NJIT Student Thrives in Medical School

After graduating from NJIT in 2007, Hamid Bagce (2007) won a full scholarship to attend the New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ.  He’s now in his third year at the medical school.

He is part of UMDNJ’s prestigious MD/Ph.D. program. Students in the program work simultaneously toward their medical and doctoral degrees.  Hamid spent his first two years studying for his MD; this year he’ll concentrate on his Ph.D. 

When he graduates from med school, he’ll be in a privileged position: He’ll treat patients while continuing to do research in whatever field he specializes in. He’s not sure yet what field of medicine he’ll specialize in, but he suspects it was be some subset of neuroscience.

NJIT prepared him well for medical school, he says.  Most importantly NJIT taught him how to problem solve.  And the ability to problem solve and think analytically is easing his way through medical school. 

And he’s not the only NJIT grad in the med school.  He knows 10 other NJIT graduates now in the medical school, including Angelie Mascarinas, also a 2007 graduate of the Albert Dorman Honors College.   

At NJIT, Hamid was a stellar student.  He majored in biomedical engineering and did research with Professor Richard Foulds when he was a just a freshman.  During his senior year, the Newark College of Engineering named him its Outstanding Biomedical Engineering student.  He graduated from the Honors College in just three years with a 4.0 GPA. 

During his senior year of high school, Hamid was accepted to Cornell University, an offer he turned down to attend the Honors College.  He comes from a humble background and was the first in his family to attend college.  He’s grateful to the Honors College, which gave him a full scholarship 

In this interview, Hamid talks about what medical school is like.  He also talks about his current research, which he’s doing jointly with UMDNJ and NJIT.

Did NJIT prepare well for medical school?
I’m doing well in med school precisely because NJIT taught me how to problem solve. And whether it’s a patient-based problem or a clinical diagnosis, being able to problem-solver will help me make the right decisions as a doctor.  Engineers tend to make good doctors because they have the ability to use their analytical skills to diagnose and treat disease. Studying engineering at NJIT gave me these necessary skills.  

How does medical school differ from your undergraduate years at NJIT?
NJIIT was more about hands-on engineering and problem solving. Med school has more to do, at least at first, with memorizing huge amounts of information.  As an engineering student, it took me awhile to adapt to medical school – the memorization bogged me down.  But I’m now entering the research/Ph.D. phase of med school, so I’ll be doing more hands-on research, more like engineering.

Most of your classmates at UMDNJ are from Ivy League or equally prominent schools.  Are you holding your own with them?
Upon entering medical school, I was intimidated by the Ivy-League and high caliber schools that some of my peers attended. The prestige of their colleges made me think I’d be at a disadvantage in medical school. I soon discovered, however, that though these students excelled at certain aspects of medical education, I was able to hold my own. Moreover, my problem-solving skills gave me an advantage. In med school, we are taught that medicine is a team-based field, comprised of doctors, nurses, physical therapists and administrators. I feel honored that I am able to contribute my analytical abilities to the healthcare team. 

You said it doesn’t matter if as an undergraduate you go to a state school or an Ivy League school.  Can you explain that?
The success of a university can be measured by the quality of its students and professors. So when someone asks me if I made the right decision by attending NJIT, a state school, I reply that I could not have made better choices – the caliber of students and professors at NJIT are unparalleled. For example, most of the biomedical engineering professors I had at NJIT were trained at prestigious universities: Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University, to name just a few. As a result, I would consider my training as a biomedical engineer to be on-par with these world-renown institutions.

When you were at NJIT you started doing research as a freshman, which is uncommon.  Talk about that.
As a freshman, I was fortunate enough to perform Neuromuscular/Rehabilitation Engineering research with Professor Richard Foulds in the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center at NJIT. Performing research in Professor Foulds’ lab when I was a freshman, and taking undergraduate and graduate-level courses with the highly-esteemed professors of biomedical engineering at NJIT, has sculpted my engineering capabilities to what they are today.

How many NJIT students are in the medical school at UMDNJ?  And what are their majors?
I personally know about 10 NJIT students who now attend the New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ. Additionally, an equal number of NJIT grads attend UMDNJ’s other graduate schools: the New Jersey Dental School and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The latter school participates in the joint Biomedical Engineering program with NJIT’s Biomedical Engineering Department.  Most of the NJIT graduates now studying at UMDNJ either majored in biomedical engineering or biology. They are very bright students. 

You are in the MD/Ph.D. program. You’ve completed two years of medical school and now are beginning your Ph.D.  What is this year like for you? 
I focus now on full-time neuroscience research under the mentorship of Dr. Eugene Tunik, director of the Laboratory for Movement Neuroscience at UMDNJ. My research focuses on using virtual reality to help stroke patients recover. The research I perform fits flawlessly with my career path -- nicely integrating neuroscience, medicine, and engineering.

Interestingly, I was introduced to Dr. Tunik by NJIT Professor Sergei Adamovich, an expert in the field of virtual reality and stroke rehabilitation. Professor Adamovich taught two of the neuromuscular engineering graduate courses I took at NJIT when I was an undergraduate. Dr. Tunik and I collaborate daily with Professor Adamovich and his graduate students in NJIT’s Biomedical Engineering Department.  So it’s great to still have a research connection with my old school. 

 (By Robert Florida, University Web Services)