of looking at a clinical problem. Even forgetting details, the way of analyzing a patient’s complaints, symptoms and thinking about them never leaves you when it is taught correctly

We lived medicine, morning, noon and night.

I did everything. It was the era of the medical students having responsibility to draw all morning bloods. It was doing peritoneal dialysis on a patient at Harlem Hospital by myself (from placing the trokar to changing the bags). It was learning about illness by basically living with the patients.

Formed a squash team with fellow students and competed in the Metropolitan Squash League!

spent a year in Robert Solomon/Sander Connolly/David Pinsky’s lab

I continued to pursue my interests that were not directly related to medical school. It helped me to keep things in perspective

Learned as much as I could.

I’m not sure I did anything truly important.

I learned to be more independent as a student, skipping classes to study on my own was occasionally more beneficial and not something I would have ever considered in college.

enjoyed my time living in new york city as much as possible. took every opportunity to take advantage of all of the aspects of the city, decided early on about a career path and started making connections within CPMC early

Learning about the huge range of the practice of medicine

exchange student in the UK - very enlightening re international medicine, government sponsored care and patient expectations beyond America.

I think my rotation in Dublin, Ireland, was very important in shaping my thoughts about health care in general. They have a very different health care system and it was important for me to be exposed to a different system to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. health care system. I also think that taking time to relax and enjoy myself was really important too.

worked hard, enjoyed all the school had to offer

I thought the first two (mostly non-clinical) years were very important. Getting to know the faculty on a personal, first name basis was also very important. My career was very much influenced (mostly in a good way!) by a number of attendings who became friends. Their instruction, feedback, and encouragement were very important.

I lived at home in college so this was my only experience living in a dorm. It was fun getting to know my fellow students, outside of school. Some are really talented (e.g., Allen Steere P&S ’69, playing violin at a professional level.)

Working in a research lab. I spent 15 years in academic medicine doing research before going into practice.

Studying hard. Taking advantage of all the opportunities Columbia offers over the time there such as extracurrics, travel abroad rotations and research.

Took advantage of what NYC had to offer.

Worked as hard as possible and tried to absorb as much knowledge in a relatively short time. Got a good overview of medicine that helps keep balance when you drift off into specialization later in your career. Learned that medicine is a career in learning and that all areas of medicine are interesting, not just your field. Respect for fellow physicians and how to use resources

Developed as a person and a physician

I discovered that not only learning but also teaching was going to be a need for my professional life and decided to pursue an academic career.

Observed my teachers as role models.

involvement in AMA and MSSNY Medical Student Section, Children’s Players, playing piano in Bard Hall, excellent athletic facilities, student housing in the Towers

No time for anything besides the courses and work.

Learned how to study independently

Reaffirmed my lifetime goal of being a GOOD physician being inspired by the high standard set by the teachers. They were truly inspiring.

Listened and learned

Took every third-night call in-house with my classmates during my medicine clerkship. It is way too uncommitted now with duty hours and caps (I was Program Director for IM Residency at UCSD for a number of years.) What a bunch of pathetic rule changes now


learned solid anatomy, physiology, thinking and saw patients and felt that I was part of a team. Every course was enjoyable, even psychiatry!!

I learned how to think and problem solve on the wards, how to present patient data succinctly, and how to work under pressure.

Enjoyed my time in NYC. Participated in Bard Hall Players. Found time to enjoy life in addition to studying hard. Got to know my patients & advocated for them.

I learned as much as I could from physicians whom I admire, especially their bedside manner and how they were with their patients.

being exposed to academically excellent and clinically compassionate teachers

Subinternships in prep for residency.

I met my mentor, Dr. David Chiu, who guided me to become a plastic surgeon and encouraged me to stay in academic medicine and be involved in medical research

Substitute internship at St. Luke’s Hospital my senior year. Three-month experience at Bellevue Hospital. One-month rotation on “Welfare Island”

Polishing critical thinking skills, basics and fundamentals but--since all changed and forgotten-- how to process info

Really tried to learn clinical medicine the best I could

clinical experience, taking a year off to perform research abroad, spending time with my friends from medical school

I took an Anesthesiology rotation as a 3rd year student. It had been one of the few fields I thought I had ruled out when I started at P&S. My eyes were opened up. Don’t rule anything out until you experience it.

Studying with others. Sleeping whenever possible.

Gaining confidence in my abilities to be a good physician.

Balance of medicine and social life after going to all-boys Princeton.


study abroad

getting to know professors better

I should have looked into NYC art more

The medical curriculum was comprehensive enough. I don’t regret passing on any extra medical opportunities.

Look harder at various subspecialties to which I had little exposure in first 3 years. Away electives

If I were to do it all again, I would be much more proactive in arranging as many opportunities as I could to observe different physicians doing their particular work.

Foreign travel, overseas electives.

possibly more outpatient?

I have often wanted to start med school all over again to relearn what turned out to be important and to see what had changed.

There were not alot of opportunities to do service work (working with homeless, free clinics, etc) and I wish that had been in place.

perhaps an overseas elective

Many - not enough time

I wish I had gone to a different country during fourth year

At Columbia the opportunities are myriad. I wish I had taken advantage of the School of Public Health. It was later in my career I got involved with health economics and health policy but I wish I had done more at that Columbia resource.

a clinical or laboratory research project; to focus on a controversial or unsolved problem and try to come up with something new.

some of my classmates went overseas for rotations their 4th year--I wish I had done that

I wish I knew more about the nitty-gritty of medical practice. also, I would have liked more exposure to fields like radiology (I kind of stumbled upon it as a career), radiation oncology, pathology, etc

I should have worked much harder.

I went straight through with no breaks, and part of me wishes I would have taken a break somewhere along the line to travel or pursue a frivolous job to see what it would be like (internship doing radio work for a sports team?)

Perhaps more exposure to research

I wish that I had done my primary care rotation out west on the reservation.

more international, more non-profit NYC based organizations

Wish I had taken an externship somewhere else: Bassett Hospital, out of the country working in South America or Africa.

Probably should have gotten a PhD while I was at P&S.

More time playing in and exploring NYC. More involvement playing in the pit band with the theater productions.

I should have taken more advantage of lab research opportunities.

I was very focused and did not participate in as many outside activities that the school and city had to offer as I should have.

No time. I feel I used the options effectively.

No. I think I have derived as much benefit from P&S as I can, even in looking back would not change my mind.

Dedicated research time

abroad programs

there was so little free time. I wish I had seen more of New York while I was there... From a clinical standpoint, I was very satisfied with the opportunities I had.

Maybe something internationally as a 4th year

well (and this is midlife crisis talking!), I did have moments where I wondered if I should have considered a career not in patient care/clinical medicine and instead go into corporate America

More time at the opera, on Broadway, at sporting events, and all the other wonderful opportunities in New York City. I had limited experience in these areas then, but wish I had more. Have followed up in this area in later years.

More emphasis on other subspecialties would have been great (Columbia is very Medicine/Surgery-centric)

Not really. I pretty much did everything I wanted to. I left with no regrets.

I would have liked to have gotten an MBA at the same time.

Wish I could have traveled to the tropics or to Africa on one of the Public Health electives.

Catheterization laboratory

A greater breadth of outside electives in my 4th year. I was sucked into the “subintern” maze. I could have used that time to explore opportunities that I would never have a chance to experience later on. I did spend 1 month (my last month) in SF/Oakland with a family practitioner. It is still one of my most memorable experiences, both personally and professionally.

electives abroad

I wish I had learned more public health.

Curricularly, in retrospect, I wish I’d had better guidance about getting teaching opportunities and working on those skills before residency. I had an amazing 4th year that was not very work-heavy, but I wish I’d explored more basic medicine subspecialty electives rather than being worried so much about grades. Extracurricularly: no regrets.


Take advantage of all clinical opportunities. Don’t focus on your future specialty too soon. Have fun.

Take your classes seriously. learning does help, even if you think you’ll forget it, it comes back much faster the second and third time.

Keep your head up and eyes (and ears) open.

Spend time with your patients. Don’t rush out of your clinical experiences. We are not bankers; doctors don’t work 9-5. Regulations are in place for important reasons but sticking to them so literally makes you lose out on some of the most important aspects of what it means to be a physician.

Learn to organize to study better and more efficiently. Ask for help. Someone has been through the same problems as you are having.

use the opportunity to learn how to think rather than just collect facts

Nothing is time wasted if you are learning and enjoying

take a step back and ensure that you have a perspective on the bigger picture; don’t just focus on the next exam

Learn how to listen to the patient, understand the patient. No matter how many facts you know they are useless if you cannot convince your patient to follow a plan.

Do it for the good it does rather than the money you’ll get.

Don’t just learn the facts and skills. Learn what it means to live with illness. Also never lose the knowledge of being a patient. As you start medical school, there will be pressures to become part of the medical culture. Resist those pressures and keep the prospective of someone who is sick, scared and struggling to get well.

The key to happiness and success is your interaction with others around you. Treat every person you encounter as you would like to be treated, including your patients.

Medical career choice on the basis of lifestyle or perceived income is a bad idea; do what you really like and the rest will take care of itself.

seek mentorship, pick a good mentor and do research with him/her

Learn as much as you can; regardless of what you do later on, it will help you to be a better physician

Live on campus, don’t be in a relationship.

Take care of yourself. It’s too easy to ignore your needs while pursuing lofty goals but you will burn out and you will not like who you become.

Take advantage of all the opportunities and explore all of medicine at one of the great medical centers in the world.

try to seek as broad an experience as possible. see differing systems of care re reimbursement, quality performance programs and perhaps a rotation in a foreign country.

Take time to relax and enjoy yourself during medical school because residency is tough and you will need a lot of stamina to succeed.

Make the most of your time as a medical student because you are learning so much from every field in medicine. P&S has so many pioneers and up-to-date research. Once you settle into a career, especially primary medicine, your days become “routine,” so keep your eyes and mind open.

Work at other institutions. Don’t fall into the trap that is common at every school in the top 20 to think that “we are second only to Harvard.” Very important to discover that there are many “right” ways to do things in medicine.

Work hard and take advantage of the place. It is a rare place in the world. When you graduate, think of P&S and give back as much as you can.

Listen and learn

Rotate on as many different services as possible

Keep learning and growing. Learn the not only the “what” but also the “why” of what you do throughout your career. That bit of life-long commitment will keep you interested in the mechanism and humanism of medicine. It is the best career there is. I also have to add: juggle and balance your complex life.

Keep at it

learn as much as you can all the time

find a mentor learn how to be a good doctor

Pace yourself, learn for you (don’t get too caught up in the academic progress of your classmates. pick a study/learning style that works for you and stick to it). Find balance, get outside when you can.

Enjoy the dedicated time you have for learning because life gets much busier!

Don’t let medical school stress you out--work hard, try your best, and enjoy the time.

do what is most rewarding to yourself

Do what you love

enjoy your time here. do as much as you can but don’t forget to read!

Take full advantage of ALL possible experiences in NYC and at Columbia.

Get as many good mentors as possible

Make sure that you consider lifestyle as equally as other motivations in selecting a specialty

work hard and play hard

Don’t rule any field out until you experience it firsthand. Consider what kind of bureaucracy you will have to deal with when you choose a field.

Follow your passion but use your head. Really make an assessment of what will be a growth area in medicine. Consider lifestyle and family issues very carefully. The time/reward issues are changing rapidly.

Enjoy your time here, learn as much as you can. You are relatively free of life’s other responsibilities. This is a time to explore and learn as much as you can.

Take some advantage of being in NYC

You can learn something from every patient that you encounter.

think big, you can do many many things with your career. Medicine is a huge field.

Gravitate to areas (medicine, surgery, NPC fields, research) that you find stimulating and give you personal satisfaction. These motivations will maintain you in your career.

MAKE time outside of studying.

Don’t take it too seriously.

Learn to be balanced. A good physician is not a tunnel-visioned drone.

Know how to say “I don’t know” but then read about it.

Keep an open mind on choice of specialty as long as possible. Seek out faculty for off the record advice.

If you made it into P&S, you have met 90-95% of the hurdle. Work hard, but enjoy the professional educational experience. Don’t go through the 4 years “with blinders on.”

learn from everyone

I think the “House Of God” should be required reading.

Enjoy your experience. Time does fly by.

Find a suitable mentor and be guided by this person.

Participate in as many activities as possible but do not lose sight of why you came to medical school. Try to take in the big picture and see how caring for individual patients fits in to the overall health care system.

Besides studying, enjoy life outside medicine

Ten years later, residency matters more than medical school -- work hard to get into the most difficult, demanding residency that you can

Take advantage of electives offered

Write a pithy mission statement for yourself - something that really stimulates your passion for working, and that is devoid of trappings of what other people want or think or expect of you. And then follow it. It’s the only sure path to 100+% job satisfaction.

learn to think on your own

put in the time to be a good doctor

do foreign elective - my best highlight was summer doing research in Germany

Maintain a balance in life

Balance. In all its contexts. Balance of medical and surgical rotations, balance between work and play. Remember Aristotle and remember that virtue lies between the extremes.

Even though it can be monotonous to do so much memorization, do your best to stay with it - and when you get to third year, take ownership of your patients - I guess that’s two pieces of advice!

Be true to yourself. People around you will have all sorts of opinions about what you should be doing with your life... and while some of these may be valuable opinions from people you care about, at the end of the day YOU will be the one waking up in the morning and doing YOUR job. Make sure that you are well informed about what you are getting into BEFORE you choose a specialty, and choose what makes you happy.

Work hard, take time to listen to the patients

Keep your eye on what you enjoy doing; you’ll be doing it for a long time.


The first year and the support that the P&S Club provided. It was a great institution. My student advisor, Dr. Al-Aquati, was fabulous. I am very grateful for the dinners out and the conversations we shared in a relaxed atmosphere.

Living in Bard Hall was a bonding experience.

I failed my first Parasitology exam. No lasting ill effects.

I was fortunate to cultivate friendships with one or two of the faculty, which I still appreciate.

I had to present to the new Chairman of Pediatrics (1961 or 62) a case of pseudohypoparathyroidism who had classic physical findings of hypocalcemia (Trousseau,Chvostek) that were previously missed.

I remember my time at P&S fondly. At the time that I attended, P&S was known to have a traditional, “old school” way of teaching - in a good way! I have very good memories of so many of my instructors (Jay Lefkowitch, Ernie April, Steve Miller) and of my classmates.

All the stories came out in our class show at the end of our fourth year (in 1970).

Our freshman class show (How to succeed in medicine without really trying) and the skits we did for holiday party show were great. sitting and playing the piano in lounge at Bard Hall at all hours of the night

all the fun parties on the roof of Bard Hall

Fabulous, great friends, somewhat tedious first year, better second year, great third and fourth years

The people involved in them may not want them told, but there was a lot of partying. The toga party that ended up in the pool was memorable.

Someone said “you live well but you deserve it after all the work you did.” I said, “I never worked because I loved doing it,” and that includes every minute at P&S.

A famous surgeon addressing the new class said “you all probably look at me with envy, but at the same time I look out at you envious of the joys you have yet to experience.”

It was the most transformative time of my life and affected me in more ways I could even imagine at that time.

It is more about the entire experience than specific stories for me.

It was the most exciting time of my life. I moved to New York from a small town and after attending a small college. In addition to learning medicine, I got to know the city and took advantage of its many treasures.

the great views from the P&S campus, especially the sunsets over the Palisades. I remember many happy weekend excursions downtown, to Central Park, and to the Cloisters. Late afternoons, while some of us were still looking at histology slides in lab facing north, I remember the beautiful chimes from the Altman carillon in the Highbridge Park water tower. The tower is still there, but I understand the carillon was destroyed by a fire in 1984 and never replaced. http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/HIGH%20BRIDGE/newhigh3.jpg

too many stories, but all I can say is great memories and great friendships

P&S was wonderful. i met incredible people and great role models. i don’t have anything negative to say about it. i do think that there are many aspects of medicine that are not taught in medical school, but i don’t think that is a unique problem to P&S

Loved it. Great school, excellent teachers, well organized, good school spirit

Remember Harold Varmus, later Nobel Laureate and head of NIH, who was obviously brilliant and stood out even among many fellow students who went on to distinguished careers.

drinking El Presidente Spanish coffee to stay up late and study hiding out in the “new” Milstein Hospital

My class, P&S ’69, entered in 1965 when female medical students were few, in all medical schools in US except for one. The selection was tough: only 1 in 10 women applicants were accepted. Our class had ~9% women. In an interview, I was asked questions like: what are you going to do if you want a family? =such a question would be illegal today. In addition, P&S accepted only one Asian male and one Asian female per year (My year had David Pao and me). I thus encountered two biases both as female and as Asian. I notice there is a definite shift in male/female ratios and a more diverse student body. Hope your class realize that it took a long time coming.

Have you got a few hours?

It may seem odd, but some of the famous physicians I met whom I did not know were famous were so great to learn from and discuss cases with--Dr. Yale Kneeland, Dr. Sydney Werner, Dr. Paul Wermer--all were nearing the end of their careers but they were young in mind and still excited about what they did and about medicine in general. They were also kind and gentle physicians who know how to talk to patients and families--unfortunately a lot of that has been lost nowadays it seems with all the technology we use.

When I did poorly in my anatomy exam, I was called in by Dean Aura Severinghaus, who said “I seldom made mistakes in my judgment of students.” Those few words remain with me all my life. I thank him for that forever.

the time that my classmate Bill Seale locked himself out of his apartment when we were on a climbing trip to the Shawangunks. I decided to rappel (lower oneself by climbing rope) off the roof to his window to gain access only to be greeted by two upstanding NYPD cops who had been alerted that burglars were trying to break into the apartment.

What happens in Bard Hall...stays in Bard Hall.

Learned an immense amount and formed some lifelong relationships. But most importantly realized that I was responsible for my own learning & development.

watching Alfred Gellhorn help disimpact a lady with cancer. He taught me more about caring in that one act than I could have learned in four years of study

once in our senior year we had a party on the west side of Bard Hall and one classmate had a little too much to drink. Thinking we were on the east side, he tried to impress his classmates by jumping out of a window at one point. His descent was interrupted by the only balcony on that side of the building - fortunately! Only a broken leg, but he continues to be reminded of the incident any time he meets a classmate. We had only four women in the class of ’52, but they were outstanding. Presently here in Buffalo, women comprise over 50% of the class in our medical school.

Class parties, the Bard Hall players, the class band “Borborygmi,” all of that is what made the experience bearable. The science and the medicine will always be there. Don’t neglect the personal.