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Resident Biosketches

Elliot Tapper, MD  - PGY3

I was born in Winnipeg, Canada and made my way to the USA to study biology and political theory at the University of Chicago. While I was there, I got bit by the research bug, surprisingly if not glamourously, while analyzing hormone metabolites in squirrel poop. I went to directly medical school at Emory where my particular interests in medicine and research started to take shape.

Early on, I met a dyspneic patient with end-stage liver disease and portopulmonary hypertension. She would later walk out of the hospital with a transplant and never look back, making me fall in love with the liver. I published my first paper on our institution's experience with her condition and quickly found that research was an invaluable way to learn deeply about our patients and their conditions. As a third year, I sat in on a hepatobiliary disease management conference that involved surgeons, radiologists and pathologists. What I saw made me interested in studying the way that teamwork creates a product worth more for patients than the sum of each of our shared experiences. I went on to report in a series of papers how this conference improved outcomes for patients with liver cysts, pancreatic cancer, and pancreatitis.

So when I was looking for residency that would support my goals and shared my interests, I immediately learned that the BI was a place where I could thrive. The focus on continuous quality improvement, track record of encouraging resident scholarship, generally supportive atmosphere and rich history were extremely attractive. Truthfully, though, BI had me at M&M - 8am on my interview day . I had never before witnessed such a dynamic, intense yet collegial, evidence-based discussion focused on improving patient-care processes. It was inspiring. I was thrilled to match at BI and the years since have been the most meaningful and productive of my life.

People have told me that it's often hard to find a good mentor. I found four, each of whom has been amazing. And the research opportunities they've made available are the stuff out of which I could make a career. My research here has had three major themes. I have been involved with outcomes and quality. I developed a quality-care checklist to standardize rounds on the liver service and we're tracking outcomes. I'm also looking at our institution's outcomes with a multidisciplinary liver tumor board. I've looked at the role of investigational techniques in liver disease including a computerized method of biopsy evaluation and a modified ultrasound probe that is used to noninvasively determine fibrosis. Finally, I even got into the lab, developing a mouse model for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. With these experiences, I've presented at national conferences every year of residency and continue to publish. Looking forward, I feel secure that I've acquired the tools needed to found a solid career in academic medicine.

Obviously, though, there's more than research here at BI. Above all, the people - I look forward to coming to the hospital every day. My co-residents are some of the funniest, smartest, most supportive people I've met. The patients are diverse, challenging, compelling and fun at the same time. And because of the firm system - always having ward months on the same floor - I've really enjoyed being part of a team with the same nurses and other staff. Based on what learned here, I feel prepared for anything.

Andrey Zinchuk, MD  - PGY3

Born in Ukraine, I immigrated to the U.S. in 1992 at the age of fourteen. Becoming a doctor was not even on the table, I was going to become a professional soccer player. But, the well developed high school soccer system in the U.S., put my dreams in perspective. I thus spent my teens in Connecticut under the wing of my engineer uncle, assembling ultrasonic cell membrane disintegrators (and playing soccer with lesser aspirations :)

Excited by membranes and unusual sources of energy, I majored in chemical engineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. I took premed courses "just in case" and worked as a patient care assistant on a Neurology ward. Upon graduation, I went off to work on simulating pharmaceutical formulation processes at Pfizer's R&D in Groton CT. Three years later it became clear that my focus had to shift to medicine. What can be more exciting then putting the most ingenious systems of our bodies in context of peoples' life stories?

UCONN medical school allowed me to explore both. I spent as much time as I could in the intensive care units, trying to apply engineering principles to cardiopulmonary, renal and neurological systems. But I was also fortunate to work on a topic near and dear to my heart, the Chornobyl disaster in Ukraine. I spent many months in my home city of Lviv, trying to give voice to the women who suffered from the incident, through study of the impact the event had on their reproductive and mental health. At UCONN I also found my two other passions, medical education and my wife.

I came to BIDMC because of the warm and real interactions I had with all of the faculty and residents during the interviews. Although I matched in Neurology, my preliminary year at BI helped me realize that internal medicine and I were meant to be. I fell in love with my classmates, the incredibly thoughtful faculty and program's commitment to education and quality improvement. I transferred back to medicine where I found home for my interests at the intersection of cardiopulmonary and neurological systems in critical care and sleep medicine. I hope to pursue fellowship in both. Its amazing how cool physiological systems can be when analyzed by non-conventional methods (I am currently studying the links between cardiopulmonary coupling, sleep and cognition).

BI also offered me tremendous opportunities to work on something very important to me, medical education. I have had great opportunities to both learn from and teach my colleagues at BI and Harvard medical students. I am very much looking forward to focus on the teaching next year, as a one of the chief residents.

When not at work, I spend time with my one month old daughter and my wife while hiking, biking and photography help me recharge.

Tomer Barak MD, Msc TMIH, DTMH - PGY 2

Tomer is a second year internal medicine resident at BIDMC. He was born and raised in Israel where he graduated from the Tel-Aviv University Sackler School of Medicine. In 2003, after completing a one year medical internship, he joined the Israeli army as a military physician to fulfill his three years of obligatory national service during which he acquired valuable experience practicing primary-care and pre-hospital emergency medicine. After completing his military service he got a job as an expedition physician in the southern reaches of Argentina and spent a wonderful year living in the wilds of Patagonia where beyond suturing the odd laceration he got to participate in biological conservation research and learn Spanish from local Gauchos. He then went on to spend two months on a tiny tropical Island off the cost of Honduras as a doctor for a marine biology expedition. Between treating his colleagues' baro-traumatized ears and tending to the odd case of Caribbean Rum intoxication he managed to complete more than 70 dives and obtain a Dive-Master qualification. This was followed by 8 months in Nigeria where he got his first taste of sub-Saharan Africa working as a primary care physician in various clinics along the Atlantic coast and, amongst other things, diagnosing and treating numerous cases of Malaria.

Wishing to continue to combine his passion for far-away places with his love for practicing clinical medicine he went on to acquire a Master's degree in Tropical Medicine and International Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as well as a Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the Royal College of Physicians in the UK. His Tropical Medicine studies led him to South America where he researched the effects of geohelminth infections on allergic disease in children of rural communities on the Pacific coast of Ecuador.

"My years of work and study abroad helped solidify my intention to devote my future career to work in underdeveloped countries and contribute to the efforts of making health-care available to the world's underserved populations. But in order to make a significant contribution in this field I felt very strongly that what I needed to do first was to get more clinical training and I was determined to get the best training possible". During his studies in London Tomer met a BIDMC alumnus who told him about the residency program at BIDMC. "She was fresh out of her internal medicine residency at BIDMC and positively raved about the program- she told me about her amazing colleagues, the wonderful teachers and the incredible support she had received to pursue her interest in Global Health…well her enthusiasm was contagious.." Tomer was overjoyed some months later to learn he had been accepted to the program. "Now, over a year into my residency, I could not be more thankful for having been given this opportunity. The chief strength of the program is that it is able to provide residents with a firm grounding in general clinical medicine and at the same time allows them to prepare for their future career and pursue their specific interests." In Tomer's case, not surprisingly, these interests included Global Health and HIV primary-care. He was able to join both the Primary Care and the Global Health tracks of the residency program. "I get to spend almost all of my primary-care time managing a panel of HIV-positive patients at Fenway Health; this past summer I and two other like-minded residents were given the opportunity to take a three week course in Global Health Delivery at the Harvard School of Public Health; I just got back from spending two weeks doing rural medicine with the Outer-Cape Health Services on Cape-Cod; and later this year I will be travelling to Botswana to spend four weeks at a rural hospital affiliated with our residency program." And these, he points out, are just the cherries on the day-to-day pie of hard-core internal medicine in the wards, the ICU's and the emergency department. "It's been intensive, but I really feel how with every passing day at BIDMC I am becoming the doctor I want to be and acquiring the skills and knowledge that will serve me in good stead in my future career. "

Elana Rosenthal, MD - PGY 2

Elana grew up in Maryland where, from a young age, she accompanied her father to work in the emergency department in inner-city DC. This exposure to patients struggling with the consequences of poverty and poor health helped cultivate an early interest in social justice and providing health care for low-income patients. When she went to college at Yale University, she participated in several organizations focused on delivering health education and health care to indigent populations. During this time she was also able to spend a summer in India working in an urban slum clinic, to participate in a two-week exchange program to Hong Kong focusing on public health, and to volunteer at a clinic in Haiti. These experiences exposed her to the barriers the world's poor face in accessing basic medical care and fostered an interest in global health.

Elana subsequently attended the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, where her passion for caring for underserved patient populations in the U.S. and abroad continued to grow. Clinical experiences in the south side of Chicago, as well as a month-long rotation providing medical care for remote fishing villages in Cambodia, served to highlight the stark disparities in health care that persist in both the US and developing countries, as well as the challenges in providing care in resource-poor settings.

Elana came to BIDMC for residency because of its commitment to providing quality care to all patient populations, the dedicated faculty, and the amazing residents. She is part of the primary care track, allowing her to serve indigent patients in clinics at both the Dimock Community Health Center, which serves patients in the Roxbury area, as well as the Concord medium security prison. She is also part of the global health track, through which she traveled to Botswana to provide clinical care and participate in quality improvement projects at the Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole. Going forth, her goal is to specialize in infectious disease so she can provide both primary and specialty care to underserved populations domestically and in developing countries.

Jonah Cohen, MD - PGY 1

Jonah was born in a small town in upstate New York, and moved to Rhode Island to attend Brown University for college where he was part of Brown's eight-year medical program. As an undergraduate, Jonah majored in the Visual Arts in addition to the pre-med coursework. He took classes at the Rhode Island School of Design as well as in Florence, Italy, where his artwork focused on painting and drawing. While in college, he became increasingly interested in writing and performing music. Thus, after graduation, he moved to Boston where he produced several albums of original music and toured nationally playing shows at various colleges and club venues.

Jonah returned to Brown for medical school where he developed a passion for cancer biology, teaching, as well as research. Following his second-year in medical school, he moved to Bethesda, Maryland to live at the National Institutes of Health sponsored by a fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. There, he worked in the lab of Dr. Carter Van Waes studying mechanisms of tumorigenesis and targeted therapies in aerodigestive squamous cell carcinomas. He finished his medical studies at Brown and was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha and Gold Humanism honor societies.

Following graduation, Jonah completed a categorical internship in General Surgery at the Brigham and Women's Hospital with initial plans to pursue a career in surgical oncology. However, during his surgical training, he realized that the field of Internal Medicine offered more opportunities for his areas of interest. He chose the BIDMC Internal Medicine Residency because of the program's unique culture of outstanding training, resident camaraderie, as well as the emphasis on teaching, research, and quality improvement. Jonah hopes to integrate his experiences in medicine and specialize in a field with interventional elements. Outside of the hospital, Jonah enjoys spending time with his wife Elizabeth and family, running, cooking and playing music.

Mary Linton B Peters, MD MS - PGY 1

My path to medicine was not direct, but fortunately it brought me to BIDMC and to this wonderful program. I'm originally from South Carolina, but have lived in Boston for almost 20 years and consider it my second home. I came here for college, studying Biology and French Literature at MIT. I enjoyed the intellectual balance of literature and lab work during college, and now appreciate the irony of having a BS in Humanities. After graduation I moved to California and studied medical decision making at Stanford, intending to pursue a career in health policy. One summer I took an internship at a local strategy consulting firm. This unforeseen opportunity turned into a wonderful career. Strategic Decisions Group focuses on using the tools of decision analysis to support strategy setting in a variety of high-risk, high-reward industries. I found my niche in life sciences, and went on to develop tools in portfolio management, early-stage R&D strategy, and business development. I worked around the world, building a client base that included global pharmaceutical firms as well as venture-funded biotechs. I was elected to partnership, discovering the unique challenge of being responsible not only for supervising and managing a team, but also bringing in business. I was fortunate to work with smart, talented, highly committed colleagues who taught me an enormous amount. As much as I enjoyed this work, one late night on a plane trip home I started to ask myself if this was the career I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. How else could I contribute? How could I craft a life that was both fulfilling and exciting, challenging and rewarding?

Medicine was the clear answer. Not long after that mid-flight epiphany, I found myself trading in business suits and frequent flyer status for textbooks and anatomy lab. (I'll admit I miss the status every time I fly home.) I attended U Mass Medical School, and during my time there was fortunate to find mentors in both clinical medicine and research to help me further define my interests. I pursued research in Parkinson's Disease, served on several school committees, and became involved with the MA chapter of the American College of Physicians. It was soon apparent that the hard-won skills of my former career would enhance my medical career and my goals in clinical research. Throughout these transitions, I continued to volunteer at MIT with a variety of student organizations and as an interviewer.

It was a great gift to become a student once again, and to appreciate the rich set of skills a physician must develop. Here at BIDMC I am constantly impressed by the combination of compassion and intellectual rigor represented by the residents and faculty. The practice of medicine here is both an art and a science, imbued with professionalism and a commitment to quality care that is inspiring. Every person on the team, including nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, social workers, case managers, physicians of every discipline and stage of training, and in particular patients, are ready to teach. I hope to pursue fellowship training in oncology, possibly including palliative care. I would like to use my background in medical decision making to help patients and physicians develop better tools for treatment decisions and goals of care discussions. Not many people have the chance to pursue their dreams in the middle of their lives, and not many have the benefit of so much support. Each night I go home to Cambridge to my brilliant husband, a variety of dying plants, and a collection of far too many books, grateful for the chance to be a part of this community.

Christopher Richards, MD - PGY 1

Chris Richards was born and raised in Lee, New Hampshire where he grew up hiking, back packing and rock climbing. His mother is a school nurse and his father is Dean of the Graduate School at the University of New Hampshire. During high school, Chris spent his summers working at an auto garage learning how to repair cars and rebuild engines. He went to college at Bates in Lewiston, Maine where he studied chemistry and environmental science. Medicine was not something that was on his radar at all until his junior year of college. In part inspired by his love of Pauly Shore movies, he had planned on spending a semester living in the Biosphere in Arizona studying ecology and astronomy. Then, just days before the application deadline, the program abruptly closed. On a whim, Chris applied to the last available program and soon headed off to Cape Town, South Africa. In Cape Town, Chris lived with several families, and, while running an after school program in one of the city's townships, was struck by the HIV/AIDS epidemic raging there. Moved by the impact of HIV/AIDS on the children he worked with, on his return to the US, Chris contemplated a career in medicine.

After graduating from Bates, Chris moved with his now wife, Sarah, to Washington, DC to work at the NIH. He worked in the laboratory of Dr. Dean Hamer on a project to develop microbicides to prevent the spread of HIV. The research focused on engineering colonizing strains of E coli to secrete antiviral peptides to block infection during intercourse. While in D.C., Chris continued to do volunteer service working for the city's needle exchange program Prevention Works!. Through this program, Chris facilitated needle exchanges, provided HIV testing, drug and alcohol counseling and medical services that many of the city's injection drug users would otherwise not have accessed.
Two years later, Chris entered Harvard Medical School where his interests in medicine were broadened. Recently, Chris has become very interested in oncology and has worked with Dr. Toni Choueiri of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute to publish several studies about the adverse effects associated with VEGF inhibiting drugs. As a resident, Chris has been working in the clinic of Dr. John Doweiko, providing primary and specialized care to a large number of HIV positive patients. Today, Chris is trying to find more ways to blend his interests in oncology and HIV/AIDS.

Chris recently married his college sweetheart, Sarah, who is now an immigration lawyer at an NGO in Boston that provides legal representation to immigrants facing deportation. They live in Jamaica Plain with their 4-year-old black lab, Luna. In his free time, Chris likes to spend time with his wife and puppy, run, hike, read history books, cook, garden and paint.