Columbia Bassett Alumni

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Allan Guiney

Allan Guiney, Class of 2014

After finishing residency training in New York City, I returned to my childhood (and med school) hometown. I practice emergency medicine in Cooperstown and take particular joy in teaching and training the next generation of physicians as clerkship director in emergency medicine for the Columbia-Bassett Medical School. I spend the rest of my time running, skiing, golfing, and chasing my three daughters.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth?

It has been such a privilege to be affiliated with Columbia-Bassett, first as a student and now as an instructor. I can't imagine my career in medicine anywhere else. 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

If I can give one piece of advice to new medical students, it would be this: Keep an open mind and try as many new things as you can, but take it easy on yourself along the way. Medical school is a long road, and you have plenty of time to get to the end of it.

Freda Ready, Class of 2014

I am a general surgeon with the Indian Health Service in Shiprock, New Mexico, where I am honored to work with colleagues who are passionate about providing high-level care to the people of the Navajo Nation. The resilience of our patients inspires me on a daily basis.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth? 

The Columbia-Bassett program was my first introduction to the importance of physician engagement in health care systems. The Indian Health Service operates on a budget that allows per-patient expenditure of less than half that of the national average. We are chronically understaffed and continuously struggling against historical negligence. My training in Cooperstown helps me to pursue creative solutions to being an effective surgeon in such an under-resourced environment.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

Advocate for yourself throughout the application process. If you have a good reason for wanting to be in the program, make sure the admissions office knows.

David Chapel

David Chapel, Class of 2015

I am currently an assistant professor of pathology at the University of Michigan, with principal clinical and academic interests in peritoneal mesothelioma, gynecologic pathology, and intraoperative ("frozen section") diagnosis. Outside of work, my main hobbies are gardening (and composting), biking, cooking for a crowd, and listening to classical music. But my ultimate meaning and purpose are derived from family, including my wife, Ellen, and son, Henry.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth?

Columbia-Bassett made me the physician I am today. The program's emphasis on public health, health care systems, and quality improvement shaped the way I approach my clinical practice. Further, the close mentorship I received through the Bassett Research Institute grounded me in careful study design and statistical analysis (including a thorough intro to SAS programming), which formed the foundation of my active career in clinical and translational research. Finally, the closeness within the program and Cooperstown community offers unparalleled patient- and learner-centered clinical education.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

Follow your passion, not the crowd. I entered medical school fully intending to become a rural primary care physician. But I learned through both my preclinical and clinical years that my true passion was in pathobiology and translational research. As a result, I matched in pathology and have built a career that is far more rewarding and multifaceted than I could have imagined. Even if all your classmates are going in one direction or the other, you have to go down the best path for you—a 30- or 40-year career in medicine is way too long and too precious not to be doing the thing you love. And, good news: Columbia-Bassett will provide you with the strong broad-based training in clinical medicine, research, and systems-based health care that you'll need to succeed in whichever field you choose.

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Maggie Dowd

Maggie Dowd, Class of 2015

I live with my husband and three children in Cooperstown, NY. I am a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon, and I recently started the Mohs micrographic surgery service at Bassett Healthcare Network. I am deeply committed to providing better access to the highest quality of care, particularly in cutaneous oncology, in traditionally underserved areas.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth?

As a medical student at Columbia University, I received sophisticated medical training and access to the best teachers, many of whom were leaders in their fields. During my major clinical year in Cooperstown, I felt I had the opportunity to connect more deeply with patients and live in community with them. At Bassett, with nimble care teams, I benefited from working closely with attendings and patients, often invited to be part of the decision-making process. As a student with an interest in surgery, this was particularly impactful. My preceptors found appropriate opportunities to provide me with hands-on surgical experiences, promoting an authentic surgical experience. A generous patient and surgeon allowed me to experience the suturing technique involved in a full-thickness skin graft—meticulous work that sparked my love of skin surgery. Columbia-Bassett provided the ultimate combination of a high-caliber education and hands-on experience. 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

My advice to a Columbia-Bassett student is to embrace every rotational experience. You may not find your destiny in that particular specialty, but you may discover something that inspires you. For me, it was learning how much I enjoyed caring for children during pediatrics, working with my hands in orthopedic surgery, and understanding the subtleties of a clinical exam in neurology. They all pointed me to dermatology. My OB preceptor readily stepped in to help transport and prep patients in the operating room to expedite care. I have incorporated that into my surgical practice, which is full of transitions. She taught me that there is no job on my team that I can't help do. Columbia-Bassett is an opportunity to see physicians and surgeons at work in a nonurban setting, making a great impact on their community.

Sam Porter

Sam Porter, Class of 2016

I practice hospital medicine in Denver, where I teach residents and medical students fundamentals of quality improvement and patient safety and help coach and run a number of quality improvement projects for the health system. I am energized by finding and fixing gaps in patient care to make sure we are providing the best care possible without wasting resources. Particularly meaningful are projects in which we navigate to solutions by digging as deeply into the emotions that drive a problem as we do into the quantitative data—even in complex and seemingly indifferent health care systems, there is always a human element to any problem that we ignore at our own peril.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth? 

Columbia-Bassett had a profound impact on my professional identity. The SLIM curriculum gave me a cohesive understanding of the forces that influence the decisions health care providers make and how those forces can lead even the most well-intentioned providers to deviate from their values in pursuit of less noble aims. Because of Columbia-Bassett, I feel empowered to take on those forces through robust performance improvement work founded on the humanistic values that the longitudinal rotation curriculum reinforced and allowed to flourish. 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

Medical training is a time of tremendous growth. You will face revelations, challenges, triumphs, disappointments, miracles, and catastrophes. When I look back on that time, the thing I am most grateful for is the people who were there to share that journey with me and help me understand what it all meant for who I am and how to make my way in the world. 

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Joan Tu

Joanna Tu, Class of 2016

I currently live in San Francisco and am a dermatologist at the University of California San Francisco, specializing in pediatric dermatology. My colleagues and our shared curiosity and desire to learn energize me. Providing compassionate care to my patients and having the skill set and knowledge base to help them with their often very visible ailments gives meaning to my work.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth? 

Columbia-Bassett was an incredibly supportive and nurturing educational environment to learn the science and art of medicine. As cheesy as it sounds, the program's dedication to both our professional development and our growth as good humans and community members was incredibly impactful. I continue to be involved in medical education because at Columbia-Bassett I positively experienced how differences and changes in structure can impact the learning environment, and I hope to contribute to the continued push for training the best quality physicians for the communities they serve.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

Don't lose sight of the big picture while you are in school. It is easy to let medical training become all-consuming, but you should still foster the things in life outside of school that make you thrive. Everything you have done up until this point gives you a unique perspective on the world and how you interact with it and the people in it, and it is those perspectives that will allow you to provide humanistic care in your own way.

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Jonah Zuflacht

Jonah Zuflacht, Class of 2017

I live in Philadelphia but am moving to Boston this summer to be closer to family and pursue exciting new career opportunities. I currently work as an academic neurohospitalist within the University of Pennsylvania Health System. I find clinical neurology to be both intellectually stimulating and incredibly rewarding. I love to teach medical students and residents. 

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth?

The Columbia-Bassett program served a foundational role in my early medical training and I remember my time in Cooperstown quite fondly. The integrated longitudinal clerkship provided me with a deep appreciation for the patient experience in a modern health care system as well as a better understanding of the natural history of disease. I developed lifelong friendships with my classmates and highly impactful relationships with the attendings. I learned the critical importance of balancing career and personal ambitions.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

Medical training is a long and winding road. Try not to stress too much, and remember to enjoy the ride. 

Justin Spring

Justin Spring, Class of 2018

I live in a western neighborhood of Chicago. I completed my psychiatry residency at Northwestern and am now in a yearlong forensic psychiatry fellowship at Northwestern. Lately, I find meaning in my work, personal growth, building and sustaining relationships, good food and entertainment, and quiet moments with my wife and two cats. 

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth?

I deeply value the connections that developed during my time at Columbia-Bassett. These include lasting relationships with friends, mentors, and the places themselves—Cooperstown and Bassett. The people and places encouraged me to think more critically not just about the practice and delivery of medicine but also about my own values and personal growth. For me, the learning and living environment was inherently nurturing, reflective, thought-provoking, and—in a good way—challenging. 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

Columbia-Bassett is a singular and wonderful training opportunity. When you interview, be curious, ask real questions, and imagine yourself there. I view some core values of the program as high-quality medical training, longitudinal care, systems improvement, community, reflection, and growth. Consider whether these values resonate with you and whether it would be appealing to spend a year-plus living in an idyllic upstate New York town and training in a rural health care network. If so, this program may be a great fit. If not, it may not. 

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Karl Bart Celie

Karel-Bart Celie, Class of 2019

I currently live in Oxford, England, where I am pursuing a part-time master's in Practical Ethics while concurrently working as a global surgery fellow with Operation Smile. Once I finish the two-year global surgery fellowship in July of 2024, I will return to Los Angeles to finish the second half of my training in integrated plastic surgery at the University of Southern California. I chose to train at USC for plastic surgery in order to take advantage of this global surgery fellowship opportunity. Upon completion of my training, I am interested in a career that incorporates reconstructive plastic surgery, global surgery, and medical ethics. 

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth?

Professionally, Columbia-Bassett enabled me to form personal relationships with attending surgeons that led me to confirm my interest in surgery and then reconstructive plastic surgery. That mentorship on both campuses was invaluable to me. Columbia-Bassett also fostered an environment that encouraged looking at medicine from the lenses of the humanities, which I will carry with me for the rest of my career. I love this line in the Hippocratic Corpus: "Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is a love of humanity also." I was able to get that sentence incorporated into our class pin upon graduation. I think Columbia-Bassett prioritizes this love of humanity, and the art of medicine follows naturally.  

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

Three short pieces of advice since I can't pick one. First, true expertise takes time to develop—do not be daunted by how long the journey ahead of you may seem. Time will pass regardless; the importance is to have a guiding star, the thing that gives your personal journey meaning or purpose. Second, find mentors and friends who will encourage you to stick to what makes you passionate. It is so easy to fall back on the well-trodden path when you become weary. A well-trodden path may be easier to find but may not make you happy in the end. Third, recognize the immense privilege you have and use it to help those who don't have it. Medical education and training are hard, and self-care is important, but finding the strength to protect yourself while still giving to others is a skill worth fighting for.

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Alison McIlvride

Alison McIlvride, Class of 2020

I currently live in New York City and am in the middle of my diagnostic radiology residency at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. At work, my motivation comes from being able to answer challenging questions for referring providers that make a positive impact on patient care. Diagnostic radiology offers an exciting problem-solving environment. For this reason I'm always trying to expand my fund of knowledge in diagnostic imaging and medicine in general. Outside of work, being a mother continually provides me with a sense of meaning and purpose, and having a child has reoriented our family's relationship with New York City in an exciting way.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth?

I always felt the program was very grounded in its values. We were welcomed as contributing members of the community and at the same time given ample support to take care of ourselves and pursue our individual interests. This has helped me shape my expectations of what my professional and personal life can look like in residency and beyond. 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants?

While it may be a cliche statement, I think the most important thing you can do is simply be yourself.

Mark Travor

Mark Travor, Class of 2020

I live in Lebanon, New Hampshire, where I am currently a PGY-3 ophthalmology resident at Dartmouth. I find meaning in the joy patients get from being able to see, and I feel privileged to be able to help maintain/restore their vision. The rewarding nature of the work makes it extremely gratifying!

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth? 

Columbia-Bassett has been invaluable in both my personal and professional life, and I will always cherish my time in Cooperstown. At Bassett, I transitioned from being a preclinical medical student to seeing and caring for patients at bedside and cultivated my love for ophthalmology. I loved Cooperstown so much that I stayed to do my internship and make the even more meaningful transition from medical student to intern! It was where I started to feel like a real doctor and understand what that entails and means to the people you are taking care of. I even managed to find a similar geographic place to do my residency. Few places offer the unique blend of academic rigor and idyllic setting, and the wonderful faculty at Bassett will become lifelong friends and colleagues. It was a perfect fit for me and has launched me toward all my professional goals so far. 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

My advice for current applicants is broad: Make the most of your time in Cooperstown. It goes by quickly! Embrace the community and the culture, get to know your neighbors, and get a feel for practicing medicine in a rural setting. There are plenty of activities to do: hiking, biking, snowshoeing, skiing, swimming or kayaking on the lake, touring local museums, making pottery, sampling local food and drinks, ice skating, etc. Being part of a smaller cohort within the larger medical school gives you an immediate group of friends with a shared experience who you will bond with throughout your time. It's a unique setting and a way to experience a very different aspect of medicine than you will see in New York City. The latter half of the medical school experience can also be based in Cooperstown, if desired—I spent as much of the last two and half years of medical school at Bassett as possible. And you don't even have to love baseball to find it a delightful place to live! 

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Matthew Adan

Matthew Adan, Class of 2021

I currently live in Boston, where I work as an internal medicine resident at Massachusetts General Hospital. I find meaning in my work through serving marginalized groups, especially the Latinx and LGBTQIA+ communities. As a resident, this has primarily been through clinical care and research.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth? 

The benefits of participating in Columbia-Bassett's longitudinal curriculum have furthered my professional growth immeasurably. Through this learning model, I gained a well-rounded knowledge base that I was able to build upon during fourth-year rotations and now continue to develop in residency. The relationships I established with preceptors facilitated tailored feedback that helped me improve as a clinician and led to thoughtful letters of recommendation for residency. The life experiences curriculum provided a framework for humanistic patient care that continues to guide my trauma-informed clinical practice. I was also able to conduct research with the Gender Wellness Center through its affiliation with Bassett Medical Center, which resulted in one of the most meaningful projects I have worked on to date and affirmed my plans to continue this line of work in my career. Lastly, my time in Cooperstown forged enduring friendships that have only gotten stronger since then.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

My advice to current applicants is to be confident in who you are and own your interests throughout the application process. When applying, I was concerned that my interest in practicing medicine in an urban setting would not be well received by Columbia-Bassett. However, the program was incredibly supportive of my professional and academic goals, including connecting me with mentors in my field of interest and supporting my application to an NIH research immersion program. Columbia-Bassett is not looking for applicants with a specific set of interests or past experiences but instead builds a diverse class each year.

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Laurel Whitney Gaffin

Laurel Whitney Gaffin, Class of 2021

I am currently living in Nashville, where I am completing my pediatrics residency at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. My longitudinal clinics in Cooperstown inspired me to pursue a career as a general pediatrician. I am energized by the opportunity to positively impact children's growth and development and contribute to the well-being of families.

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth? 

Columbia-Bassett had a significant impact on both my personal and professional growth. The flexibility and autonomy of the program's unique curriculum allowed me to thoughtfully consider my career path. Its holistic approach to medicine equipped me with the tools to care for my patients with a humanistic focus. The exposure to various clinical settings in Cooperstown prepared me for dealing with different patients' medical issues that arose during my residency. The patient-centered, trauma-sensitive approach to medical education provided me with the skills and knowledge necessary to provide high-quality care. The longitudinal and humanities curricula also built resiliency, which helped me manage burnout throughout my training. In terms of personal growth, through Columbia-Bassett, I found incredible mentors and friends who supported me while in the program and continue to do so today. These relationships have shaped me both as a physician and as an individual.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

My advice to current applicants is to focus on finding a training/medical school environment that is committed to supporting your growth as both a physician and a person. It is important to recognize that medical school programs have distinctive aspects that appeal to different individuals. Applicants should also seek to learn if the program's faculty is active in mentorship. I found exceptional mentors at Columbia-Bassett, who provided unwavering guidance, support, and encouragement. I hope all current applicants are able to find the program that suits them the best.

Columbia-Bassett Alumni Alexander Bulteel

Alexander Bulteel, Class of 2022

I live in Boston and work as an internal medicine resident at Beth Israel. I am thinking of specializing in hematology/oncology but still considering a couple of other options. While the internship hours are long and the work can be difficult, I am energized every day by the conversations I have with patients. Each morning on my rounds, I talk with patients about pain, frustration, hope, and plans for the future but also little things—music they like, their grandkids, the Red Sox, the view out the window. What could be more meaningful than that?

How has Columbia-Bassett impacted your professional and/or personal growth?

Columbia-Bassett is an integral part of my journey into medicine and it's hard to imagine going through medical school any other way. I was in Cooperstown in 2020—my class dealt with the pandemic together and worked alongside the rest of the Bassett community to care for our local community during that time. This reminded me of why I went into medicine and was also a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that I shared with some of my best friends.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to our current applicants? 

I will repeat a piece of advice a former Columbia-Bassett student told me on my interview day: Take a deep breath. Applying to medical school is one of the most stressful things you will ever do. It's OK to feel overwhelmed, and I promise things will get better. 

Residency Match

Columbia-Bassett students have done remarkably well in the match in each of its eight graduating classes, with most students getting their first choices, and students matriculating in some of the most sought after positions.  We are told by our students that in residency interviews, the interest of interviewers in unique features of student experience like learning sophisticated performance improvement and bio-psychosocial needs of patients, makes interviewing fun.