Q. Where did you go to medical school?
A. Temple University School of Medicine
Q. When did you decide you wanted to go into OB/GYN?
A. During my 3rd year OB rotation at Einstein. I had a great experience. As a guy, I really had no experience in OB/GYN and no preconceived notion that I was going into OB at all. But I remember being able to help deliver babies. The residents were great and there was a lot of student involvement in patient care. I felt it was an incredible field and it suited my needs. I thought I was going to go into some type of surgical field and I enjoyed the type of surgeries. Our patients are relatively healthy and happy. I also liked the primary care aspect of OB/GYN in getting to know your patients and following their progress. It was a perfect match for me.
In my 4th year I did an elective at Abington with Dr. Jay Schinfeld. That’s how I transitioned from OB/GYN to reproductive medicine and it’s been amazing. Through Temple I rotated with Dr. Schinfeld and really fell in love with the reproductive aspect of OB/GYN.
Q. So then you matched at Einstein?
A. Yes. I’m from the area, went to Northeast High School, and during my fourth year of medical school decided to apply only to Philadelphia area hospitals for residency. I maintained a very good relationship with a number of residents at Einstein after my rotations. Being a Temple student, I did a number of different rotations at Einstein (ie. Radiology, etc)
Q. Were there a lot of Temple alumni at Einstein?
A. I’m sure there must have been. I can’t remember off the top of my head but there were certainly some people in my class at Temple that were there. I maintained a relationship with a number of OB/GYN residents and when I was getting ready for the Match I was very interested in Einstein. I remember meeting with some of the faculty there. I was there during a transitional period, at the beginning of Dr. Sze-ya Yeh’s tenure. Dr. Jeff Levy was the program director at that time.
I remember meeting with Dr. Yeh, a wonderful, wonderful man. The gist of the conversation was something to the effect of, “well, I don’t know why you’re applying here but let me tell you how great this program is going to be” because he was a newly incoming chair. Whenever there is a transition, it makes you a little nervous. I was nervous—is this going to be a good change or a bad change? The former chairman was Dr. Martin Farber, a reproductive endocrinologist, a rather stern individual. Dr. Yeh was a super nice guy, very well respected, very engaging and I was fortunate to Match there.
Q. Was Dr. Cohen there at that time?
A. No, Dr. Cohen was not there at that time. I didn’t really get to know him until after my fellowship when I came back to Philadelphia. Dr. Cohen knows the literature extremely well and he knows pretty much everyone in the area. He’s a great, great find as a department chair and leader for Einstein and a wonderful, kind and thoughtful individual.
Q. So when did you do your residency?
A. 1991-1995. One other thing I want to mention is another aspect that attracted me to Einstein - the research department in the Korman Building. The OB/GYN department at that time had two PhD’s doing research whose interest was in the reproductive endocrine area. So I got in touch with Dr. Barbara Peyton who was researching oocytes. I knew I was interested in reproductive endocrinology and so I did some really, really good basic science research there.
Q. So Einstein had a basic science component at that time and they were doing research in this area that you were interested in?
A. Yes, yes, absolutely.
Q. So how did you find out about that?
A. I don’t remember the details but probably when I was talking to Dr. Yeh. Even if you’re in a major academic institution it’s not that easy to integrate basic science research into your clinical program. I had the best experience. I was able to do basic science research and Dr. Yeh was very flexible and supportive to put everything in the same track. There was that flexibility for me to achieve my goals.
Q. So you were there for 4 years. What was a highlight for you?
A. As I look back probably the clinical experience. It was incredible. We saw everything, just everything. It just seemed like all the train wrecks and all the worst clinical scenarios would come strolling through the door. As a pure clinician it is a fabulous experience, very hands on. The demographics in the area allowed you to see a variety of different pathologies. We had a great core group of attendings that were phenomenal teachers. The other thing that set me apart from a number of applicants was that I did real research, not just retrospective. I did some clinical research too, but I did real basic science research.
Q. So you had lots of hands on experience, you were involved in your clinical research.
A. I did my fellowship at Cornell NY Hospital and my co-fellow was an ex-resident from there. I thought ”O My God, she’s from Cornell, her experience is going to be potentially so much better than mine.” But I had a better experience. I came out of Einstein able to do surgically anything and everything that someone from that type of program and there was no doubt about that academically.
Q. One of the questions that we were interested in is how were you able to get such a highly sought after fellowship when you went to a residency in a non-university program?
A. I think it’s somewhat of a misnomer to think that you have to go to a major academic center to get a major academic fellowship. It’s the individual. If you work hard, do the right thing and set yourself apart, you’ll stand out. So you could go to that “major academic center” and just kind of be banal but if you go to any program, any program, and you stand out, you’ll do well.
The thing that was unique about my experience at Einstein was that I was able to do basic science research. I would go on interviews and they would ask me questions like, “You did what?” “How did you isolate the RNA?” They wanted to know if I actually did this or did a PhD? I wrote a paper on it. I’m not sure exactly what the role of the research building is now because I know unfortunately funds are limited and the researchers that were there when I was were NIH funded and self-based on grants, some internal. That is what set Einstein apart. I know over time I was upset when the researchers left.
Q. So there were things in the program that allowed you to specialize and have those experiences?
A. That is a unique aspect that I think will attract applicants interested in fellowships.
Q. Did you have a mentor?
A. Yes, my research mentor was Barbara Peyton, PhD. The RE who was there, Millicent (Milly) Zacher, DO, was a mentor. She was also a graduate of the OB/GYN residency program.
Q. How have you been able to continue basic as well as clinical research in a private practice environment?
A. Again it’s motivated by the individual. I teach residents that passive learning is not going to get you very far, it has to be active learning. When you’re out in clinical practice you could be a passive clinician and do the same old routine stuff but that is not who I am. I enjoy clinical research and basic science research. I’ve done a number of basic science research projects post-fellowship.
Q. Do you do it on the side?
A. We don’t have “days.” In an academic center you may have 4 days or whatever of clinical responsibilities and other responsibilities to research. What you have to do is develop an internal framework to do it within your clinical practice. What we do here is we have a lab with IVF and I’ve recruited medical students. We had a Temple medical student who was involved in a basic science research project that was published. We have had a couple of premed students. The medical student actually works throughout the year. We always have a bunch of students during the summer so we apply for grants.
During my time at Einstein I believe I was the first resident to win an Einstein Society grant of $25,000 to do the basic science research I was doing. It was great and again helped me with my fellowship because not only was I doing research but I was doing research that I wrote a grant for, which was incredibly difficult. Writing a grant is a whole different ballgame than writing a research paper.
Q. So how have you been able to stay involved with the Einstein OB program?
A. I started at Abington in 2001, pretty much the same time Arnie [Cohen] started. Obviously I had immense loyalty to Einstein and so I communicated with him. I told him we have a great clinical practice here, we do basic science, we do clinical research so let’s form an alliance. He was looking to build up every aspect of the program and the RE aspect of it. We’re an independent program and so we met with Arnie. We give residents lectures, clinical and surgical experience and they rotate with us. Some have started research projects and have had a hard time getting residents to complete them.
Q. What would be your advice if other alumni wanted to get involved with their program? What would you tell them?
A. I’d tell them to reach out to Dr. Jaspan who is now the Chairman and who is going to do a phenomenal job as well. You want to give Einstein residents some opportunities they may not have like an elective with an OB physician in whatever region the alumni is in, or maybe with an OB physician who may have some skills that are relatively uncommon.
Q. We need to do a better job in surveying our alumni to find out what they are doing and where their interests are.
A. Most of the OB/GYN residents are just going to want to go into general OB/GYN so a large percentage who graduate will be generalists and will relocate all over the place. I’m the only one from my class who is still local.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to communicate to other residents?
A. I think it’s always important to give back to your program because it was the experience and education that we received during our four years that is really the base, the foundation, that we’ve built on for the rest of our careers. I give back to Temple (we teach Temple students), Einstein and my college. That’s what has gotten me to where I am now. I’m a huge proponent of Einstein’s residency program. It’s great!
Q. We were lucky to have you. You are an integral part of the legacy of the past, present and future. That is what we need to make it go forward.
A. Thank you.