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Highlighting the Heroes: University of California Graduate Up for $25K Award

Our H.E.R.O. Award -Honoring Excellent Resident Observations – was launched to highlight the personal sacrifices and educational commitment during a medical resident’s professional adult life.  We realize, considering the fast moving changes in healthcare,  how courageous medical residents are to embark upon a career in medicine with such an uncertain future.  This award is our way of recognizing that courage.

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to our nominees individually:

med school debt

Ian Neel

Internal Medicine, University of California, San Diego; San Diego CA – La Jolla, CA
Dr. Neel is a University of California, San Diego medical school graduate. His most memorable experiences in medical school came in quiet interactions with patients, often at odd hours. He still remembers one such patient, a person with a large foot abscess due to poor diabetic control.
“I talked with that patient for weeks about his life, and from time to time asked him about his thoughts on amputation, but did not want to push the decision until the patient had accepted it. This patient will always stand out in my mind as many of our conversations occurred in the early hours of the morning while on-call; a great deal of healing can occur from a conversation at 3 a.m. when the patient can’t sleep due to worry. This patient showed me the necessity of being on-call and being able to have the time to just sit and talk.
Dr. Neel is a natural at internal medicine — enjoying not only the complexities of managing a critically ill patient via careful attention to each organ system and the patient as a whole, but also being a guide to patients, helping them navigate the complex and often extremely confusing world of medicine, explaining consultant recommendations and helping them understand how to get the resources they need to succeed in the world. As a San Diego native, he is also a unique example of someone whose roots in medicine are tied in to his local experiences:
“In 9th grade I started volunteering at a San Diego convalescent home, calling numbers for Bingo and conversing with the elderly residents. Looking back, it was probably my work at the home that first spurred my interest in medicine, although I did not know it at the time. There was one very pleasant elderly woman that would always want to talk with me for as many hours as my responsibilities allowed; we talked every week I volunteered there. Near the end of my first year, I went to the activity department as usual, and found that she did not know who I was. I found out she had Alzheimer’s, and it had progressed to a moderate to severe stage over the course of my year there. We continued to talk, but the home closed and I didn’t get to see her again. I moved to the information desk of the main hospital, however, continued to think about the patient and gained an interest in Alzheimer’s disease.” “It was in third year of medical school when I did a two week elective in geriatrics that my professional interests and academic interests collided. I met Dr. John Daly who reintroduced me to the world of dementia care, and found that it was exactly what I had been looking for in medicine from an academic standpoint. A study of the mind, while helping a severely at risk population and further addressing a plethora of social issues in aiding the families on coping with the disease. Further the philosophy of geriatric primary care, with a strong focus on quality of life over quantity, and minimizing polypharmacy, greatly appealed to me. I proceeded to do geropsychiatry for my psychiatry rotation and another month of geriatrics in fourth year of medical school, finding that after nearly three months of dedicated time in geriatrics my passion had only grown stronger. Hence I knew entering residency where my path lay, a primary care focused route with a fellowship in geriatrics. It has been a difficult yet easy decision, as it feels like every experience in my life has lead to my projected career path, yet I also have found I truly love each rotation I have been on in medical school and residency, so I also have seen that my future could have had so many other potential paths. I look at this as an affirmation that I am doing what I truly have been called to do in life. “ “If there is a sacrifice involved, I guess it would be the sacrifice of time in the pursuit of medicine. I made a choice in undergraduate to not start trying to establish a family until I had first established myself in the world, knowing the commitment and dedication that medical school and residency would take. Much of my time these past 5 and a half years have been spent either at work or preparing for work the next day, as it really is in medical school and residency where you must gain the knowledge necessary to be a successful physician. It only is a sacrifice in that it meant delaying a large part of my life, but if I had it to do over again I’d do it all the same. I truly love medicine, and am so happy to go to work every day. I’ve found what I am meant to do in life and wouldn’t change anything.”
Vote for Ian here. If you know a resident that deserves to be recognized, please nominate your candidate here.