Making Life and Death Decisions Everyday

Six years after graduating from NJIT, Biren Bhatt, M.D., runs the emergency room at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Biren Bhatt graduated six years ago and he’s already a medical doctor with enormous responsibilities. 

At age 27, he helps run the emergency room at New-York Presbyterian Hospital, a high pressure ER whose doctors contend with a high volume of critically ill patients.  The ER doctors have little time to diagnose patients; they must make quick decisions.  

As a Chief Resident of Emergency Medicine in the ER, Biren makes many of those decisions.  In his three of residency at the hospital, he’s saved people who were shot or stabbed, and stabilized hundreds more who’ve arrived in critical condition.  He’s reset an untold number of dislocated shoulders, hips and jaws and even delivered about 20 babies. 

“It’s an amazing job that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” says Biren, who graduated in 2005 with a degree in engineering science and a concentration in biomedical engineering.

It’s not always good news in the ER; for the medical staff sometimes loses patients.  Recently, Biren lost a patient, a young girl, who came to the ER with complications arising from a heart transplant operation.  He worked on her for hours, but then of a sudden she failed -- cried out for her mother -- then died.

“When a young person dies,” says Biren, “the entire ER staff just stops.  As you get more experience as a doctor death affects you less. But when a young person dies, it stays with you.”

Biren’s engineering background, though, helps him succeed in stabilizing most patients. In the ER, Biren must make logical decisions based on limited information.  “ER medicine calls for a logical mindset,” he says, “a way of thinking that I acquired studying engineering at NJIT.” 

Biren was at NJIT just three years: He was in the accelerated medical program, spending three years at NJIT and four at the UMDNJ medical school, where he earned his M.D.  He excelled in medical school and afterwards was awarded a residency in ER medicine at New York Presbyterian, one of the most coveted residencies in the nation.   He has one year left on his four-year residency.

And though he was at NJIT only three years, it was plenty enough time for him to amass a host of honors.  He was a scholar in the Honors College who graduated with a 4.0 GPA. And he was the only NJIT student in the history of the university ever to win Truman and Goldwater scholarships, two highly competitive national awards.  He won both scholarships for research he did on how to improve health care for poor people living in cities.   

And that’s precisely what he does now in the ER: He tends to many poor and working class people in New York City who don’t have good health care.  And that’s also why he loves his job.

“I’m helping a lot of working class, blue-collar people who really appreciate the care I give them,” says Biren.  “They hug me and offer me food, even when they don’t have much for themselves.  It’s very gratifying. It’s amazing.

"A lot of med school grads specialize in medical areas that are well paying but boring, he says. And many of them do that to repay educational loans.  Biren’s education, however, was free -- funded by scholarships from the Honors College.  And for that he’s grateful."

“A lot of my colleagues attended Ivy Leagues schools but are in debt,” says Biren. “The education I received at NJIT was as rich as theirs, if not better, and it was free. That allowed me focus on emergency medicine, which is not that lucrative but I love it.  To jump out of bed every morning and love going to my job, that is amazing.  And I owe it all to NJIT. 

(By Robert Florida, Office of Strategic Communications)