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Medical networking event connects physicians, college students

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A dozen young north country adults sought prescriptions for success Saturday during the inaugural Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization-hosted medical networking event at Trinity Episcopal Church’s Macsherry Parish Center, Sherman Street.

Local physicians, medical residents and medical students shared their stories about finding one’s niche in medicine, deciding on a medical school, debt concerns and where to practice medicine to give the young adults an idea of how they, too, may be a successful physician.

“Medicine is not a one-size-fits-all,” said Dr. Walter Dodard, an obstetrician-gynecologist. “I think that’s key here. You have to get your foot in the door and then carve your marks.”

Panelist Dr. Tad Lanagan, a 2010 graduate of the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine who is in Samaritan Medical Center’s family medicine residency program, encouraged students to talk with admissions offices of medical schools they are interested in so they can learn what is expected as part of the application process and training.

Sergei Robinson, a member of the panel and a medical student from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine who is completing rotations at Samaritan, encouraged those students to be different.

“When I was first starting out, I wanted to do a biology-chemistry major,” he said. “Besides that, do something different. Do that minor in arts or English. Do volunteer work.”

All panelists agreed: make yourself stand out. Dr. Benjamin Rudd, a family practice physician at Samaritan’s Plaza Family Health Center on Washington Street, said making sure you do just that on your medical school application will make you memorable and intriguing and perhaps increase your chances of getting noticed and accepted.

Hannah Root, 23, a senior in the multidisciplinary science technology and society program at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, has medical practice, metaphorically, in her blood. Both of the Lowville native’s parents, Daniel Root and Catherine Williams, are family practice physicians in Lewis County.

“I’ve always been drawn to science,” Miss Root said.

Having worked in her parents’ practice and completed a job shadow in a pediatrician’s office, Miss Root said she is leaning toward becoming a pediatrician. During the medical networking event’s speed-networking portion, where students sat down with physicians for about five minutes each, she connected with Dr. Shari Hogan, a pediatrician practicing at Child and Adolescent Health Associates, Washington Street. Dr. Hogan, Samaritan’s chief of pediatrics, explained the differences between time spent in her practice and on-call rotations at Samaritan.

A few tables over, Lewis County General Hospital anesthesiologist Robert C. Martinucci explained to Thomas Barber, a Chaumont resident studying biology at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, his own benefits of practicing in a rural area. Dr. Martinucci, a Brooklyn native, received a scholarship to attend medical school at the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv, Israel, where he studied under the New York State Program, before completing a fellowship in pediatric anesthesia at Children’s Hospital, Buffalo, He then traded the big-city life for a more small-town environment.

“I always wanted do be a country doctor,” Dr. Martinucci said. “I always wanted a relationship with my patients.”

Mr. Barber said he got more than he bargained for by attending the event.

“So far, it’s been great and more informative than you would think,” he said.

Keynote speaker Steven Lyndaker, an internal medicine physician practicing in Lowville, said another consideration is that people interested in medical careers should think of themselves as part of a whole, not as individual practitioners.

“Providers need to be comfortable as the quarterback,” he said. “You have to be willing to delegate and release that responsibility. Larger practices that have scalability and can do multiple things in one place, those are the practices that will survive.”

Meanwhile, Tracy L. Leonard, regional recruitment project manager for FDRHPO, said that because the north counry’s physician shortage “represents one of the most challenging problems in our health care system,” students can return and practice here to increase accessibility to specialists.

“The term community is really one big network of individuals working together to make things better and I suspect that is the reason most of you are either in health care or considering it as a career,” she said.

Depending on feedback from Saturday, the medical networking event, sponsored by the Workforce Development Institute, may become annual, she said.

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