The Geisel Experience - Ben Grass
Ben Grass envisions a fulfilling life living and practicing medicine in a small rural community, and becoming a vital part of that community.
"I'm happiest when I'm part of a small community," says the Denver, CO native and cycling enthusiast.
A family medicine preceptorship in Granby, CO and a family medicine clerkship in Valdez, AK, confirmed that family medicine is the right choice Grass says. "When I'm around family medicine doctors I feel like I'm with my people. They have a very pragmatic approach to medicine."
Unpredictable medical emergencies and a broader view of patient care are two reasons that family medicine appeals to Grass. And while this can present unexpected challenges—late night patient visits and a long stretch of days without time off, the benefits of being the immersed in a community where you may be the only physician for hundreds of miles is the ideal situation for Grass.
"When you're a family doctor in a remote area, you're going to have patients coming to your house unannounced," he says. "I may be too idealistic, but the benefits of being in a community that wouldn't otherwise have a physician outweighs everything else."
In his experience, family doctors are empathetic, well-rounded individuals with a wholistic and practical approach to medicine, which aptly describes Grass.
This firmly held belief stems from personal experience—an experience few medical students have.
Midway during his first year, Grass was diagnosed with cancer. He's fine now, but his illness left an indelible mark and reaffirmed his desire to practice family medicine.
"Most residents don't know what it 's like to be a patient," he says. "You can't, until you lay in that bed and wait for pathology reports and answers to your questions. Waiting is the universal experience of being a patient. Luckily, my doctor took full control of my care."
The strong sense of community here is remarkable—people are deeply committed to the school and to student well-being.
Geisel's small, cohesive community was supportive of Grass in every way. "There are remarkable people here—Ann Davis, Joe O'Donnell and Dino Koff to name a few—who have a deep commitment to the school and to student well-being," he says. "And my classmates are such amazing people. I don't think I'll ever be part of a group of people who are this close."
Any description of Grass' experience at Geisel must include his love of cycling. Initially a mountain biker, he began road racing and was captain of Dartmouth's cycling team during his second year finishing among the top five road racers in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference. And this year, he won the conference sprint leader jersey and held onto it throughout the season—a rare feat in the sport.
"Racing allowed me to meet so many people in the community I would not have met otherwise," Grass says. "The riding in Vermont is some of the best in the country and racing is something that I'll always be passionate about."
Once Grass begins his family medicine residency in Missoula, MT, his racing days will be on hiatus.
"I'll be riding for recreation," he says. "There isn't a strong road racing community in Missoula, it's all about mountain biking."