Tessa Churchill, a second-year medical student, asked Bohdan Wasiljew, ’76 MD, ’81 GME, for advice on choosing a specialty during a new program, “Real Physicians of Feinberg,” in which students connect with an alumnus over dinner.
A retired surgeon, Dr. Wasiljew encouraged Churchill and other students to try different experiences before jumping into a specialty.
“I liked the candid way Dr. Wasiljew discussed surgery and how one should go about deciding on a specialty,” Churchill said. “He has clearly had a lot of experience with a number of different types of doctors and was able to share with us an interesting viewpoint on why people gravitate towards certain specialties.”
The four student societies – networks of students across the four years of medical school – have worked with the Office of Alumni Relations and the Medical Alumni Association to organize these casual evening gatherings with alumni like Dr. Wasiljew to discuss topics including choosing specialties, maintaining work/life balance and working outside of academic medicine. The program aims to give students a wider array of perspectives on being a physician than they receive in the classroom.
“I think it’s valuable to get a doctor’s perspective who has worked outside of the Northwestern hospital system, as most of the doctors that medical students see on a day to day basis are Northwestern faculty,” she said. “It’s important to get different perspectives on various fields and specialties.”
The program will feature different alumni throughout the year. As the first alumnus to participate in the program, Dr. Wasiljew said, “I think for alumni, it’s another chance to contribute something. I’ve been involved in teaching my whole life and I have looked into ways to donate my time. I think it is important for the students to talk about things they don’t have time to cover in medical school.”
Each student society is named in honor of a notable alumnus and provides students with an academic community throughout their time at Feinberg. As one of the society representatives for the Ricketts Society, Churchill helped organize and promote the event.
“This event brings together students from all class years which is valuable for bringing viewpoints from all levels of medical school training to the table,” Churchill said. “Fourth-year medical students may not have the same questions and concerns as first-years, but it’s useful to hear what older students are thinking about because it brings up topics that younger students may not have even considered yet.”
Kevin Wang, a second-year medical student and society representative for the Thompson Society, attended the event to learn more about balancing personal and professional life.
“It’s important for medical students to get a personal, uncensored view of what life can be like as a physician,” Wang said. “Although there are many things that we’re taught during medical school, an important subject that isn’t taught to us is the challenge of balancing our personal and professional lives after medical school and finding personal fulfillment in our careers. Though some aspects of our curriculum address these issues, it’s always nice to have external input on the subject.”
Alumni interested in participating can contact Alumni Relations.