Intellectual Curiosity Leads Rachel Thommen, SOM Class of 2024, to NYMC
Persistence And Ambition Paves Path To Medical School.
Rachel Thommen, School of Medicine (SOM) Class of 2024, became fascinated with medicine and its healing effects as a child. She encountered her first cadavers as a high school student and traveled as far as Portugal to shadow physicians and surgeons in her effort to immerse herself in medicine.
What inspired you to pursue your medical degree?
I grew up in the Christian Science faith where medicine is not the first line of treatment. As a young girl I had allergies and asthma and could see the direct benefits of taking medication. My albuterol inhaler felt quite miraculous. I found the juxtaposition between the religious teachings and the realities of taking medication to be vast at the time. This piqued my interest in wanting to further investigate the sciences as I’ve always been drawn towards the mystery of health and humanity.
What has helped motivate you along your educational journey? Have you encountered any challenges along the way?
I have always been curious about how the world works and the sciences that can use that knowledge to make things better, like medicine. Being the first person in my family to want to pursue a career in healthcare, I sought out additional opportunities to ensure I was certain about traveling down this path. During high school, I attended at the Georgetown Medical School’s high school summer program. I remember the first time I saw a cadaver. Initially, I was worried that I might faint or throw up. Instead, I discovered how fascinated I was seeing the anatomy of the human body. Additionally, during my undergraduate studies, I participated in the Atlantis Project. This allowed me the opportunity to shadow physicians and surgeons in the Azores, a group of islands in Portugal, for five weeks. I can also recall the nerves I felt prior to observing my first surgery. In the end, I found myself exhilarated by the experience. Though I’ve encountered challenges along the way, like not getting into medical school on my first application cycle, I never have let myself give up.
After you graduate, what is your dream career?
At this time I am not entirely sure what I would like to specialize in but I have a deep interest in reconstructive surgery as I love being creative and working with my hands. I hope to gain more exposure in areas like orthopedic oncology and trauma surgery to help me determine which path I’d like to pursue.
What made you choose NYMC?
Something that really stood out to me about NYMC was its collaborative spirit. I especially love how students work together and share resources to make all of us better physicians. This sense of community was unique to NYMC as opposed to many other schools where students often referred to their experiences with other students as competitive and unsupportive.
What has been your favorite aspect of being an NYMC student?
The community. I never imagined going to medical school would mean that I would gain so many wonderful new friends. I have developed many relationships with such compassionate, intelligent people with whom I not only love to work and study with, but I look forward to referring my future patients to.
What faculty member has had the greatest influence on you here?
If I had to choose only one of the many wonderful faculty members here at NYMC, I would have to pick Dr. Jan Geliebter [Ph.D., professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology and otolaryngology]. Dr. Geliebter is not only a great educator, but a wonderful member of our community. I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Geliebter in the efforts of the Lisa Qian, M.D. '18, Memorial Garden. While working in the garden, I learned Dr. Geliebter had some personal ties to its existence. At the front of the garden lies a fig tree that was transplanted from Dr. Gelibter’s home in Brooklyn to our very own school garden. I loved learning about the fig tree’s roots and how to properly care for it from Dr. Geliebter.
What advice would you give applicants or incoming students?
Medical school is the hardest academic challenge I’ve had to face. If you learn how to balance your mental health while continuing to prioritize what is important to you, it is a worthwhile and life-changing experience. I always try to stay mindful that our lives do not begin when we finish medical school or residency, our lives are happening now on this journey.
Outside of your studies, what are your hobbies or interests?
Unfortunately, not all my hobbies are conducive to life in New York, so I got involved in rock climbing through the local gym. I also love to hike and cook as I love exploring and being adventurous.
Are you a part of any student organizations or interest groups?
Yes, I was the president of the LGBTQ+ Advocacy in Medicine Club and project manager for the Qian Garden. Additionally, I’m involved in the Association of Women Surgeons Club and Culinary Medicine Interest Group. I am also a peer learning partner and a member of the Peer-to-Peer committee.
What is a fun fact about you?
I speak five languages: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and English.