Rethinking medical school

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Smith, who said he decided to become a doctor in ninth grade, learned about Hofstra’s medical school through the Feinstein Institute. “I was really interested in the curriculum and the adult learning” at Hofstra, he said, adding that class sizes are small and students are given a voice in developing the curriculum.

Daina Blitz, 24, who grew up in Rockville Centre and now makes her home in Long Beach, is a third-year Hofstra medical student. She received her bachelor’s from Boston University, where she certified as an EMT and served on the university’s emergency medical services unit.

The chance to be in the Hofstra medical school’s first class appealed to her. “I wanted to be a pioneer,” she said. “I wanted to be in the first class. There are a lot of ups and downs … It gets better as we go. That’s what I expected.”

Emily Sellinger, 22, who was raised in Mineola and now lives in Westbury, recently completed her first year at Hofstra. Sellinger, who earned her bachelors’ from Queens College, likes the Hofstra medical school’s intimate feel. “You make a lot of good friends when you’re in a class of 60,” she said.

To unwind, many students go out together for meals, Sellinger said. “We have other lives outside of medical school –– sometimes,” she joked.

“The hours are long,” Sellinger added, “but it’s up to you how much time you put into it.” Students, she said, study nine to 15 hours a day, with all-night study sessions common during final exams.

“It’s challenging,” Blitz said, “but it’s not impossible. You do have to have a lot of self-discipline.”

Med school’s biggest challenge

Dr. Smith said the greatest challenge that students may face isn’t getting through medical school, but repaying student loans afterward. Many students must take tens of thousands of dollars of debt to finance medical school. Smith is acutely aware of the financial burden that they must bear, and so he continually seeks endowment contributions from university benefactors to award more scholarships and reduce the cost of a Hofstra medical education.

Kevin Smith, who is considering a career in pediatric critical care, said he has taken student loans to pay for medical school. “It’s a very large burden,” he said. “If I think about it too much, it freaks me out.”

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