Lydia Bunker, a fourth-year medical student who leads the School of Medicine’s Student Senate, danced ballet from elementary school through college, and though she misses her time at the barre, she finds it helped prepare her for a career in medicine. Through ballet, she experienced the miraculous feats the human body is capable of, including the ability to regenerate; she cultivated the discipline to handle a rigorous schedule and achieve ambitious goals; and she learned to focus her energies where the rewards are greatest, which is now helping patients on their journey to healing.
Tell us a bit about your personal journey.
I’ve always loved science, and by middle school, my teachers were encouraging me to pursue a related career. But the decision to attend medical school came to me gradually. Over time, I realized how much I like helping people, solving puzzles, and working as part of a team--and medicine seemed the perfect fit. I can’t think of another profession where you can change a person’s life so profoundly by simply listening and using your knowledge. It is such a privilege. My journey now is all about sharing that knowledge and supporting the patient’s journey.
What is a typical day like for you?
The fourth-year experience is very different from the first year. In the first year, you are either in a classroom, the library or sleeping! These past few months, I’ve been busy with interviews for my residency, so every day is different. But during my sub-internship back in August, which I loved, my typical day involved getting to the hospital very early and interacting with a wide variety of people. In addition to spending time with patients, I would meet with different members of the care team to figure out the best course of action while constantly adapting to patients’ changing needs. I found it to be much more rewarding than anything in the classroom, and it was very exciting.
Tell us what led you to New York Medical College.
The people! And by that I mean the people I would meet and interact with at NYMC, and the people I already knew who would form my support system. The student body at NYMC is known to be very diverse, and I had heard there was a great peer-to-peer connection, which has proven correct. The camaraderie is also unmistakable. But perhaps the greatest plus regarding people is the diversity of the patients. NYMC offers a very diverse clinical experience. I had clinical experiences at six different hospitals, which meant six different types of patient populations, all with different sets of challenges. As a bonus, NYMC is within driving distance of my home base in Massachusetts allowing me to stay close to family and friends.
What do you see as the most positive force for change in medicine today?
Perhaps, surprisingly, it’s the patient. Patients are so much more aware and educated, and they know they deserve better quality care. And this demand is helping medicine get better by driving quality improvements. Today, the focus is on figuring out how to use our limited resources wisely to help the largest number of people possible, and that’s a very positive direction.
What faculty member has had the greatest impact on your experience at NYMC?
Dr. Jennifer Koestler [M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and Associate Professor of Pediatrics] has been a true inspiration for me. It’s great to see how she manages the competing pressures of her clinical, academic and administrative commitments, not to mention family. The medical school curriculum doesn’t include courses about leadership, yet it’s clearly part of the job. And, Dr. Koestler has taught me so much about the importance of leadership skills—she’s been a mother figure, a mentor, and a role model, all wrapped up in one. I will miss her!
What achievement are you most proud of at NYMC?
I am most proud of my work with the Student Senate, including serving as president this year. At least half of what I learned in medical school has been through this experience because everything we accomplished happened through teamwork. And teamwork, I’m learning, is at the heart of good medicine.
There were so many great Student Senate projects, but the one I’m most proud of was the Independent Student Analysis, which we conducted as part of the LCME reaccreditation process. Through the survey, which 94 percent of students completed, we were able to identify student priorities and work with the school’s leadership to take action on things like incorporating more electives into the curriculum, building more study space on campus, and even 24-hour library access.
Seeing these recommendations become reality gave our team such a feeling of accomplishment—like we were helping to improve the school, and hopefully leave it a little better off than we found it because of our involvement.
What advice do you have for students entering the School of Medicine?
I would like every first-year student to believe one important thing: you really do belong here. There may be moments where you feel discouraged and exhausted, or when you lose sight of why you chose this challenging career. But NYMC offers an incredible variety of growth opportunities to help you figure out your path. And there are many different kinds of doctors you can become. Try to engage in as many experiences as you can. I did!