The best way to get a sense of what--and who--Temple University School of Medicine (TUSM) medical students are all about is to hear from them and read about them. We present several profiles here.
With one semester to go at West Chester University, Chris Kleinberg told his parents he was quitting school. His rock band, “mewithoutYou,” for which he played electric guitar, had just been signed to a four-record contract. Thus began seven years of touring, during which Chris “lived the dream,” but also unexpectedly uncovered a deep love of science that would eventually lead him to medical school.
With one semester to go at West Chester University, Chris Kleinberg told his parents he was quitting school. His rock band, “Me without you,” for which he played electric guitar, had just been signed to a four-record contract. Thus began seven years of touring, during which Chris “lived the dream,” but also unexpectedly uncovered a deep love of science that would eventually lead him to medical school.
This May, Kleinberg, 33, will graduate from Temple’s School of Medicine bound for a residency in emergency medicine at Temple University Hospital.
His path to medicine was sparked by those seven years on the road, specifically by the 1974 Greyhound bus that band members gutted and turned into a tour bus.
“Through rehabbing the bus and converting it to run on used vegetable oil, I realized I loved problem-solving,” said Kleinberg. “Vegetable oil constantly clogs so I spent a lot of time figuring out where the clogs were and how to fix them. It made me fall in love with the diagnostic process.”
Kleinberg decided to explore science more earnestly to see if he really liked it as much as he suspected. He took chemistry and physiology textbooks on the road. Touring afforded a lot of down time so he could study. Within 6-9 months, he knew that he wanted to pursue medicine.
He returned to West Chester to finish his bachelor’s degree, commuting by public transportation from Fishtown. He started gearing up for the strenuous medical school application process by taking pre-med courses and using his four-hour daily commute to build his study habits. For hands-on experience, he volunteered at Thomas Jefferson University’s emergency room and a medical clinic near his house.
Meanwhile, Temple had just launched its post-baccalaureate premedical program, which offers well-qualified students in need of science prerequisites a supportive bridge into medical school. Kleinberg became part of the inaugural class.
In addition to the post-baccalaureate program, Temple offered Kleinberg the opportunity to continue serving North Philadelphia.
“I have a heart for this part of the city,” he said. “There are a lot of underprivileged people who’ve kind of been [cheated] in a lot of ways. I think that’s at the heart of Temple — serving this area.”
When Kleinberg envisioned himself as a doctor, he saw a jack-of-all-trades, kind of what he was on tour, someone who could fix and diagnose anything that came along. This led him to decide to specialize in emergency medicine.
“You have to be ready for any type of medical complaint whether it’s a woman about to deliver a baby or someone having a heart attack,” he said. “That’s appealing to me. I always wanted to be a well-rounded person. In emergency medicine, you have to be proficient in all areas of medicine, especially in an acute setting.”
Temple was his first choice for residency. Not only is it one of the best programs in the country, but it also allows Kleinberg and his family to stay in the area, which means his baby daughter, Jubilee, can grow up close to her grandparents.
True to his desire to be well-rounded, Kleinberg has stayed tuned in to his musical interests. During his first two years of medical school he occasionally toured with the band and more recently, began writing music with his wife, Nikki.
“I feel really lucky,” he said. “I guess it’s a combination of luck and gratitude to be at the place I’m at now. I found my way and it feels good.”
As a little girl, Crystal Brown thought that the community health fairs she went to with her mother in the Watts section of Los Angeles were just a big party. Nearly two decades later, on the cusp of graduating from medical school, she can see that they were the foundation on which she’s built a personal commitment to community service.
Brown’s mother was a faculty member in the physician’s assistant program at Charles Drew University and gave a lot back to the poverty-stricken community surrounding the school through health fairs and other activities for the neighborhood.
“When she worked in the community, she’d always have me out there with her,” said Brown. “At the time, I didn’t realize I was volunteering — I thought it was just fun — but it always stuck with me and as I got older realized it was something I wanted to do as well.”
As an undergraduate at Pepperdine and a medical student at Temple, Brown extended her community work to serve many different populations.
In her junior year, she traveled to Nicaragua to work with the citizens of an impoverished village that had no infrastructure, no roads, no sanitation and no source of medical care. In addition to building outhouses, the students helped run medical clinics out of people’s houses.
Being one of the “less squeamish” students, Brown got to do a lot of hands-on work with the patients. At that point she knew that she wanted to pursue medicine. She chose Temple because of its location in an urban area and its mission to care for the underserved.
While at Temple, Brown made sure to stay in close touch with her adopted community in North Philadelphia. For two years, she worked with her fellow medical students to bring an annual health fair to the nearby Kenderton Elementary School, teaching the children about everything from nutrition to the dangers of alcohol. And as the community service chair of Temple’s Student National Medical Association chapter, Brown launched a new program to address the high rate of hypertension in African-American men.
For this program, she’d need to partner with a barber shop, and she found one near Temple’s Main campus: Mecca, on Cecil B. Moore Avenue. On Saturdays, Brown and her fellow medical students would visit the shop and offer free blood pressure screenings. It was a way to reach African-American men, some of whom hadn’t been to see a doctor in decades, in an informal, relaxed setting. Brown found the work fulfilling because the students got to know the men over time and could help them get follow up treatment if they needed it.
For her residency, Brown chose to specialize in emergency medicine at the University of Southern California. She loves the variety and pace of the ER and the opportunity it affords her to work with her hands. She feels good about the fact that USC serves a population similar to Temple’s. And although she’ll miss the people in Philadelphia, she’s glad to be returning home to spend time with her grandparents and growing nephews.
“Initially, I was a little intimidated by the East Coast’s reputation for rudeness, but I found that people here are so willing to interact. And I really appreciated that. People in L.A. can tend to keep to themselves,” said Brown. “Everyone has been very friendly, from the patients to the employees at the medical school. That’s what I’ll miss most.”
Why I chose Temple: "I was
looking for a school where I would not only receive a really great medical
education, but where the university interacted with their surrounding community
and really worked not only to improve health, but to improve social services and
have a close-knit community. I really found that when I came to interview at
Transformative moment: "Medical school is such a dynamic four years. Your first year is overwhelming.
Then it gets exciting. Serving in a hospital, you picture yourself as a
physician in the future. I had decided I wanted to be a pediatrician. But by my
third year, part of me was wondering what exactly we're doing in the hospital.
People have a lot of chronic problems. It's like we were putting a Band-Aid on a
wound and sending them back out into the community. I realized that if I was
going to go on with medicine in my life, I needed to have a foot in the
community and have an impact on people's lives outside the hospital. I wanted to
create a project to understand more about the lives of middle-school kids in
immigrant families and who they are. I applied for an Albert Schweitzer
Fellowship and got a grant to work at Southwark, a K-8 school in South Philadelphia, a school whose
makeup is extremely diverse — nearly 75 percent of students identify as Asian or
Hispanic. Every Wednesday, I lead an after-school yoga class to help reduce
anxiety and stress and promote physical wellness. After that, we work together
to prepare a healthy snack. It's time consuming and challenging, but I love it.
I've learned from the kids at Southwark that it's important to be invested in
your community. That's why I'm here. That's what I hope to continue to do for
the rest of my career."
It’s the classic L.A. story: Midwest boy
from the farm has big Hollywood dreams. He lands a great job in the film
industry, and he’s on his way to stardom. But for Andy Newcomer, Hollywood
wasn’t enough. After spending five years in production and development for
television shows and movies, he decided to enroll in the post-baccalaureate
program at the University of Southern California, which provided him with the
science background he needed to get into medical school. He chose to come to
Temple, where he became involved in a host of community service projects,
including Bridging the Gaps, through which he helped provide basic health care
services to the homeless population in Philadelphia. Now, he’s preparing to head
back to Los Angeles — but this time, as a pediatric resident at UCLA.
Temple Times: Going from Sunset Boulevard
to North Broad Street is quite a transition. Why did you decide to switch
Andy Newcomer: I was having a
great time in Los Angeles, and I loved what I was doing. I was out there for
about five years. But I could see that some of my mentors — industry veterans —
weren’t happy with what they were doing. They were worn down by the industry and
felt discouraged. I didn’t want that. One of my mentors, a screen writer, had
parents who were both doctors, and they absolutely loved what they did. They
were happy and fulfilled every day. My mother was a nurse and I remember her
feeling the same way. And I wanted to be a doctor before I wanted to get into
the film industry, so it seemed like the perfect time to make that
TT: How did your fellow classmates react
to your Hollywood background?
AN: It’s interesting; I
actually tried to keep that part of myself under wraps because I wanted to be
taken seriously. I didn’t tell anyone at first, but then I was sort of outed by
Dean Daly. We had orientation, and he said something like, “We’ve got people
from all walks of life here. We’ve even got someone from Hollywood!” But once
that happened, everyone was very accepting of it.
TT: Why did you choose to come across the
country to Temple?
AN: I’m an older student, so
I think my criteria in looking for a medical school were a little different. I
wanted a place where I would feel welcome and not brushed aside because I was
maybe a little older than my classmates. Temple was excited to have me, and
they’ve made me feel so welcome — it was a natural fit. Also, a commitment to
service was a big draw for me, and I was impressed by how involved Temple was in
its surrounding neighborhoods.
TT: You’ve been very involved with
community service projects during your time here.
AN: It’s important as doctors
to be aware of the social contexts of your patients — what they’re dealing with
outside of your office. And what better way to do that than to get out into the
community and find out what they’re going through first-hand?
TT: How will L.A. life differ for you now
that you’re going back as a doctor?
AN: In certain ways, not
much. The frenetic pace and the hours you work as a doctor are similar to the
ones in the film industry. But I’ve already done the glitz and glamour thing.
This time, I wanted to give back. That’s why I wanted to stay in primary care,
rather than go into a subspecialty. I’m less concerned about prestige and money
this time around and more concerned about doing good and useful work.
You need only see Porshia Tomlin’s Twitter username to understand her destiny: “CallMeDrPorshia.”
A native of West Philadelphia, Tomlin is a true Philadelphia success story. She grew up jumping rope on city sidewalks and earned her high school diploma from a small magnet school in Northern Liberties. It was here she discovered her fervor for dance, and where she would later decide she would become the first doctor in her family. But she would first leave the city she loves for undergraduate study at Washington D.C.’s Howard University.
“I wanted to get away and experience something new,” she said. “But I always knew I wanted to come back to Philly. My family is here,” she said.
So when it came time to pursue medical school in 2006, Tomlin interviewed only at Temple. She made an immediate impression.
“I had the pleasure of meeting with and interviewing Porshia the day of her official interview,” said Martin Whitaker, Jr., a counselor in the School of Medicine’s Recruitment, Admissions and Retention Program (RAR). “What made her stand out from the crowd was her genuine enthusiasm and commitment to pursue a medical education so she could provide health care to the underserved and give back to her community.”
Tomlin made good on that commitment in nearly every aspect of her life. She completed the AIDS walk, pitched in at a local nursing home and volunteered at the Temple Cares student-run medical clinic.
“Every Tuesday evening first- and second-year medical students work closely with and interact with third- and fourth-year students, as well as attending physicians, to learn the fundamentals of medical care while helping the community,” she said. “That was a phenomenal experience.”
Yet somehow, in the midst of all her many activities, Tomlin managed to remain true to her first love.
“My passion is dance,” she said. “I’ve been dancing since a young age in neighborhood dance companies, high school and college dance ensembles, and during med school I studied hip hop downtown at the Koresh Dance School.”
Now, Tomlin is a resident in emergency medicine at Temple University Hospital. She says she is energized by the pace inherent to an urban trauma center.
“I thrive in the fast-paced environment and enjoy that it incorporates all aspects of medicine,” she said, adding that she doesn’t like having too much idle time on her hands. “Each shift is different and you’re always moving.”
That drive to never stop has been part of Tomlin’s character from her earliest days in Philadelphia. And now, perhaps, her story can be an inspiration to those who might follow in her footsteps.
“As a native Philadelphian and a product of the public school system, Porshia stands as a role model for young girls, especially African Americans, who are growing up in the inner city,” said Whitaker. “She is a shining example that through perseverance and hard work, your dreams can become a reality.”
|Amy Ost and Brad Hayward, '09
Maybe 40 years ago, every neighborhood had its own physician who knew the patients well, from what their allergies were to what type of house they lived in, and altered their treatments accordingly.
Unfortunately, say Amy Ost and Brad Hayward, this isn’t always the case anymore.
“Doctors for the most part don’t live where they work anymore,” said Ost. “We expect our patients to come into our world, which makes it harder to understand their successes and their struggles. If I have a patient who’s not taking their meds, is it because they’re stubborn, is it because they don’t understand what it’s for, or is it because they can’t afford it?”
It’s this drive for more community-centered health care that drove Ost and Hayward to look into creating a center here at Temple that will help train future doctors to be more in tune with their patients’ needs.
“Doctors today are not the bad guys,” said Hayward. “It’s completely the opposite – doctors are forced to do more with less, and can only focus a small amount of time on treating a patient. Sometimes that means less than 15 minutes to figure out a treatment and send the patient on their way, without a more deep understanding of their lives.”
The idea of housing an institute at Temple that addresses this very issue has been gaining momentum, the Center for Bioethics and Urban Health Policy, thanks largely to the efforts of Hayward and Ost, who headed a steering committee of several faculty members from across Temple to bring the concept of such a center to life.
In 2008, the committee presented its ideas to theDean of the School of Medicine, and with his backing, the Center for Bioethics and Urban Health Policy was born. Ost and Hayward worked with faculty members to address the issue at the core of the new Center: treating the whole patient and not just the disease.
The students credit Kathleen Reeves, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs at the medical school, for helping to guide them through the process and hone their vision.
“This Center offers an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and research opportunities,” said Hayward. “Medical students could learn from scenes of human suffering in an art history lecture, or learn more about the lives of our patients by interviewing North Philadelphia residents with students from the journalism school.”
Ost is familiar with the special needs of an underserved community: her father has practiced at a pharmacy at Front and Lehigh for the past 27 years. And although she’s received degrees from other institutions – a B.S. in neuroscience and behavioral biology from Emory University and a master’s in bioethics from Penn – the North Philadelphia community resonated with her, creating a passion and desire to make a change in the lives of the individuals within these neighborhoods.
“Temple is in a position to build a solid community of researchers and teachers of bioethics and medical humanities, and to see this community yield results that further its general mission,” said Ost, a resident in pediatrics at Columbia University.
“Most of the students who come to Temple aren’t from North Philadelphia,” said Hayward, who is from rural Beaver Falls, Pa. “So this is an entirely new environment and patient population, and as doctors we need to make a concerted effort to understand them.”
After receiving his B.A. in biology from Case Western Reserve University, he found a home at Temple and in North Philadelphia, and stayed at the Hospital for his medicine residency. He says it’s the community right in the university’s backyard that the Center will focus on.
“You can go all over the world to find people lacking basic health care, but you can also find the same thing right here."
Zoe Maher traveled to many parts of the country and abroad in her four years at the School of Medicine to provide people in rural areas with the basic medical services needed to survive.
In fact, her efforts spurred the formation of the Temple Emergency Action Corps* (TEAC), an organization designed to train medical students in disaster response and enable them to provide basic medical and humanitarian aid in disaster sites around the world.
Now, a surgical resident at Temple, she believes in “a global view of community medicine.”
“The issue of healthcare disparity has always been on my radar, and I wanted to see it from a perspective other than my own,” Maher said. “I believe that traveling to areas of disaster allows you to better see patients as complete people, and to recognize how the challenges people face outside their doctors’ offices can affect their healthcare.”
As an undergrad at New York University, Maher chose pre-med as one of her paths in individualized studies, in which she has a bachelor’s degree. But her interest in the impact of healthcare access stemmed from her work in a New Orleans public school. She taught middle school science for two years before coming to Temple to pursue her medical degree.
I saw a lot of health disparities,” Maher said. “But more than that, I saw educational disparity, and it got me thinking about the way that limited access to education can impact a life. When I came to medical school I was already thinking about the parallel way in which limited access to healthcare can do the same. I wanted to get involved in creating a more level playing field for patients affected by this.”
Through TEAC, she and fellow med students did just that. She led a team to Bolivia to provide basic medical care to more than 1,000 people in a rural village outside of La Paz.
“People were thanking us for treating them for really basic things,” Maher said. “We helped get potable water to many families, and provided people with treatments for conditions that in the United States would never be as far advanced. It was empowering to have that kind of impact.”
Maher said she thinks this type of outreach is especially helpful for first- and second-year medical students, who, as she put it, “can use a trip like this as their welcome into medicine.”
“We took students from all years of their medical training to Bolivia. The first- and second-year students were able to bond with their older peers and get a powerful hands-on learning experience.”
Maher said that while her ambition has always been to help others, she needed the help of Temple faculty to get TEAC off the ground.
“The faculty is great at encouraging students to take the first steps to conceptualize their ideas and go through the proper channels to get results,” she said. “Before coming to Temple, I had never put together a grant proposal or set up a program like TEAC. I think it would be much less likely that I would have done this if I’d gone to another school.”
She hopes to become one of those influential faculty members someday, blending her teaching experience with her knowledge of medicine to guide future medical students.
“It would be great to ‘retire’ into a professorship,” she said. “I’d be ecstatic to come back to Temple as an educator.”
All of this lends itself to her drive to help others.
“Helping other people feels really good,” she said. “Once you help someone it becomes infectious, spreading from that person to the next and the next. And once you experience that, my hope is that you will never stop.
“That’s what it’s done for me, and that’s what I want other people to see.”
|Leonard Mason and Albert Hicks, '07
Since 1998, the number of African-American males applying to and enrolling in medical schools has declined steadily by 22 and 14% respectively, according to Association for American Medical Colleges data. Applicants declined from 1,155 to 891, and enrollees declined from 459 to 394.
Albert Hicks and Leonard Mason, 2007 graduates of Temple University School of Medicine, understand the complexity of this problem firsthand and are committed to giving back to young African American males the support and opportunities that were given to them.
Both students mentor young African-American males in the sciences.
“We have kids who just don’t know what’s out there because they don’t see folks like me in white coats. Exposure is number one. Then they need mentors to help guide them along the way,” said Hicks.
Hicks’ mother understood the importance of exposure. A nurse at Temple University Hospital for 17 years, she introduced young Albert to the African American physicians there. Later, as he progressed from high school to college, she searched for a program that would foster his interest in becoming a doctor. She found the Future Physicians of America, a program at Temple’s School of Medicine that provides intensive preparation for minority students applying to medical school.
“If I didn’t do Future Physicians I wouldn’t be here,” said Hicks.
During high school, Hicks’ uncle had introduced him to the Franklin Institute’s Partnerships for Achieving Careers in Science and Technology, which Hicks was part of from 8th to 12th grade. Today, he’s still a member and mentors ten young African American students.
Leonard Mason’s mother also investigated opportunities in the sciences for her young son and found the Physician Scientist Training program at Temple’s School of Medicine. From 10th grade until his senior year in college, Mason spent his summers at the School of Medicine conducting scientific research and shadowing doctors in the hospital. He continues to mentor and give discussions about the medical school process to the current students of the program.
“The greatest gift is to give back to your community,” said Mason. “Especially in Philadelphia, troubled minority males need to see positive role models in the community. If you can just help one kid see that there are other things out there for them, you’ve done a lot.”
Hicks and Mason, both Philadelphia natives, earned their bachelor’s degrees at Howard University. Hicks, who has also received his Master’s of Public Health from Temple’s dual MD/MPH degree program, completed his residency in internal medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine. Mason became a resident in general surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.
Brian Lahmann worked closely with doctors for years as a hospital administrator, all the while harboring a dream to be one of them.
As time went on, the dream pushed closer to the surface until it burst in his early 30s.
“It got to a point where I thought, if I’m going to do this, I just have to do it,” he said. “I realized that being a doctor was what I always wanted to do. For a while, it was okay to do the next best thing — run a hospital as a business administrator, but I had my midlife crisis early and couldn’t see myself doing that for another 25 years. It wasn’t making me happy.”
Lahmann admired those physician colleagues who took time out of extremely busy schedules to stop and truly listen to patients. He was also impressed with those doctors who were down to earth.
“That’s how I want to approach my work with patients, by making that personal connection. I want to be known as Brian, who happens to be Dr. Lahmann, and who can help people get better,” he said.
Ever seeking variety in his work life, Lahmann has chosen to specialize in emergency medicine and completed his residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Camden.
“I was surprised to learn in medical school that I really enjoyed each rotation — obstetrics, psychiatry, surgery — and wanted to find a way to be involved with all of these different types of patients.
Emergency medicine was the answer because it delivers care to a huge cross-section of the population: old, young, rich, poor, women and kids. I know myself, and I can’t do the same thing every day.”
Lahmann’s goal was to begin residency training by the time he was 40 years old. And though most of his fellow students were in their mid-20s, he never felt out of place in medical school.
“I have to say that students at Temple were so remarkable — very mature and articulate. Everyone was just so supportive, knowing that I had a family and just treating me the same as everyone else,” he said. Lahmann and his partner Doug have a 4-year-old daughter, Helen, who was born just six months before medical school started.
“No one blinked an eye when my daughter was sick and I needed to reschedule a lecture. I don’t think I would’ve gotten that at other med schools.”
Though Lahmann was happy to discover such supportive colleagues at Temple, he originally chose Temple for professional reasons.
“Temple has a reputation for producing good, strong clinicians — doctors who can practice great medicine on the front lines,” he said.