March 26, 2014

ASU grads who are now physicians share their experiences, advice

Posted: March 26, 2014

ASU asked several graduates who are now practicing physicians to describe their preparation for medical school and their careers since graduation. Some of them have advice for ASU undergraduates who want to enter medical school.

Shane DaleyShane Daley, MD

Q: When did you graduate from ASU, and what was your major?

A: I graduated in 2000 with a BS in biology, with an emphasis in biology and society.

Q: Where did you attend medical school?

A: I graduated from University of Arizona Medical School in 2004.

Q: Did it make a difference in your medical school applications, having attended an undergraduate institution without a medical school?

A: In some ways it was an advantage to be from a university without a medical school. I think medical schools want diversity in experience. It helped to have good advisers, and the ASU pre-health office was very helpful. They understood the process. I think it was also an advantage not to have a degree that was not strictly science. I took several philosophy and history courses; I think medical schools are looking for people with well-rounded educations.

Q: What has your career path been since then?

A: I did a urology residency at Mayo Clinic Arizona from 2004-2009, and completed a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery and endourology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles the following year. Then I came back to Phoenix and accepted a position at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center as a urologic surgeon. I specialize in kidney, bladder and prostate cancer, as well as kidney stone disease. I’m also on the faculty at the UA Phoenix College of Medicine, and serve on Honors thesis committees at Barrett.

Q: What would you do differently, if anything, in preparation for medical school and your career?

A: I don’t know of much I’d do differently. I had a broad experience with a variety of classes in my undergraduate years at ASU, which was wonderful. 

Q: Do you have any advice for ASU undergraduates who want to go to medical school?

A: I’d say to take courses you find interesting; you certainly do not need to major in the sciences in order to attend medical school.

Jacyln BrownJaclyn Brown, MD

Q: When did you graduate from ASU, and what was your major?

A: I received a BSE in bioengineering in 2005. I also minored in Spanish, which comes in handy.

Q: Did it make a difference to medical schools that you received your undergrad degree at a school without a medical school?

A: There was no disadvantage. In fact, in some ways, I felt there were more opportunities while I was at ASU, since the Valley is bigger than Tucson, and "pre-meds" are not so concentrated. I was very involved in several pre-health clubs, and that was critical. ASU has a wonderful pre-health advising program, so even without a medical school, there was plenty of guidance available.

I was on the admissions committee at UA during medical school, and we did not care what undergrad school applicants attended. The important factors are having the educational background to do well in medical school, having the experience to know that medicine is the right field for them and having the right personality to succeed in medicine and interact well with others (hence, the combination of GPA/test scores, activities, recommendation letters and interviews for the application).

Q: Where did you attend medical school?

A: I attended medical school at UA, and I did a sports medicine fellowship there last year.

Q: What has your career path been?

A: After medical school, I did a three-year family medicine residency at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. Then I did an additional one-year sports medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona. Once I finished all my training, I was fortunate to get a job with a family medicine group in the East Valley, called Gilbert Center for Family Medicine.

Q: What is your current position?

A: I am a physician in a family medicine (primary care) practice, and I see patients of all ages. I am lucky to also get to use my sports medicine background on a daily basis, treating a variety of non-surgical musculoskeletal problems and seeing athletes for various medical issues. My work is almost entirely clinic-based at this time, however I have also helped cover high school football games and other athletic events, such as some of the triathlons held in Tempe.

Q:  Has your ASU degree prepared you for the challenges you've faced, or given you opportunities?

A: My time at ASU prepared me to go on and succeed in medical school and beyond. The bioengineering program was rigorous, and this forces you to have good study habits. I also think undergrad is a time to explore, and I took advantage of the various clubs, as well as a study abroad program, which are important for leadership, networking, cultural awareness, etc. Any of these outside activities make one a more rounded person, and that's important in medicine, like so many other fields.

Q: What would you do differently, if anything, in preparing for a career?

A: I'm very pleased with where I've ended up. Life's path can be unpredictable, and sometimes you just have to jump on opportunities when they arise. If it weren't for setting goals, taking a few risks, exploring a variety of activities, working hard and having the right mentors, I may not be where I am today. But with focus and guidance, it's possible to get there, as I and so many other ASU grads have found.

Richard GoldenRichard Golden, MD

Q: What was your major at ASU, and when did you graduate?

A: I graduated from ASU in 1996 with a BS in zoology.

Q: Where did you attend medical school?

A: I attended medical school at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Q: What was your career path after medical school?

A: I did an internship at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, and then an ophthalmology residency at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Then I completed a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.  

 Q: In what capacity are you currently employed?

A: I now work at Nationwide Children's Hospital in the Department of Ophthalmology and am a clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. My practice is combined private practice and academic medicine, and my practice name is Pediatric Ophthalmology Associates.  

Q: Has a liberal arts degree from ASU prepared you for the challenges you've faced, or given you opportunities?

A: My liberal arts and sciences degree helped prepare me for my career in that it exposed me to a broad range of subjects, and encouraged me to explore fields that I might not have otherwise discovered an interest in. At ASU, I was able to obtain some clinical experiences through volunteer work, and also through an internship I was able to participate in at the Arizona Heart Institute.  

Q: What would you do differently, if anything, in preparing for a career?

A: The one thing I would do differently if I had it to do over again would be to study abroad for a semester. I did have the good fortune to spend a few months in South America during my medical school training, but I wish I would have taken advantage of the opportunities to study abroad while at ASU. I think that is one of the best ways to really explore and experience other cultures and ways of life. When else in our lives will we ever have the ability or time to do that, other than while we are still in school?

Q: Do you have any advice for ASU undergraduates who want to go to medical school?

A: My advice is to make sure you're going into it for the right reasons, that you have a passion for science/medicine and you get a great sense of personal satisfaction in helping others. Work hard, get good grades and do well on the MCATs – these things definitely matter. Find a good faculty mentor and do significant work on a project (or projects) to help distinguish yourself.

Finally, be well-rounded, but don't just sign up for a million extracurricular activities to pad your applications. Demonstrate passion and commitment by really making a difference in one of them that means something special to you.  

Theodore HaleyTheodore Haley , MD

Q: What was your major at ASU, and when did you graduate?

A: I received a BS in zoology in 1999.

Q: Where did you attend medical school?

A: I attended medical school at the University of Arizona (but my allegiance remains with ASU).

Q: What has your career path been?

A: I spent my first two years of medical school in Tucson, then I returned to Phoenix for my last two years of clinical rotations at local hospitals. I stayed in Phoenix for a general surgery residency at Banner Good Samaritan for five years, after which I entered private practice.

Q: What is your current position?

A: I am currently a partner in Advanced Surgical Associates, a surgical specialty group in the East Valley.

Q: Has your ASU degree prepared you for the challenges you've faced, or given you opportunities?

A: I do believe my ASU education has prepared me well. I attended medical school with students from universities across the country and never felt they had advantage over me or were any more capable or prepared. I was able to transition to the demands of medical school, and most importantly, achieve each of the career goals I have set. 

I also had the opportunity as an undergraduate to meet some of the physicians I now currently work with. ASU had programs in place offering clinical experiences in medicine which aided me in achieving my goals. Clinical rotations in local hospitals, and participation of local physicians were of great benefit.

Q: What would you do differently, if anything, in preparing for a career?

A: I can't say I would change anything in regards to my career path. I have been able to achieve each of my goals, and my ASU education served as a basis for this. I enjoyed my time at ASU, but also took advantage of the opportunities in place to attain my goals, both personally and professionally, and am thankful for the path I took.

Javier Cardenas, MD

Q: When did you graduate from ASU, and what was your major?

A: I received a BA in 1999 in education.

Q: Was it a disadvantage to have earned an education degree, for your later career?

A: When I first entered medical school, I believe that my degree and background was a disadvantage because many of my classmates had backgrounds in science. However, because of the pace of medical school, we were all in the same boat within several months. Ultimately, my background in education has proven to be one of my greatest assets as a physician. I continue to teach, especially with my patients and their families, medical students and residents.

Q: Where did you attend medical school?

A: I attended the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Q: What has been your career path?

A: After teaching special education at Tolleson Union High School for one year, I started medical school, graduating in 2004. Initially, I had an interest in developmental pediatrics, but soon found my calling in child neurology. I was motivated to work in the field of traumatic brain injury after one of my patients, a seven-year-old girl, suffered a severe injury to her brain. I was fortunate enough to have the support to create a brain injury program that also included educators in the clinic. For me, this brought me full circle.

Q: In what capacity are you currently employed?

A: I am a physician at Barrow Neurological Institute and director of the BRAINS Clinic. (Dr. Cardenas has become Arizona’s foremost expert in the diagnosis and treatment of concussion. He created the nation’s first mandated concussion education program and test for student-athletes, and he helped launch a video game application for children 8-12 that teaches youth involved in contact sports how to avoid collisions with other players.)

Q: Has your ASU degree prepared you for the challenges you've faced, or given you opportunities?

A: My degree from ASU has provided me with a multitude of opportunities. Teaching is a skill that is highly valued in many professions. I am very lucky to have such great, formal training in this area.

Q: What would you do differently, if anything, in preparing for a career?

A: I can't say that I would do anything different. I love what I do, and I look forward to every day.

Adrienne AzurdiaAdrienne Azurdia, MD

Q: What year did you graduate from ASU and what was your major?

A: I graduated in 2009, majoring in biology with a minor in psychology.

Q: Where did you attend medical school?

A: University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine

Q: What ASU experiences were beneficial for you?

A: Without question, Camp Kesem ASU was the most beneficial and influential experience for me, both professionally and personally. Camp Kesem is a summer camp for children whose parents have or had cancer, which my friends and I founded at ASU my sophomore year.

Professionally, the public relations and leadership challenges that this project brought to the table were unbelievable. As a founder and a camp counselor, I quickly learned how to lead enormous groups of people from ages 5-60 years old, and guide them toward a common goal. This has proven to be a very useful skill in the medical field. On a personal level, it often reminded me of the human side of medicine, such as when the children bonded over their respective stories in the cabins, or when we would receive the funeral invitations of the recently deceased parents after camp. I firmly believe that I am a better physician today because of that organization.

Q: What has your career path been so far?

I graduated from from the University of Chicago in 2013. I am just about to wrap up my intern year (first year of residency) at Maricopa Medical Center where I am an emergency medicine resident. I will graduate from residency in 2016, and am considering a critical care fellowship afterwards.  

Q: Has your ASU degree prepared you for the challenges you've faced, or given you opportunities?

A: Yes, I believe that ASU provided all of the tools necessary that I needed to prepare for where I am today. ASU has every opportunity you can imagine available, it's just a matter of making the effort to find and actively pursue them. For example, many pre-medical students do some research, but I had decided I would only do something that actually applied to my personal interests. I was very interested in spinal cord injuries, and within just one week of searching and emailing a professor, I was able to join a spinal cord injury project. Finding opportunities at ASU is like shooting fish in a barrel--it's just a matter of deciding what exactly you want to do and actually setting your mind to seeking it out.

Q: What would you do differently, if anything, in preparing for a career?

A: I should have worn sweat pants less frequently to class--I'm wearing pajamas (scrubs) the rest of my life!

Q: Do you have suggestions for ASU students who want to attend medical school?

A: These are my top 3:

1) Make sure you know why you want to do medicine. Really have a heart-to-heart with yourself now, and question why you're pursuing it. Your answer will be the only thing sustaining you on your 28th hour on call while you are scared, tired, and have an appearance that could rival a zombie's from “The Walking Dead.” 

2) Do non-medical/non-science activities too. You'll be studying science the rest of your life. Go take that trapeze class. Take up a cool craft. Travel somewhere new. It'd be a great experience and in medical school I found that those students who had a non-science related outlet were those whom escaped from their stress the best. (And honestly...it looks great on your application).

3) Take it seriously. If this is truly what you want to do, prove it. Prove it in your GPA. Prove it by immersing yourself in your activities. Prove how good of a leader you are-- in, fact, prove that three times. Let there be no doubt when people look at your numbers and your experiences that this is exactly what you want and need to be doing for the rest of your life. At the end of the day, your patients should expect nothing less.

Sarah Auffret, sauffret@asu.edu
Media Relations