Currently in her fourth year of medical school at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Rachel Kopicki ’12 has returned to Geneva to complete her rural medicine training. Since January, Kopicki has been working at various Finger Lakes Health facilities in the area, dealing with everything from emergency surgeries to sick-calls at the county prison.
Pursuing family medicine, Kopicki is working through SUNY Upstate’s rural medicine elective to complete three core rotations – surgery, emergency medicine, and family medicine – over the course of 10 months at different rural sites in the area. From January to March, Kopicki worked in the emergency department and operating room of Geneva General Hospital, and the Finger Lakes Health Community Health Centers in Ovid, N.Y. and Waterloo, N.Y.
At Geneva General, she was able to scrub in for surgeries with the general surgeons and assist them on surgeries ranging from laparoscopic cholecystectomies to emergency laparotomies. When working in the emergency department, Kopicki explains that she worked 12-hour shifts alongside the physicians, which included seeing patients herself, taking histories, performing physicals, taking vital signs, and even drawing blood, in addition to sharing her input on diagnosis and further consultation.
“It was an amazing learning experience because I was the only student working one-on-one with them, unlike my classmates at SUNY Upstate University hospital who have to share the operating room with residents and other students,” explains Kopicki. “Emergency medicine was very fun because the complaints were diverse and it allowed me to practice my diagnostic skills.”
Although she enjoyed the excitement of emergency medicine and the opportunity to delve into new areas of practice, her family medicine rotation has reaffirmed her plans to pursue a family medicine residency after graduation.
Since the end of March, Kopicki has been focusing on family medicine, working in the Finger Lakes Health family medicine office in Penn Yan, N.Y., and continuing to see patients in the Waterloo office, where she works alongside Hobart alum Dr. Philip Wirth ’96. Working eight-hour days, Kopicki usually sees an average of 10 patients on her own. In a typical week, Kopicki splits her time between both offices, as well as makes an occasional house call and trip to the county prison to do physicals and sick calls.
While her current stint in Geneva is helping her to confirm her decision to pursue family medicine, it was the clinical internships she did throughout Geneva as an HWS student, combined with her interdisciplinary liberal arts experience, that she says solidified her decision to go into medicine in the first place.
“I was not the typical pre-med student,” explains Kopicki. “I majored in European studies with a biology minor. I took all of my pre-requisite courses for medical school, but I made it a point to experience the other things a liberal arts education had to offer.”
Having the opportunity to pursue her “diverse interests at HWS” was instrumental in preparing her for medical school and providing her with a unique a perspective on medicine in graduate school. Combining her interests in the sciences and the humanities, Kopicki completed an honors project, “Ancient Medicine: Progress and Women’s Bodies,” on women’s medicine in ancient Greece and Rome. She also says her semester spent abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark was invaluable.
“One of my courses abroad took me across mainland Denmark to hospitals and clinics and even to Estonia, where my class visited a hospital,” says Kopicki. “I got to see a Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) clinic in Stockholm, and a private orthopedic hospital in Stockholm, too. It was an amazing experience that showed me things I would never learn in medical school, but that have added to my overall understanding of medicine and healthcare systems abroad.”
Kopicki also says that her biology courses and core pre-med courses, such as organic chemistry and physics, were “indispensable,” and have proven to be “clinically relevant” throughout graduate school.
As for the next phase of her medical endeavors, Kopicki says she plans to apply to several upstate NY residency programs for family medicine, as well as several in the north east and Seattle area after completing her fourth year of medical school in May, 2016.