Wilson Sui, MD’17, first glimpsed a future medical career when he worked as an EMT while attending a Quaker high school in Bucks County, Pa.
“It was a combination of being an EMT and my experiences shadowing doctors in undergrad that convinced me medicine would be a lot of fun to do,” says Dr. Sui, who double-majored in biology and economics at Cornell University before enrolling in medical school at the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Sui was one of 10 students accepted into the Columbia-Bassett program. As part of the program, he spent his major clinical year in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he saw patients longitudinally throughout his rotations.
“It’s cool because you follow patients through, like my first OB patient,” says Dr. Sui. “I saw her throughout her pregnancy, got to see her child born, and eventually saw her child in the pediatric clinic. Since I was interested in urology, I also followed prostate cancer patients from the clinic to their procedure to postop recovery and learned about the breadth of a disease in this way.”
In addition, Dr. Sui worked on a process improvement project—another program feature—to tackle an issue facing the Bassett Healthcare System, which serves a large, mostly rural population about 200 miles north of New York City. His project focused on identifying inefficiencies in operating room “core” organization, such as where all the equipment is stored and how the room is set up. With fellow medical students, he tracked staff members as they navigated the core to prepare cases for the OR and presented ways to revamp how supplies were stored and “picked” for cases.
Beyond coursework and rotations, Dr. Sui sought and found mentors among Columbia’s faculty by shadowing doctors in surgical subspecialties. The first person he trailed was James McKiernan, MD, the John K. Lattimer Professor of Urology, chair of the P&S Department of Urology, and urologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian.
“Dr. McKiernan is an amazing mentor,” says Dr. Sui. “He brought me into the fold. I spent a day in clinic with him and a day in the operating room.”
He also took a year off to help Dr. McKiernan run a clinical trial on bladder cancer and to complete epidemiological research on rare cancers. Taken together, his experiences in medical school have instilled an appreciation for the urology field.
“There are a variety of procedures and treatments you can do as a urologist,” says Dr. Sui. “You don’t just have to be an alpha surgeon.”
After graduation, Dr. Sui will move to Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Claire, and begin a residency in urology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The couple married earlier in the spring and traveled to Japan and Taiwan for a honeymoon.
As he prepares for the next phase of his life and a career in academic medicine, Dr. Sui has advice to share with new medical students.
“Enjoy your first year and a half because it’s a great time to get to know a new group of people,” he says. “Make lifelong friends. Keep your mind open to different possibilities.”