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The Geisel Experience - Ellen Stein


Ellen Stein

Medicine captured Ellen Stein's imagination long ago. She'd been skirting the profession for years. As a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) in rural Vermont and New Hampshire, she taught the basics of wilderness medicine to college students and trained Uzbek doctors how to conduct successful EMT classes.

It wasn't until she returned to Dartmouth—Stein received an undergraduate degree in1986—as an assistant dean at the Thayer School of Engineering that she thought about medicine as an alternative career.

The idea of medical school took root when she attended a talk about wilderness medicine by Geisel alum Marshall Denkinger, MD '87, an emergency medicine physician with a practice high in the central Rocky Mountains. She left the lecture thinking, "I want to do that!"

It's no wonder Stein is attracted to emergency medicine. Energetic and athletic, with an easy manner, she's not content with staying indoors. She has always participated in a variety of recreational sports, including skiing, hiking and trail running, along with competitive swimming and rowing, which left her with a deep love of the outdoors and a need to be out in the fresh air as often as possible.

Years of working as an EMT and teaching SOLO Wilderness First Responder classes, gave her a clear understanding of the dangers associated with being injured while hiking or skiing in remote areas miles from the nearest road or hospital.

And although emergency medicine and its accompanying lifestyle attracted Stein, she still had lingering doubts about medical school. Instead, she settled on becoming a physician's assistant (PA) and began taking the necessary prerequisite biology classes before applying to a PA program.

But taking classes alongside pre-med students proved to be a pivotal moment for her.

It's great to know that everyone at Geisel is invested in you.

"I realized my classmates would be going on to medical school and I'd be doing something else," Stein recalls. "I was jealous."

After an encouraging conversation with Sue Ann Hennessey, Geisel's assistant dean for student affairs, and an equally inspiring conversation with Joe O'Donnell, MD, senior advising dean, Stein eagerly jumped into her next adventure.

Reflecting on her experience, Stein is satisfied that she made the right choice. Her transition to medicine was easier than expected. She's enjoyed the camaraderie of her Geisel classmates and the relationships she has developed with professors. "You can really get to know everyone well," she says. "I feel incredibly supported."

This past year, there were a lot of rotations—a new one every six weeks—but Stein knew from the beginning she would practice emergency medicine she says.

Stein will soon be immersed in a three-year emergency medicine residency at Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, MA, an academic medical center affiliated with Tufts Medical School.

After that, who knows, "I may end up back in a small town in rural Vermont," she says.

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