“Medicine was always a calling for me,” says Alli Letica, MD’17. From age 3, she wanted to be a doctor; first a veterinarian and later a surgeon. “I love science and the tangible aspect of helping people.”
Dr. Letica arrived at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) from the University of Pennsylvania. She quickly immersed herself in campus life and became co-chair of the Systems, Leadership, Integration, and Management (SLIM) committee in her first year of medical school. The committee oversees the implementation of health care policy and quality improvement content into the P&S curriculum.
Through the SLIM committee, she joined the NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP) Housestaff Quality Council as a student representative. The council is run by residents and involves hospital staff in quality improvement initiatives and policy changes to address patient care and safety. When the time came for Dr. Letica to do her scholarly project—all P&S medical students must complete a scholarly project to earn an MD—she chose a topic based on its potential to impact patients. She studied catheter-associated urinary tract infections and is preparing a manuscript to be submitted for publication in a journal.
Dr. Letica says she was attracted to Columbia due to the Washington Heights community near campus. During her fourth year, Dr. Letica volunteered as a senior clinician in the Columbia Student Medical Outreach (CoSMO) clinic, which serves people in Washington Heights. “I started to feel like the primary care provider for these patients,” she says. “None of them have health insurance.”
Whether in class, on committee, or volunteering with fellow medical students in CoSMO, Dr. Letica says her memories of Columbia are special due to the friendships she has forged.
“The people I met are an incredible mix of different backgrounds, intellects, and talents,” she says. “I found best, best friends here.”
She also met her fiancé, Jacob Kriegel, MD’13, a cardiothoracic surgery resident through NYP/Columbia University Medical Center. His cousin attended Penn with Dr. Letica, and when she was considering medical schools, the cousin introduced her to Dr. Kriegel, who talked to her about P&S. They later began dating and were engaged on April 23 in Lake Como, Italy.
In June 2017, Dr. Letica will move to Boston and start her residency in general surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. She finds surgery has a lot in common with dancing, one of her favorite pastimes.
“The physicality of expression from movement is a link between the two,” says Dr. Letica, who has enjoyed modern dance since childhood. “There’s also the skill of practicing something until you feel it in your bones and learning to adapt and pivot when something doesn’t go as planned.”
As she looks ahead, Dr. Letica knows her time in medical school will serve her well. She says: “I had great learning experiences and many opportunities to give back.”