Black Diamonds 2018

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about the cover art & artist The White Angel Feather | Finding a white angel feather is said to be a sign of faith and protection and that angels are near. Linda Horvat Bradley | Guest Artist Originally from Kansas City, Kansas, Linda currently lives in Waymart, Pa. She is a standing member of the London Visual Arts Guild located in London, Ohio. Her exhibits have been shown at the Gallery on High in London, Ohio, and her hobbies include horseback riding, calligraphy, pottery and southern-style cooking. Linda says, “I choose to discover nature! Mushroom-shaped hearts, twisted roots by the creek and the beauty of winter snow invite a walk in the woods…. My goal as a nature photographer is to encourage others to take time to be observant of details, textures and little things along the way.” Come discover the treasures of nature! A bounty of riches awaits! Black Diamonds is an arts and literary magazine of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. All content is the property of each respective author/artist. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the permission of the author/artist of each submission.


or thousands of people living in northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) during the 19th and 20th centuries, coal was precious. It was the black diamond they mined and the substance that supported their

lives. Formed in ancient times under the massive pressure of the sediment above it, coal became the foundation of an entire economy in NEPA. That economy has all but vanished from this part of the country, but today, NEPA is witnessing the formation of a new and valuable resource. Created under the pressure of a great need for future physicians, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine now exists. New students are coming in to NEPA every year to begin the process of being transformed into physicians through the steady, constant pressures of medical school. And like the rich veins of coal that extended through the region, these future physicians are now stretched across counties in northeastern and central Pennsylvania. For many of these students and their teachers, the arts are an important part of life outside of medicine. Our hope is that this journal can serve as a showcase for their expression and be an inspiration to those who read it.

Zachary Wolfe, MD md Class of 2015



Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine is committed to non-discrimination in all employment and educational opportunities.

table of contents From the Editor 06 Capturing True Beauty 08 Grateful at Geisinger Commonwealth 12 The Colors of Fall at the PA Grand Canyon 14 Fun 15 Learning Through Giving: Faithcare 16 Tiger Lily 19 a beautiful fall river view in sayre 20 Waterfall adventures 21 A Day in the Life MBS - Doylestown 22 Survivor 24 Light 1 // Light 2 25 Spotlight on Faculty: Carmine Cerra, MD 26 Treetoes 29 A Day in the Life MBS - Scranton 30 Sentinels 32 Front Row Seat for Fall // Collapsed 33 End of Season // Charity Starts At Home 34 Untitled 1 35 Taking Time to See 36

39 The Gift 40 Military Medicine 43 Memory 1 // Memory 2 44 A Day In The Life M1 46 My First Patient 47 Heartbeat // Becoming 48 A Day In The Life M2 49 ReadySetGo 50 Nay Aug Falls // Lakeside Perspective 51 Untitled 2 52 homecoming 53 Frozen Leaf 54 A Day in the Life M3 56 In motion 57 Mushrooms 58 a Day In The Life M4 60 Nature’s Yellow Brick Road // Moving Parts 61 Contrast 1 // Contrast 2 62 Untitled 3 63 Editorial Staff 05

from the editor COMMITTEE

OLApeju simoyan, md, mph, bds, faafp associate professor of family medicine & epidemiology “If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew

Olapeju Simoyan, MD, MPH, BDS, FAAFP Editor in chief Vanessa Thiel Managing Editor Miriam Eagleson Layout Designer Heather M Davis, MFA Production Manager Debra C Tierney Staff Editorial Assistant Amelia Mackarey Student Editorial Assistant Kristina Lake Borham Student Editorial Assistant

you never knew”. These profound words from the song “Colors of the Wind” in the movie Pocahontas speak to the theme of this issue of Black Diamonds. Appreciating differences by celebrating diversity is one of the cornerstones of the Geisinger community and our CEO, David Feinberg, MD, encourages us to “let kindness be our beacon in a sea of change.” Indeed, walking in the footsteps of others not only increases our awareness about our fellow humans, but it can also help us to be more compassionate and empathetic. International health experiences provide opportunities for students and faculty to learn about other cultures while contributing to the health needs of underserved populations. Emily Amendola, a fourth-year medical

Art and science inform each other. From the earliest drawings of neurons by Santiago Ramón y Cajal to Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray diffraction images giving us the first glimpse of DNA, creative expression has been an important means of disseminating scientific knowledge. These pioneering endeavors deepen our knowledge and enhance our lives. We need your support to continue the pursuit of beauty and truth. Please consider a charitable gift to fund the annual publication of Black Diamonds.


student, writes about stepping out of her comfort zone to participate in a medical mission trip to Nigeria and how this experience reinforced her passion for global health. Carmine Cerra, MD, one of our faculty members, shares how his experience attending medical school in Italy provided him with a cultural education he would not have received if he had attended an American medical school. Poetry can be a powerful vehicle for expression and Vanessa Thiel, a second-year medical student, in a very moving poem, reflects on her expe-

rience visiting “the country she could have called home,” for the first time, an experience that led to the desire to incorporate global health into her future career. We are especially honored that Rick Guidotti, an award-winning photographer, agreed to be interviewed for this issue and granted us permission to use his photographs featuring amazing people with various genetic conditions. Rick is truly using the gift of photography to help others see the beauty in human diversity. Photography as an art can also provide balance in our busy professional lives, an important factor in preventing burnout. This is demonstrated in the article about Mark Ayzenberg, MD, a member of our charter class who is also featured in this issue. Alluding to his interests outside of medicine which include music and photography, Mark suggests that he “may have too many hobbies,” but these outside interests help him to stay grounded. This is something that I, as a physician with similar interests, can personally relate to. Finally, in the spirit of Geisinger’s kindness project, Amelia Mackarey reflects on why she started the Grateful at Geisinger Commonwealth project, which is intended to, in her words, “highlight rays of sunshine” and “brighten each of our days.” We hope that through these essays, poems and pictures, your day will be brightened and you will be encouraged to expand your horizons, walk in the footsteps of others, and discover “things you never knew you never knew.”

Capturing True through the Lens Beauty of a Camera Positive Exposure Elizabeth Zygmunt Director of Media & Public Relations


tanding outside an auditorium at

complications. That’s why all medical

a chromosome 18 support group

students study the condition. What

meeting, all Rick Guidotti could hear was

saddens Rick, however, is how the

the laughter. The children inside were

students first meet these children. They

being entertained by a clown making

don’t become acquainted at a time when

balloon animals — and he was evidently

the kid is just being a kid, delighted by

doing a very good job, judging by the

balloon animals. Instead the introduction

joyful shrieks.

occurs in the pages of a textbook, where the children are photographed against


Children with chromosome 18

a wall, stripped of their humanity, with

anomalies may have developmental

a floating black “anonymity” bar pasted

issues and often suffer severe medical

across their eyes. “What the medical

Rick Guidotti, an awardwinning photographer, left the fashion industry to create the nonprofit Positive Exposure. Positive Exposure uses photography, film and narrative to transform public perceptions of people living with genetic, physical, intellectual and behavioral differences. The nonprofit’s educational and advocacy programs reach around the globe to promote a more inclusive, compassionate world where differences are

students don’t get is the giggle,” Rick said. It’s

Other people were always telling me who was

his mission to change that.

beautiful, but I see beauty everywhere.”

celebrated. Rick delivered

Rick is a former fashion photographer who has

Rick’s epiphany occurred when he spotted a

“The Spirit of Difference,” at

worked with people the world deems beautiful.

beautiful girl waiting for a bus in New York

Geisinger Commonwealth

One of the last supermodels he photographed,

City, a girl he realized would probably not be

School of Medicine’s fall

for example, was Cindy Crawford in the late

accustomed to being called beautiful. She had

2017 Keystone Symposium,

‘90s. As an artist, however, Rick said he felt

albinism, a congenital disorder characterized

Innovations in Autism

limited. “The aesthetic of beauty has always

by the absence of pigment in the skin, hair

driven me,” he said. “So working with those

and eyes. “I looked at medical photographs

Awareness and Diagnosis.

supermodels was fantastic, but frustrating.

taken to depict albinism and they were horrible,

the keynote speech, entitled


dehumanizing. That’s when I decided to devote myself to helping others to see what I see — to see the beauty in human diversity,” he said. Rick’s first act was to contact the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. His suggestion was simple. “I called them and said, ‘Let me take a million pictures to show the world.’” Rick’s first subject was Christine, a young woman with albinism, and the power of his photography to change the way she viewed herself has kept him motivated ever since. “She came in, shoulders hunched, no self-confidence,” he said. “But I treated her the way I treated any supermodel. I said, ‘Look at yourself, you’re fantastic!’” The resulting pictures will make anyone a believer. Christine stands — sometimes with hands on hips, sometimes with arms thrown wide — confidently flashing a dazzling smile Rick says “could light up New York City.” Since that session almost 20 years ago, Rick has photographed countless children and adults with genetic conditions, as well as other physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities. Rick presents not Marfan syndrome, trisomy 18 or albinism, but a boy splashing in a pool, kids chumming around at summer camp, a mom kissing her beloved child. Although his photos are not exclusively for medical students, they are an important audience to Rick. “I want to be sure they remember that it’s not what you treat, but who you treat,” he said. “They should never forget the humanity in their profession. There’s lots of art and passion in medicine — let’s be sure to embed it early in these students.”





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The Colors of Fall at the PA Grand Canyon christian bohan md class of 2019

Dances through mazes, ghosts to outrun, chances to face them, but often outgunned, doubt is no stranger, can strike you aghast, this game is not easy, nor simple, nor fast. And if all the nuggets you quickly collect, evade all the dangers The Game could project, you conquer the level, only to learn the next one is harder, with less time to burn! But that’s both the challenge and beauty in one — beating each level’s not how The Game’s won, if that’s your sole goal, your joy will succumb, ‘cause playing itself is where the fun’s from. No matter how many, the nuggets will fade, and all of us someday depart the arcade, so keep kind and curious, and savor each day and never forget why you started to play! What really matters, when all’s said and done, Who did you help — who shared in the fun?

FUN DAN SYLVESTRE md class of 2021


Learning through giving My FaithCare Nigeria experience

EMILY AMENDOLA md class of 2018


n October 2017, seven FaithCare team members from the U.S. embarked on a two-week journey

to Kafanchan, Kaduna State, Nigeria, on a medical mission trip. During this trip, I hoped to step out of my comfort zone and broaden my medical education. I wanted to meet new people and seek a different perspective on healthcare and what that term means in other parts of the world. However, what I gained was much more than I could have ever imagined and was a truly eyeopening experience. Many people living in Nigeria and millions around the world do not have access to healthcare. They often wait too long, until they can no longer tolerate their suffering, and in doing


so, things that may have easily been treated

obstetricians and gynecologists, as well as

become much more complicated and serious.

spiritual counselors, as we saw and treated

During this trip, men, women and children

3,500 patients and performed 151 surgeries.

walked hundreds of miles to be seen by our

Our U.S. team paired with a local Nigerian

team. I cannot imagine putting my family on

team as we helped establish a health clinic

a dusty path in Africa and walking hundreds

in the area. I was overwhelmed, as the days

of miles just hoping for a miracle for my loved

were long and there was a never-ending

one. On this trip, I was part of that miracle, a

stream of patients. This experience allowed

hat I never anticipated I would wear.

me to see firsthand just how underserved some populations are. The pathology that we

During this mission trip, I worked alongside

saw would not be seen in the United States.

a team of healthcare professionals including

I learned about how healthcare is provided

pharmacists, dentists, nurses, paramedics,

in Nigeria and the need for better access. I

surgical technicians, general surgeons,

was able to step out of my comfort zone and

FaithCare is a nonprofit (501c-3) organization composed of individuals interested in the healthcare field and in serving needy people with care, consideration and love. Although we spring from Christian roots, we welcome persons of all faiths as we seek to deliver care with compassion, a quality universal to all major religions. The goal of FaithCare is to integrate faith into the practice of medicine by providing excellent healthcare, locally through wellness centers, and internationally through medical missions. FaithCare has had missionary outreaches to Nigeria, Siberia, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The international projects include medical consultations, surgical care, ophthalmologic care, dental care and spiritual counseling. FaithCare is currently embarking on a capital campaign to establish hospitals in Nigeria and Haiti. ”Imagine the joy of being used to significantly impact someone’s life... meeting a need that otherwise may not be met.” – Peter F. Schnatz, DO, FACOG, FACP Founder and CEO, FaithCare Learn more at


I believe that this is zone immerse and myself immerse in a myself culture in so a culture so different from mine that it challenged me to meovercome to overcome language language barriers barriers and cultural differences and culturalin differences order to provide in order appropriate to care. provide appropriate care. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to serve a vastly underserved population in Nigeria, but the elements of this trip provided me with much more than I could have ever hoped. I knew that I would be serving many individuals who would not otherwise have received care. Looking back, I now realize the enormity of this experience. Through the years, I have been able to give back to my local community, the people and places that have helped shape the person I am today. I have been inspired to work harder, remain dedicated, dedicated and and achieve achieve my my goals. goals. This This trip, trip, however, allowed me to enter and serve a


the essence of Global

a community community farfar different different from from my my own. own. The

Health, the idea that

The people people of Kaduna of Kaduna StateState entrusted entrusted me with me

we can take resources

have — their – their own health. own health. With With the combined the combined

and knowledge that we

were able to treat these patients who may

are fortunate enough

experienced the culture of Nigeria through

to have and spread our

some of my own culture and experiences

efforts to make the

essence of Global global health, Health,the theidea ideathat thatwe we

global population a

are fortunate enough to have and spread

healthier and better

a healthier and better community. This trip


Global global health Healthand andisissomething somethingthat thatIIwill will

with one of one theofmost the most important important things things they they have efforts of the Nigerian and US U.S.teams, teams,we we not have otherwise had access to care. I my interactions with people and shared with them as well. I believe that this is the can take resources and knowledge that we our efforts to make the global population has reinforced the passion that I hold for carry with me into the future.

tiger lily Linda Bradley guest artist MD? 19

a beautiful fall river view in sayre christian bohan md class of 2019


Waterfall adventures at buttermilk falls state park christian bohan md class of 2019 21

a day in the life

Sheream James Reed MBS-Doylestown class of 2018

[4 a.m.] I awake to the un-delightful intro

yesterday. I also can’t stop thinking about

of a song that resembles the barking of an

this cardiovascular lecture and how — if

alarm clock. There is no way I can sleep

I get out of bed — gravity will decrease

through this sound, which is why it has

my cerebral oxygen flow, ending with my

been my alarm tone for the past seven

passing out on the floor. It is right then and

years. I love “Frayed” by The Naked and

there that I realize — I’m a nerd.

Famous anytime other than 4 a.m. [4:30 a.m.] Still kind of weak from my blood


[4:15 a.m.] Check emails and social

donation, but I survived my 10-minute

media, but still frozen in bed. OK, enough

shower. On to replenishing my red blood

procrastination, it’s time to get the day

cells with a B-12-rich breakfast and six

started. Oh shoot! The thought of me

cups of water. I wonder: If I drink too much

fainting crosses my mind because I

water, will I get through my neuroscience

gave blood at the student blood drive

exam without a restroom break?

[5 a.m.] Two-hour commute to Stryker

won’t be able to work these cool

[6:30 p.m.] Sit in alphabetically arranged

Orthopaedics in Mahwah, N.J. As I see

labs anymore.

seating assignments for the exam and log

the road covered with leaves and jack-o-

into Examplify. Here we go!

lanterns lined along the streets, I suddenly

[10 a.m.] Two-hour commute to the

have the urge to recite the sodium-

Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center

[7:30 p.m.] That went well. Over-studying

potassium pump mnemonic, “Pump-K-in.”

of Bucks County where Geisinger

proved useful. But now I don’t have any

The nerd in me strikes again.

Commonwealth’s Master of Biomedical

brain cells left for the post-exam lecture.

Sciences - Doylestown (MBS-D).

Phew, thank goodness for Tegrity recorded

[7 a.m.] This will not be an ordinary day in

lectures because I mentally checked out.

the training lab. The orthopaedic surgeon

[Noon] Detour. Restore glycogen at the

arrived without his assistant, so I will have

Doylestown Chipotle.

to help him during the procedure. Even

[9 p.m.] One-hour commute to home in Philadelphia. Eating and reviewing class

though the procedure was beyond the

[12:30 p.m.] Enter the study room of the

notes, while watching my beloved Sixers

scope of my job duties as a tissue steward,

school and not surprisingly see a dedicated

pulverize the Atlanta Hawks. The Sixers

I feel excited to hold the cadaver knee as he

MBS-D student sitting in the exact place I

are back!

makes the first incision. Next, the surgeon

left him the day before. He is focused on

asks me to use the mallet to hammer a

overcoming the academic hurdles of the

[11p.m.] I feel like a zombie. Positioning

baseplate between the femur and tibia.

program so that he attains his future career

heavy cadavers for surgery trainings

in medicine. His work ethic is contagious,

and endless study sessions is quite

so I dive head-first into study mode.

exhausting. Before I notice, I doze off into

[7:45 a.m.] Wow! I really just performed my first and probably last triathlon


knee replacement. I cherish this

[5:30 p.m.] Histology class begins. The

moment because I recently accepted

neuroscience exam is within the next hour

a scientific process operator position in the

and it’s hard to focus with my fate on the

Vaccine Department of Merck & Co., so I

neuroscience exam looming.


Survivor Esther Good MD class of 2020

You can run for a long time, Weak as you are, Lungs burning for air And muscles burning for rest When your fear reminds you That you are made of flesh, But you can’t outrun the fire. You always pass the fools who, Tired to their last bone, Turn around to face the flames Thinking the Phoenix Is more than a fairytale. When you finally fall,


The fire is waiting; Hot tongues lick your skin Like an ice cream cone. If the fire dies before you do Your bandaged wounds Will grow into angry scars, Red, twisted, and painful. Don’t mourn your lost beauty. Those scars make you stronger Than mythical feathers ever could.

Light Malina Lim mD CLASS OF 2020


s p o t l i g h t o n fa c u lt y 26

Carmine Cerra, MD Pathologist and Medical Educator by Kristina Borham and Vanessa Thiel MD class of 2020


r. Cerra, the pathologist for the

Q: What inspired you to go into medicine?

Systems I and II courses at GCSOM,

is a specialist in the gross and cellular

A: Well, my mother was a nurse so I was

manifestations of disease that are essential

exposed to healthcare at a young age. My

in making diagnoses and treating patients

cousin had been a lab technician at the old

across all fields. He trained at the University

Mercy Hospital in Scranton and got me a

of Bologna in Italy, and prior to joining

summer job there, where I learned about

the faculty at GCSOM, was a practicing

laboratory medicine and pathology — I saw

pathologist at Pocono Medical Center

firsthand what being a pathologist was

in East Stroudsburg for more than 30

all about. I’ve also always liked science;

years, serving as chair of the Department

pathology is a lot of science, and it’s a

of Pathology and director of Laboratory

great halfway between clinical and basic

Medicine. GCSOM students love the


photographs of Italy that he shares at the close of his podcasts and are immensely appreciative of his teaching efforts that

Q: When did you decide you wanted to be a pathologist?

certainly qualify as “above and beyond.” Dr. Cerra’s passion for education shines

A: From the first day of medical school,

through in all he does and we are excited

I was working towards becoming a

to share his story!

pathologist because I had had enough

“It was a great experience living in Italy” Q: What was your favorite part of going to school there?

exposure to the specialty. The world

oral exams and believe it or not, the easiest

of pathology includes both anatomic

one was pharmacology because it had

pathology (autopsy) and surgical pathology

multiple-choice and written components. It

(tissue diagnosis). Another component

really was different than what we do here

A: Education at the University of Bologna

is laboratory medicine, which is used to

because you had to think on your feet when

was not just a medical education — it

interpret the results of laboratory testing.

answering the questions.

was also a cultural education. In addition

It really is a field of diagnostic work. The

to my medical lectures, I used to attend

residency is a four-year program and the

In the summers, I worked as a waiter in

lectures on the history of the town and the

board exam includes two parts: anatomical

the restaurants to make some money for

university. I love opera and had season

and clinical.

travel. The great thing about the University of

tickets to the local opera house. I still

Bologna is that it is the oldest university in the

enjoy going to the opera today. History

Western world. The concept of a university

and the arts were a big part of the culture

was born in that town by gathering all the

— they were everywhere. On weekends we

different college disciplines together under

frequently went to other cities to explore

A: Many of my professors at The University

one umbrella — mathematics, engineering,

museums and historic sites. We visited

of Scranton encouraged me to go to Italy,

law. When I was there, there were about 60 to

most of Europe and parts of the Middle

especially having been put on the waitlist

70,000 students across the disciplines. I still

East. It was a great experience living in Italy,

in American schools. I spoke some Italian

speak Italian fluently, and when there are big

as I had never been anywhere outside of

before I went, but everything was in Italian

world events, I like to watch the Italian news

northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) prior to

at the University of Bologna. Exams were

to get another perspective.

the age of 21.

Q: Why did you choose to go Italy for medical school? What was it like?


“ L earning me d i c i n e i s a l l about e x The school in Bologna was quite diverse, with students from Europe, North America

Q: What brought you back to the NEPA area?

and the Middle East. I am very grateful to

would be something special. I wanted to be a part of it. I was part of the volunteer faculty for four years and eventually

have gone there. Many of my friends were

A: Truthfully, it was hard to come back

applied to work here full time, and it is now

enrolled in school in the States and didn’t

after having such an amazing time at the

my fourth season here! The transition to

have time for the type of cultural activities

University of Bologna. It was difficult to find

teaching was easy for me.

that I engaged in. It was natural for me to

a placement in Italy for training, and I ended

be involved in something else beyond my

up coming back to train in New Haven,

medical education.

Conn., and then I moved to the Poconos to

Q: What advice would you give to us preclerkship medical students?

work with a longtime friend, practicing there

Q: Do you still keep in touch with your classmates? A: Many of my classmates were from the New York City and northern New Jersey

for 35 years.

shouldn’t be doing it! The responsibilities [of

Q: When did you start at the school and what drew you to Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine?

area with a long family history of attending


A: Make it enjoyable. If it isn’t enjoyable, you our career] are huge - you don’t want to hurt someone but, inevitably, we will all make mistakes and we will have to live with them. We have to learn something from each experience,

the university. We have occasional dinner

A: I knew the reputation of some of the

because it will not go perfectly all the time.

reunions in New York City.

founding doctors — and that the school

Learning medicine is all about experience.

pe rie nc e . ” Q: What is your favorite part of teaching? A: Well, the students are everything! It’s all about the idea that this is not really a job, it’s a way to give back and to share my experience with young future doctors.

Q: What are your hobbies? A: Besides opera, I like to play golf! I used to play four days a week, but now I play about once a month. I also like to cook, especially based on my restaurant experiences in Italy. I like to cook northern Italian food the most. You can read more about the history of the University of Bologna at

Treetoes Linda Bradley Guest artist 29

“Wake up from your dream about studying for your upcoming quiz or exam or both. Check your clock and realize that you have

a day in the life


two hours before class. Take a breath and realize that two hours is enough time for showering, breakfast, studying and your daily “I can do this!” pep talk. Then actually shower, eat breakfast, study, give yourself a pep talk and get to Geisinger Commonwealth before lecture begins. Sit through class, taking notes diligently and thinking about how you definitely have to watch Tegrity (online recordings of daily lectures) later because you’re not quite sure what a transposon or a prion — or a gene for that matter — is.


From the comical but true “Day in the Life” essay, you can see that this Master of Biomedical Sciences program is very rigorous but manageable. Students are working to do and be their best, while constantly being aware that they are here to succeed. Our days do involve early Eat lunch in the GCSOM lounge with your fellow classmates over conversation about your impending quiz or exam while laughing about some students in the lunch line who complained about only getting 6 hours of sleep when you’re running on 3 hours of sleep and the caffeine kick from your

mornings and late nights, all in preparation for our future careers. However, the all-nighters alluded to in the satirical piece here are preventable with proper time management and avoiding procrastination. This program is demanding because we’re surrounded by professors, administration and

10-minute break during your last class.

peers who see our full potential and push us to do our best.

Attend your second class and again take notes as you laugh

the best for one another.

to yourself on how watching Tegrity in the evenings over dinner has completely replaced your Netflix binge watching.

GCSOM is a family of individuals, and like any family, we want

While we work diligently in the classroom, we do keep in mind that we did not make it this far alone. We take daily breaks

Sit in with your professors and teaching assistants during

from studying with check-ins to our families and friends.

office hours, during which time you ask them to re-explain

We also keep in mind that physical, emotional and spiritual

everything stated in lecture in layman’s terms.

fitness are just as important as our mental well-being, so many of us work out daily, participate in yoga classes and/

Continue to study late into the night until you realize it’s no

or attend our diverse places of worship. When time permits,

longer nighttime, but instead the next day and you should

we also engage in community service, sporting events and

probably get some rest because you’re waking up in three hours to start your routine all over again!”

friendly conversation. We try to get the most out of our “free time” because we’re back to studying and preparing for the near future soon after.



Collapsed Andres Rodriguez md class of 2021

Front Row Seat for Fall Andres Rodriguez md class of 2021


Charity Starts at Home Iris Johnston library assistant Mastocytes secreting cytokines aren’t in it for the #humblebrag. They never say, “My Uncle was a Merkel cell, so I’ll protect you, Fingertips.”

No one pays the basophil or lectures it on civic duty to spur it to squirt histamine. It waves no Marrow Flag, sings no patriotic tune.

End of Season Dan Sylvestre md class of 2021 34

Why should we?

Untitled 1 Assad Hayat md class of 2020 35

Elizabeth Zygmunt Director of Media & Public Relations


hen Mark Ayzenberg, MD, a member of Geisinger Commonwealth’s charter Class of 2013, first began his orthopaedic surgery residency at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, he feared the 80-plus-hour weeks spent in the hospital might be a threat to his passion for medicine. “When all you do is work, you stop looking around. You don’t really see your surroundings,” he said. He knew capitulating to drudgery would lead to burnout, so having interests outside of medicine was vital – and he vowed to be sure to indulge them.


With a camera borrowed from his dad, Mark began visiting favorite spots in his native Philadelphia and photographing them using a multiple-exposure technique he thought truly captured the essence of the place. “I would go to a site and just sit there for a while, enjoying it,” he said. Because his time off was scarce, it sometimes required great self-discipline to go, but eventually it became his habit to explore different sites — some well-known, some off the beaten path — and capture them on camera.

The resulting photographs are startling rich and vivid. Familiar, iconic views of the city — boathouse row, the art museum — take on a surreal, magical quality. Mark’s photos of Antelope Canyon in Arizona make the swirling rock seem alive and full of motion. Photos of waves churning on a Hawaiian beach seem to be images from a lovely, distant planet. In his own way, Mark adheres to the creative aesthetic of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who painted flowers up close and in colorful detail and who explained her process simply by saying, “It takes time to see.” In describing his inspiration, Mark emphasizes the same fascination with “primary forms.” “So many people don’t take the time to really appreciate their surroundings,” he said. “I started taking pictures as a way to sit and enjoy the little things. I would force myself to go out and explore nature and architecture, things that people don’t have the time to really see. I try to capture the scene as I see it in my pictures.” People did begin to see the familiar in new ways through Mark’s photos. An entire business, springing from his first commercial sale, resulted from photographs he shot during the day while he was

working months of nights. His first commercial sale was to Metro Club condominiums, where he mounted almost 50 photos when he wasn’t in surgery at night. To his surprise and delight, his photography began to sell locally, as well as abroad through his website. Hotels like the Sheraton and universities like his alma mater, Penn, bought them. Galleries have invited him to exhibit his work and it’s been used on greeting cards. He even found an unexpectedly direct connection between his photography and medicine. “Next year I’ll begin a sports


As a student at Geisinger Commonwealth,

medicine fellowship in Los Angeles,” he said. “When I was interviewing for it, I was asked by the interviewer if I thought my photography related to arthroscopic surgery and the ability to visualize problems inside a joint — something I never really considered before that conversation.” Best of all, however, Mark’s determination to ward off burnout with artistic expression has worked. “Appreciating my surroundings and having hobbies has kept me grounded,” he said. “In fact, I may have too many hobbies for my own good! But I’m not jaded at all.”


music was Mark’s creative outlet. He plays guitar, piano, drums and ukulele. He and fellow charter class members John Kotula, Mike Gabriel, Charlie Karcutskie and the late John Madsen formed a band that played together throughout their four years. “It’s the thing I miss most about medical school,” Mark said. The band was unnamed until, in their last year together, the musicians decided to participate in Scranton’s annual Battle of the Bands. Pressed to decide what to call themselves, the group seized on the fact that the school had a new dean. They called themselves Stevie J. and The Shine Men. Laughing at the memory, Mark said, “Dr. Steven J. Scheinman was a good sport. He didn’t mind at all. He even came to see us play.” In the photo above, Mark is in the dark blue T-shirt, in foreground, playing guitar.

THE GIFT by Sarah Schreiber MD CLASS OF 2020

I am the knowledge that fills our minds. The gentle compassion that made us kind. For every soul we hope to save, I am the experience that makes us brave. I am the deft movement of scalpeled hands. Rebuilding hearts in far off lands. Do not stand on my grave and quiver. I am not there. I did not wither. I am the first step on a life-long road. A gift beyond value to no one owed. I am the passion that fuels our focus. The beautiful reality that forever woke us To the true significance of what we do. I am the humble duty bestowed on few. I am the elder’s final embrace. I am the smile on a newborn’s face. Do not stand on my grave and quiver. I am not there. I did not wither.



Kristina Borham MD class of 2020


t Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, an average of approximately

5 percent of each class is committed to serving in the military following their medical education. The majority of these students are recipients of the Health Professions Scholarship Program with the Army, Navy or Air Force. Students are, for the most part, just like their civilian counterparts in that they study hard, take board exams and achieve all graduation requirements to obtain their MD (or DO at osteopathic schools). But what makes them different?

Here are a few examples: •

These students are direct commissioned officers that serve


one 45-day active duty tour each year for their scholarship that can include: officer training school, aerospace medicine training, clinical rotations at

military base hospitals and sometimes a “campus tour” meant for academic enrichment •

Students apply to the military Match, in addition to the civilian

Madalyn Plessinger MD Class of 2019

Match, through the Joint Services Medical Education Board and

Anybody who knows

receive their residency placements in December — three months

me knows that I am the

earlier than their civilian counterparts!

farthest thing from a

Students do not accrue medical school financial debt and receive a monthly stipend.

Students will serve active duty commitments as physicians following their residency training.

Some students may serve as flight surgeons, general medical officers or medical directors.

Students are considered dual professionals: officers first, physicians (or students) second.

“military person.” I hate confrontation, I’m not athletic and until very recently, I was NOT a morning person. So, when people find out I’m in the Air Force, they generally ask why I joined. The answer is complex. First of all, I have always looked highly upon military members and truly believe that military service is one of the ultimate forms of sacrifice. I am thankful for all who served before me and honored to stand beside my fellow airmen today. Although it is honorable, the decision to join is difficult. I became a commissioned officer in my senior year of college before I began medical school. While this time may be considered exciting, I found it daunting and isolating. I was about to

So why do students choose a career path that involves military

graduate college and leave the protection of my ivy-covered

service in addition to their medical service? Here’s what our students

walls and private school education, I was interviewing at

have to say:

medical schools while secretly just praying one would accept


me (and yet also terrified one actually would) and, to top it all off, my

The first time I contacted the Air Force, I was 17 years old. I was

parents were in the midst of a divorce. In this time when my world was

curious about the different career options and the lifestyle — although

spinning and my future was hazy, I was searching for support, stability

I had been set on pursuing a career in medicine since my early teens.

and security. I wanted a vision of what my life would be and a plan to

I continued on to pursue a degree in cell and molecular biology at

get there — I was a recruiter’s dream. Enter USAF recruiter (no worries

West Chester University, and I still felt drawn towards service despite

— he was cool).

my strong desire to become a physician. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice the freedom of beginning my medical education as soon as possible

While I may have entered the Air Force out of desperation, the reasons

and truthfully, I was too young to make the best decision for myself.

I want to stay in the Air Force are substantially different. I found

Over the years, however, I watched such incredible people around me

what I was looking for. I am part of a gigantic family full of love and

serve in some capacity: my father in the Army, my high school best

camaraderie, I have financial security, my future is stable, I have had

friend at the Naval Academy, my high school peer mentor at the Air

once-in-a-lifetime experiences and I have made the greatest friends.

Force Academy, my supervising volunteer lead, a Marine who served

Although I still hate confrontation and push-ups make me nauseous,

in Vietnam, and countless friends who served on the enlisted side

I have never been more at peace with and thankful for this decision. I

and those who joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)

get to practice medicine beside the most amazing people while serving

in all the services. All of these people had qualities that I admired

my country, and that’s pretty cool.

— courage, altruism and ultimately, recognition of and devotion to something greater than themselves. When I first read about the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) as a sophomore in college, I called an Air Force recruiter and we had an hour-long conversation about the program, during which he answered every question I had, fully and honestly. I felt that this was the perfect way for me to serve and as soon as I began my applications to medical school, I also began my application for the Air Force HPSP. I worked with an inspiring and supportive recruiter on my application and have since had such a positive experience with the Air Force at Officer Training School. I am

Kristina Borham MD Class of 2020 42

incredibly thankful for this marriage of an opportunity between my two desires to serve: my country and my future patients.

Jon Livezey MD Class of 2021 I never planned to join the military. I knew from high school that I wanted a career in medicine, but the armed forces had never even crossed my mind. Reflecting now, this is rather surprising because my grandfather joined the Army and went to law school on the G.I. Bill. At family dinners, golf outings and


holidays, he would tell stories of his Army days to me. You could watch his face light up as he reminisced about basic training and his time in San Francisco and all across the country. He always ended his stories by stating that it was the best decision that he ever made. It made him better in his law career, and he was grateful for the opportunity. I learned about the option of joining the military while pursuing my medical degree on the Health Professions Scholarship Program during my junior year in college. I made a call to the Army recruiting office, met with a few recruiters, discussed the option thoroughly with my family and friends and made the decision. The choice felt natural, and I grabbed the opportunity in front of me. I am very excited to be an officer in the United States Army, and I hope that it will teach me to be a better doctor.


In memory of Ramsey Coles* Deconstructing the human body with

I pause,

our hands,

I watch.

While we construct it in our minds.

I start,

How it’s formed,

I stop.

And how to take it apart. My first patient. Is this how we learn? The room is buzzing,

This is how I begin to shape

Hands and tools and instruction,

The way that I treat my patients,

Words and terms and questions

This is how I begin to be The physician that I am called to be.

His hands,

my first patient Kristina Borham MD CLASS OF 2020


His hair,

He asks me to be gentle,

His face.

He asks me to give thought, While I dissemble,

Quickly and digging and pulling,

What was once full of blood,

Rushing hands begin;

Full of life and full of heart.

The parts of the body Meet my fingertips,

Whoa’s and wow’s and oh’s

Memorizing the path of the vessels,

Yeses and what’s and no’s

The organs that once worked So curiously together

His family,

To make this body move.

His surgeries,

Heartbeat Miriam Eagleson MD Class of 2021 His life, Is this how we love? I stop, I start. Slowly and thinking and planning, Gentle hands begin. The contours of his body, Meet my fingertips. Learning the feel of his delicate vessels, His complex organs that once worked So beautifully together To give this man life.

*Ramsey was a beloved classmate whom the Class of 2020 will never forget, nor his sense of humor and good heart. We miss you — every day.

Becoming Miriam Eagleson MD Class of 2021 47

I think a medical student’s routine can be pretty monotonous. After all, we’re bound by class schedules and study routines. A typical day for me involves waking up at 6 a.m., going to school to study, attending class and studying afterwards. I try to hit the gym and take breaks when necessary, of course. This, I think, is the general routine for most. It’s exhausting, and sometimes frustrating how monotonous it can get. It’s like I’m living in the movie Groundhog Day, in cruise control, just waiting to get to my destination. There are,

a day in the life Vanessa THIEL md class of 2020

however, moments that make every day special. There are moments which make this all worthwhile. Moments •

when I get to school and see the friendly faces of classmates

when I’m in the cafeteria, eating breakfast with my closest friends before study or class time

when we eat lunch and bond over quesadillas and ridiculous stories


when my roommates and I eat dinner together, a much-needed break from the busy day

when I call my dad and hear the comforting sound of home

when my roommates hop into my bed, and have lengthy late-night conversations about school, life and puppies

when my roommates and I hesitate to say goodnight because there are only so many nights left together, all in one campus

Ah, yes. In the end it is these “moments” that make everything worthwhile. This endless routine can take its toll and there must be some source of light in one’s life. For me, that light is the people around me — the friends that I have come to know and love. All together, these moments and these people give me the strength to

Readysetgo Linda Bradley Guest Artist

keep moving forward. A day in my life would be nothing without them.


Nay Aug Falls Andres Rodriguez MD Class of 2021

Lakeside Perspective Andres Rodriguez MD Class of 2021 50

Untitled 2 Vanessa Velez MD Class of 2019 51

homecoming Vanessa Thiel MD CLASS OF 2020


“Fasten your seat belt”

La Aurora Airport

Blinks red as we land

Unbelievable, a dream Awe

Heart beat quickens

A strawberry onesie

I look out the window —

A far away land

Getting to know the country I


One way ticket — Never

could have called home Unpaved roads

Feet falter, heavy

My first time in the country I

Rundown homes

Stumbling, Unbalanced

could have called home

Violence, corruption


A world I’ve never known Vibrant clothes match a


I look out the window - darkness

Why me? Why not her?

My hands are trembling, Feet falter, heavy Stumbling, Unbalanced Unsteady

Why me? Why not him?

thought I’d be back My hands are trembling,

“Fasten your seat belt”

Blinks red as we land Thousands of questions Heart beat quickens

A stroke of luck?

My first time in the country I could have called home

A blessing?

I’ve heard this tale

Many times before, Questions, unanswered It echoes in my mind

An infant, a flight - La Aurora Airport


A strawberry onesie A far away land One way ticket - Never thought I’d be back

A week in the country I could

My first time in the country I could have called home

have called home

Vibrant clothes match a vibrant land Beautiful language Inspiring landscape I look at the people - Resemblance

My first time in the country I

vibrant land

The marketplace run

could have called home

Beautiful language

By mothers and children

A week of reflection

Inspiring landscape

A sharp realization

Unveils a newfound respect

I’ve heard this tale

I look at the people —


For the life I was given

Many times before,


It echoes in my mind

Mountains, Volcanoes

Getting to know the country I

A mother, a choice

An infant, a flight —

A breathless gasp

could have called home

A sacrifice

A week of service

This culminating moment Gratitude A week in the country I could have called home A week of thanks A week of prayers Cultivate a dream, a desire A compulsion to serve the country I could have called home Another departure An overnight flight Hope A dream to return to the country I could have called home

Editor’s note: After being adopted from Guatemala as an infant, Vanessa attended a service trip to her birth-country. The trip had a strong impact

Frozen Leaf Linda Bradley guest artist

on her decision to pursue medicine and she hopes to continue serving the people of Guatemala throughout her career.


a day in the life JENA PATEL md class of 2019

[6 a.m.] Alarm goes off — hit snooze.

[7:45 a.m.] Time to talk to the family of the little boy who is getting his tonsils

[6:09 a.m.] Alarm goes off again — ugh,

out. The nurse anesthetist is amazing at

OK! I will attempt to get up. But first I

keeping the parents calm and reassured.

search through my podcasts to see if

She explains all of the medications

there is anything I want to listen to today

that he will be given and how long the

for some morning inspiration. Hmm, looks

procedure will take — usually 30 minutes.

like Oprah recently interviewed Shonda

She is so great at communicating all of

Rhimes about her book, A Year of Yes.

the information without overwhelming

This sounds perfect!

them — taking some mental notes for the future! All right, let’s roll the patient back to

[7 a.m.] Wow, nothing like a little morning

the OR.

Oprah to get you going! Teeth brushed. Clothes on. Coffee made. Lunch packed.

[10:30 a.m.] Tonsillectomy is done and

Going to head over to the OR and change

the patient is recovering well in post-op.

into scrubs – I can’t believe that I basically

We have some time before our next case,

get to wear pajamas at work! OK, time

so I am going to the intensive care unit to

to review some facial nerve and neck

check on a patient we operated on a few

anatomy before the first patient is ready.

days ago. As a medical student, talking to patients, answering their questions and


[7:30 a.m.] Meet my preceptor in the

asking them how they are doing is the

pre-op area and review the day’s cases.

area in which I feel I can really make an

Looks like I will be watching a few

impact. Patients usually have questions

tonsillectomies before we dive into a case

about their diagnosis and how the surgery

involving a parotid gland cancer.

went. “What kind of cancer was in the

mass? What is a squamous cell carcinoma?”

[4 p.m.] DONE and now on to closing the

all about going slow and steady, and taking it

As a student, I love taking the time to answer

incision. My preceptor is teaching me how to do

one week at a time.

these questions, helping patients to feel more

subcutaneous stiches today. “The needle should

comfortable and cared for.

go into the muscle, but be careful not to pierce

[5:30 p.m.] My best friend is calling — can’t

the skin. And keep your elbows tucked in when

wait to update her on my day! It is so important

[11:30 a.m.] OK, I am back in the OR and

you stitch — table manners!” Ten subcutaneous

to make time for your relationships outside of

it’s time to review the next patient’s CT

stitches later — hopefully I will get faster at this.

medical school — friends and family definitely

scans to visualize the extent of this parotid

Practice makes perfect!

keep me grounded.

allergies and operative risks one last time

[5 p.m.] How is it already 5 p.m.?! It feels like

[7 p.m.] Off to yoga. My back is feeling a little

before we scrub in.

I just got here and now it’s time to go home.

achy from standing all day, so this is going to

First things first — collapse on my bed for

feel great! Everyone deserves a little “me time”

[2:30 p.m.] Three hours into this surgery and

a 10-minute phone break. Checking emails,

and self-care at some point in their day. Finding

the mass is out. We can see the facial nerve

Instagram, texts — wow I missed a lot.

balance in medical school can be a challenge,

mass and go over the patient’s history,

branching — the last time I saw this was in

but even taking a few minutes out of my day to

first year anatomy lab! It is always so exciting

[5:15 p.m.] Dinnertime and time to attempt

to see the things we have spent so much time

some reading for family medicine clinic

studying come to life in the clinical space.

tomorrow. It is crazy how much we do not know

[9:30 p.m.] Showered, relaxed, grateful for an

“Through what hole does the facial nerve exit

about medicine yet, but reading about the things

amazing day and ready to pass out. Cannot wait

the skull base?” (Good thing I reviewed my

we see in clinic definitely helps reinforce a lot

to see what is in store for tomorrow!

facial nerve anatomy!) “It exits through the

of the concepts we studied during our first two

stylomastoid foramen.” Phew. Some of the

years. Review questions and reading for Friday’s

lymph nodes looked a little suspicious on CT,

continuing educational development session

so it looks like my preceptor is going to do a

must also be done. Every week I feel a little

neck dissection too. More anatomy!

more confident with the material. Third year is

reflect or meditate does wonders for my mind.


In Motion 56

Mushrooms Linda Bradley guest artist


a day in the life RACHEL POLINSKI md class of 2018

The beauty of being a fourth-year medical

podcast on one of the chief complaints or

student is that no two days are the same, and

research treatment options on UpToDate

no day is the same for any student. After finding

to discuss with an attending. When you

our passions in third year, we have embarked on

can put a face to a diagnosis, it makes it

the next step in chasing our dreams — “away”

easier to recall information for that next

rotations and interviews. Though there are still

“abdominal pain” complaint. We’re embark-

mandatory rotations to be completed, many of

ing on a profession where we must strive

us are using our time to do rotations that help

to continually refine our skills, because our

prepare us for the next big step — intern year.

knowledge base directly impacts the lives of

Here’s what I’ve learned:

our patients.

1. Study something new after each shift.


2. Work extra hard on away rotations.

I started this habit during third year and

Away rotations are a way to see if a pro-

found it was so much easier to remember

gram is a good fit for you. If you’re going

pathologies when I could recall a patient

into Emergency Medicine like me, however,

interaction. Some days, you’ll be so “on” that

they have the added stress of being “audi-

you’ll blow yourself away; other days, you’ll

tion” rotations where you’ll obtain a Stan-

struggle making the differential diagnosis

dard Letter of Evaluation. Make sure you

for the patient with a simple chief com-

work hard on shifts and read up and review

plaint. Take at least one interaction from a

the topics with which you may have strug-

shift and learn something from it — be it the

gled. Be sure you show that you’re an awe-

correct dosage of medication or the atypi-

some person to work with — follow up with

cal presentations. Go home and watch a

patients and ask if there’s anything you can

do to help. Most importantly, let the staff at

time in medicine than being a fourth-year

during my residency. (Again, being labeled

these away rotations get to know the real

medical student.” You have the opportunity

as “student” allows you so much more

YOU. On the interview trail, you’ll learn that

to still be a “student,” but the autonomy to

freedom to learn!). I scheduled rotations in

there’s nothing worse than a program trying

finally spread your wings and pursue your

radiology, infectious diseases and nephrol-

to sell you on false pretenses. The same

interests. So go ahead and binge on the

ogy — subjects that I enjoyed and wanted

goes for you — don’t be anything other than

entire second season of Stranger Things in

to explore, knowing that they wouldn’t be

your true self on away rotations.

one sitting — you’ve worked hard to get to

my final career choice. I would also suggest

this point and another opportunity like this

doing rotations in specialties that you’ll

isn’t close on the horizon!

NEVER get to do again — for me, that’s a

3. It’s OK to occasionally do nothing. After so many years of feeling guilty for taking a nap or spending time doing something other than studying, the constant

rotation in Salt Lake City, Utah in forensic 4. Do rotations in specialties that interest you, but aren’t your chosen specialty.

need to DO something is engrained into

The end of third year is a daunting time —

our heads. We’ve all felt it — that nagging

it’s time to pick one specialty that you’re

voice in our heads that says “you should be

going to spend the next three to five years

studying” instead of sitting watching a TV

training in, all based on the limited expo-

show. But what’s unique about fourth year

sure you had in third year. If you’re anything

is that you CAN and SHOULD take the time

like me, you’ll find bits of each specialty

to do the things you love — you’ve earned it.

that pique your interest (hello, career in

The past three years have been a roller-

emergency medicine!). While planning my

coaster, and the next three to five years will

fourth year, I wanted to pursue rotations in

be too. As many residents and attendings

subjects I found interesting, but to which

told me on rotations, “There’s no better

I might have limited one-on-one exposure

pathology (fulfilling my CSI dream!). You’ve decided on a specialty, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire fourth year pursuing just that.

Fourth year is an incredible time in your medical school career. Cherish this awesome time and the incredible opportunities presented to you — the year goes a lot faster than you think, and it will be done before you know it!


“moving parts” Stephen Long MD CLASS OF 2020

The sickle moon partly occluded Lights the way just enough to see That I’m waiting for nothing in particular And nothing in particular waits for me.

From first glance, I am granted access; I am a valued cog in the machine. A means to an end at least, but maybe A keeper of secrets—seen and unseen.

As flawed and blemished as I am, This faith in me and my unsound heart

Nature’s Yellow Brick Road Andres Rodriguez MD Class of 2021 60

Is the subtle but necessary reminder, That maybe I’m more than a moving part.



Untitled 3 Assad Hayat MD class of 2020 62


Olapeju Simoyan, MD, MPH, BDS, FAAFP Editor in chief Vanessa Thiel Managing Editor Miriam Eagleson Layout Designer Heather M Davis, MFA Production Manager Debra C Tierney Staff Editorial Assistant Amelia Mackarey Student Editorial Assistant Kristina Lake Borham Student Editorial Assistant

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