Third Year

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Elyssa Berg MD
Yale University

Hello, reader of my bio! I’m so excited to be in Chicago and a part of the U of C EM family. I have lived in the northeast most of my life, and was determined to flee cold winters for residency, yet the people I met during my visit and the strength of the program made more of an impression than the (truly unseemly) weather, so here I am, and I couldn’t be happier!

I grew up on Long Island, which is the large polyp-like land mass hanging off Manhattan. After my budding trombonist career was cut short by anatomical inadequacy (my arms were too short to reach all the notes), I settled on medicine as a career. I traveled all the way across the Long Island Sound to lovely New Haven, CT to attend college at Yale University, where I majored in psychology while taking premed classes. Like a proper overachiever, I had amassed enough credits by senior year to graduate early, but instead I took a semester off to travel around New Zealand volunteering on organic farms. It was an incredible experience that left me with no desire to return to my old routines, so after graduating I made like a trustafarian (minus the “trust” part) and decided to do some more traveling.

I ended up living in Vieques, Puerto Rico, where I worked as a server and bartender until my charisma, amazing draught-pouring skills, or possibly the evolutionary drive that makes a middle-aged man want to impress a young woman led to a job care-taking a vacation home, which, in spite of my retrospectively ridiculous dreadlocks (yes, that happened) I managed to parlay into a larger business. Property management was a fun challenge, and taught me the valuable skill of appearing to know what I’m doing when I actually have no idea, a skill I expect will come in handy during the first weeks (ok, months) of intern year, but ultimately, the poverty and poor health services that I witnessed renewed my desire to pursue medicine, so that I could improve healthcare for underserved populations.

I spent a couple of years working at a substance abuse research lab in NYC running clinical trials with marijuana, an experience which can best be described as “The Real World: Marijuana Withdrawal.” My CV sufficiently beefed up (a.k.a., having gained valuable research experience that will benefit me in my future career as a physician-scientist). I finally applied to medical school, and ended up returning to Yale, which I loved so much I spent an extra year doing research! (So if you’re doing the math, that makes me… yes, old!)

I’m still into gardening, and even managed to score an apartment with a yard here in Chicago, so hit me up in the summertime for some veggies. I also love cooking, and eating. When not doing something food-related, I enjoy bicycling and talking to/petting any dog I see like an insane person. I’m excited to explore Chicago, meet my co-interns, and start my training!

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Andrew Bokarius MD
University of California, Irvine

It was a cold November night in Russia when my twin sister and I were born. Raised in the beautiful and cosmopolitan St. Petersburg, I grew up embracing hobbies such as painting, sculpture, and poetry, which I enjoy to this day. My other hobbies include sports, web design, and cooking.

After immigrating to the United States in 1995 and completing high school in Los Angeles, I decided to stay in Sunny California for college. During my undergraduate years at UCLA I studied music composition and physiology while working in a lab where I investigated mouse and human brains. Although mouse brains were easier to slice, I developed more of an interest in the human brain and body, which led me to study physical therapy.

Upon completing my B.S., I worked with chronic pain patients and was fortunate enough to be able to present my research at international pain conferences in Hong Kong, Budapest, Glasgow, and Montreal. Traveling all over the world sparked a desire to explore more foreign countries, so I accepted a six-month long externship in Prague where despite my limited Czech I managed to learn unique new bodywork techniques from renowned specialists.

Upon my return to LA I was inspired to put my new skills to good use, so I took part in setting up a free alternative medicine clinic in LA and launched an emergency service called “Musicians’ 911” for helping musicians in acute pain crises. These endeavors fueled my passion for Emergency Medicine, a dynamic field where you don’t know what’s in the next room, and you have to be ready for anything—exactly what I love about my work.

I was initially skeptical about finding “the one” perfect residency program with so many great options available, but fell in love with the University of Chicago after meeting the amazing residents and faculty and visiting the spectacular city.

Speaking of “the one”—my fiancée and I were so happy and excited to find out I had matched at my number one choice, we ran down to the local courthouse and tied the knot the very same day!

It may be the memories of cold Russia or the sophisticated, European vibe of Chicago that attracted me to long winters in the city. As I write this on our road trip from LA to Chicago midway between Lake Tahoe and Salt Lake City, I look forward to discovering all the wonders of Chi-town: the music, the culture, the food – not the least of which is Giordano’s and Portillo’s.

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Colton Clay MD
AXA Resident Director University of Washington

I’m Colton, born and raised in the great state of Alaska where I spent my early years camping, fishing, and frolicking in the snow to my hearts content. I have a large extended family, of which a majority still live in Alaska, including my parents and my sister. Eventually the long days of bear wrestling and dark nights in a snow cave forced me to venture out into the real world following high school. I attended the University of Oregon where I split my time between playing hockey and wandering around the anatomy labs until I was allowed to graduate with a degree in Human Physiology. I also minored in Art History, so I plan to make full use of the Chicago museums over the next 3 years.

Although no one in my extended family is in the medical profession, I gravitated towards medicine from a young age. After college I spent 3 months in Tanzania, working at a small, underfunded hospital in the town of Moshi. Despite feeling that I had very little to contribute from a medical standpoint, my time in Tanzania provided the additional drive to attend med school and develop the skills that I was missing. I attended medical school at the University of Washington, spending my first year in Anchorage at the “Alaska Campus” and my final three years in Seattle, WA where I had the opportunity to serve as the vice president of my med school class. Despite my multi-year immersion in the Northwest, I managed to stave off an addiction to coffee and organic markets, although I’ll definitely miss the fresh seafood.

As far as interests, I’m still an Alaskan at heart and am always up for a wilderness trip of any sort. I grew up playing most sports, although hockey was my life for my first 15 years and I still enjoy playing to this day. I’m a big sports fan, especially my Oregon Ducks and the Seattle Mariners (they’re the closest geographical baseball team to Alaska). I mess around on the guitar at times and love SCUBA diving (I plan to become a rescue diver during my next vacation block).

I couldn’t be more excited to join the UChicago EM family! Aside from the amazing city and the diverse experiences available in the program, it was really the faculty and residents that I met who solidified my decision to move east. I’m looking forward to spending the next 3 years learning emergency medicine alongside my incredible colleagues!

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Amy Ho MD
University of Texas Southwestern

In short:

I like blood, politics, and mascara.

In long:

I’m a Texan at heart, spending most of my life in Austin, TX (1998-2010). However, I [reluctantly] admit I’m now a boomerang kid to the Midwest—I was born in Rolla, MO. (But migrated quickly to Phoenix, AZ before landing in Texas.)

I grew up really interested in policy and politics—Jon Stewart was my first crush when he covered Bush v. Gore on The Daily Show back in 2000 (I was 10!), and he (and now also Stephen Colbert) still make my heart flutter. Was really involved in journalism and debate in high school and thought I was law or business school bound, but then discovered this great scam that we call the healthcare insurance industry that really stole my interest for reform.

Graduated UT Austin in 2010 and decided to go to medical school to dive straight into the system and hopefully identify areas for improvement from within. I had full plans to mostly do administrative and policy work after graduating, but life had a different plan for me and I ended up falling in love with patient care and emergency medicine.

Obamacare stole my thunder for initiating healthcare reform, and I spent much of medical school highly involved with healthcare policy & politics and organized medicine; now my interest is (besides patients) healthcare delivery, ACA implementation, cost-containment, efficiency/quality improvements, and patient safety and advocacy. Emergency medicine was the perfect place for me as a major access point/gateway into healthcare and also (clinically) the best 15 minutes of every specialty!

Despite the snowy tundra of sub-zero temperatures and windchill that I experienced on interview day, I still could not stop thinking about University of Chicago the months afterwards. On Match Day, I opened the envelope, jumped up & down and squealed until I became hypoxic, and then immediately bought tickets to Lollapalooza. I graduated UT Southwestern Medical with my MD that May, and now I’m headed back to the Midwest!

I spend most of my time running (I’ve done many many many marathons, half marathons and smaller races), traveling (gone to over 20 countries and hope to hit them all eventually!), dancing (East Coast swing is my favorite), doing yoga, snowboarding, wake-boarding, boating, surfing, cooking, playing the ukulele, reading & writing, jamming to new music, and making my mother worry unnecessarily (skydiving, bungee-jumping, ATV-ing, racing cars, etc.)

I can be spotted in my native habitat at music festivals (Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, ACL, Outsidelands, and EDC rank among my favorites), various medical conferences, the gym, the lake, airports, coffee shops & bookstores, and of course: the ED!

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Joffre Johnson MD
Chief Resident University of Alabama

Hey everyone, my name is Joffre Johnson. I was born and raised in Mobile, AL. Growing up I enjoyed all the comforts of Gulf Coast living as my family extends from Louisiana to Florida. If you ever get the opportunity, Orange Beach, AL is one of the hidden gems of the South (Also home of the amazing Hangout Music Festival). I developed my love and appreciation for medicine working in my mother’s nonprofit pediatric clinic, helping to provide care for the underserved children of Mobile.

I attended undergrad at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans graduating with a degree in Chemistry. Two weeks into my freshman year, Hurricane Katrina occurred. When I returned to campus the following spring there was still much work to be done. Whether it was gutting a house that was covered in sewage or cleaning a park so that local children could have a place to play, my friends and I worked hard over the next four years to help rebuild the city. New Orleans will always have a special place in my heart.

After my time in NOLA, I went back to Alabama for medical school at UAB. I got hooked on EM during my 3rd year rotation. I loved the challenge of working up an undiagnosed patient and making prompt decisions on patient care and management. I truly enjoyed my time in Birmingham but felt ready to branch out of the South for the next stage of my training. I was thankful to have the opportunity to do an away rotation at the University of Chicago during my 4th year. The patient population and didactic sessions were great, but what sold me the most was how great the residents and faculty were. Thus, here I am today!

In my free time, I enjoy playing basketball, tennis, flag football, and bowling. I love watching Saints Football (WHO DAT!), college and NBA Basketball. I have a huge passion for music of all kinds. I started DJ’ing in undergrad at campus events but before I knew it, I built a nice side hustle working various events around New Orleans and Birmingham. I also like cooking. I’m always in search of new recipes or new restaurants to try.

I am excited to begin Residency in Chicago and cannot wait to immerse myself in the culture of the city. I look forward to an amazing 3 years learning from and working with an amazing group of physicians. There is no place I would rather be than at the University of Chicago.

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Carrie Jurkiewicz MD
Chief Resident Loyola University

I was born and raised in the south suburbs of Chicago. I first became interested in medicine during my senior year of high school, when I watched a live telecast open-heart surgery during Anatomy and Physiology. In addition, my mom completed nursing school when I was very young, and I’m sure that tagging along to her classes as a child and hearing about her experiences growing up had a subconscious influence on my ultimate career choice. I attended college at Millikin University in Decatur, where I majored in Biology. I then went on to medical school at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood.

Apart from medicine, I have many other passions in life. I started taking ballet lessons at the age of 3 and have no intention of ever stopping. I also started practicing yoga in the beginning of medical school, and I now have a repertoire of sweet poses to bust out at parties. I fell in love with traveling during college, when I completed a two-week immersion course in Chile and then studied abroad for a semester in Australia (proof that Chicago suburbanites actually leave Illinois every once in a while!). Since then I have been lucky enough to go on a medical service trip to Honduras, and I just recently returned from a backpacking trip through Europe. I love cooking and can bake a mean salted caramel cupcake. Finally, I have my dad to thank for my love of nature and hiking.

It still seems surreal that I am starting an emergency medicine residency at the University of Chicago. I knew on my interview day that U of C was going to be my top choice for residency, and I can honestly say that Match Day was one of the happiest days of my life thus far. I am so lucky to have been selected to train with the amazing team at this hospital, and am excited for all the challenges and successes my training will surely bring. I cannot wait to get started!

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Paul Kukulski MD
University of Chicago

Hi everyone! I grew up in Carol Stream, a suburb to the west of Chicago. Growing up in the area I am a huge Bears, Bulls and Cubs fan, so it’s great to still be around for all the games!

I went to the University of Illinois for undergrad. I wasn’t one of those people who always wanted to be a doctor his whole life. To be honest, I decided to go to medical school because I watched a lot of Scrubs during college. Seemed like a cool job on the show. So far it seems to be working out making life decisions based on half hour comedies—I love meeting and talking to patients, especially at the U of C. I’m also very interested in international medicine; I had the opportunity to do some work during medical school in Peru and Nigeria, and I hope to continue being involved in global health during residency.

I don’t even know where to begin to describe what I like to be doing when I’m not busy in the friendly confines of the emergency department. I’m a pretty chill guy so I like to take things as they come and go with it, I could be happy doing almost anything. Sports are big, I’m feeling a big Bears season coming up. I love to be outside, running and biking on the lakeshore path. Hiking, snowboarding, music… it’s all good. Of everything, though, traveling around the world is my favorite. I hope to have the chance to keep traveling—the worlds too big and interesting to not see it!

I’m very excited to be training at the U of C. All I know is that whatever happens in the next 3 years, I get to ride in a sick-fast helicopter.

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Ernest Nwachukwu MD
Baylor University

Hello all, my name is Ernest Nwachukwu Jr. but you can call me EJ. I have an older sister, a younger sister and a younger brother. I was the middle child for a long time before my kid brother was born. I was born and raised on the Southwest side of Houston, Texas.  Since Texas is the greatest country in the world I didn’t go far for college and med school. I studied biochemistry at the University of Houston and went to medical school at Baylor College of Medicine.

For fun I enjoy watching Pro basketball (Go Rockets!) and football (Go Texans!). I love to get out and play pick-up basketball and flag football as well. While I may never become a Bulls/Bears fan I am considering becoming a Blackhawks fan (I hear that they’re good). Other than that I enjoy listening to music and eating good food so I am really excited about all the cool things that Chicago has to offer in that regard.

I’m very thankful for the opportunity to continue my medical training in such an awesome city. Chicago get ready for the H-town kid.

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Jen Nykiel MD
UCAN Flight Chief Brown University

I grew up in Naperville, IL, about an hour south on the Stevenson. I loved math and science in school, and I could literally spend days reading. My first role model was Michael Crichton. My mom, a nurse, used to pick me up from school and take me to work with her, which is where I got the whole doctor idea. From my parents I also picked up such values as compassion, honesty and affection. From my grandmother I picked up a handful of Polish phrases and traditions.

At Benet Academy, I was proud to play trumpet for the Marching Redwings! I spent the rest of my time scheming to escape to the East Coast, and I eventually committed to eight years at Brown. I think my time as a member of Zeta Delta Xi (rrp) prepared me rather well for a career in Emergency Medicine, which I fell in love with during medical school.

Fourth year was a time to re/discover awesome hobbies, including but definitely not limited to camping, climbing, photographing all kinds of animals, jabbering about film and many other things for hours on end, and swimming at The Point, right across the street from where I live now!

Despite my rebellious past, I am beyond thrilled to be back in the great city of Chicago with my incredible partner and my family all around me. I firmly believe that EM is the best thing ever and that this is the coolest program out there; I feel so proud and lucky every single day.

I look forward to meeting and working with everyone on the UC team! Please feel free to contact me, especially if you want to go kayaking, talk about queerness and diversity in or outside of the medical sphere, or plan an epic trip to Hawaii.

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Alejandro Palma MD
Columbia University

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida for the first 18 years of my life but have spent the last 10 years in the Northeast before coming to Chicago for residency. My family emigrated from La Habana, Cuba during the beginning of the Fidel Castro regime and settled down in Miami where I visit them often. I first left Miami to study mathematics at MIT, my childhood dream. While I was there I did computational biology and genomics research, which inadvertently introduced me to medicine. The seed was planted then but after graduation I took a quick detour into the world of foreign exchange derivatives trading at Morgan Stanley. I’ve always been fascinated by the financial markets and global politics that is closely intertwined with them. However, I quickly realized that trading although a hobby of mine would not be enough to satisfy me. The financial crisis in 2007-2008 kept work engaging and interesting but it did not provide the spark I was searching for.

Best decision of my life… I quit!!! Then moved back to Boston and started doing cardiovascular translational research at MGH for a year while I took my MCAT and applied to medical school. In the end I chose to go back to NYC and attend Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons for their large surrounding underserved patient population. While at Columbia, I took every opportunity to get involved in global health. My first summer, I went to Buenos, Aires to do tobacco cessation research and during my fourth year of medical school I took four months to work on a Pediatric HIV RCT trial in Durban, South Africa. I found the latter to be truly satisfying and recommend to everyone who has the opportunity to get involved internationally to do so!

With no ties to the Midwest leaving NYC was a difficult choice for me. Ultimately, I decided that the U of C EM program was worth a new start. Dr. Babcock and the rest of the program leadership really made an impression on me during my interview day. They were energized, full of great fresh ideas, and most importantly invested in me as a potential future resident. The residents were amazing and the opportunity to work in a hospital surrounded by an underserved community once again sealed the deal.

Ok enough serious talk and on to the important stuff. I support all Miami sports teams but most closely follow the Miami Heat (even before Lebron’s arrival), the University of Miami Hurricanes (MIT doesn’t have D1 football) and the Miami Dolphins (although this has been painful since Dan Marino retired). Aside from reading regularly, I still follow the financial markets occasionally and also enjoy talking politics. I exercise regularly which usually entails free weights. You can occasionally find me at an electronic music festival (Spring Awakening coming up) or out at night exploring the bar/club scene. Also, I love to travel and hope to utilize the extensive free time during residency to do so 😉

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Nishma Sachedina MD
Vanderbilt University

I have gotten to live in almost every part of the country, with the exception of the Midwest. I was born and raised in sunny South Florida, went way out west to Stanford University for college, and soaked up the charm of the South in Nashville, TN, for medical school. I even threw some Northeast in the mix by living in New York for two months. After living in some of the greatest cities I could imagine, I’m finally heading back to Chicago, where my family got its start.

My parents met in Chicago, and decided to get married after only 2 dates. This city is where my parents met, and where my brother was born, the first American city that my immigrant parents called home before moving to Florida.

I have always had a passion for serving the community, which is what drew me to medicine. While in medical school, I spent most of my extracurricular energy on community service projects: running health fairs for Nashville’s refugee community, teaching free weight management classes to the morbidly obese, and engaging on global health service projects. But beyond that, I enjoy a little bit of everything—rooting for Florida sports teams, traveling, spending time with my friends and family, exploring wine (mostly California reds), and being active. I love meeting new people and
embarking on new adventures, which I am certain will be abundant over the next three years!

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Yong Suh MD
Johns Hopkins University

I love stories. And nowhere in the hospital does one hear stories that are more varied and interesting than those in the emergency department. It is probably for this reason that the emergency department features prominently in so many medical dramas. I grew up watching ER, which partly inspired my decision to explore medicine as a career, and I spent six years during high school and college listening to patients’ stories as a volunteer in the emergency departments of two community hospitals in Georgia.

After studying chemistry in college, I spent a year at the NIH researching the genetics of type 2 diabetes before commencing graduate studies in pharmacology at Oxford University, where I discovered the love of my life—my beautiful wife. Immersion in Oxford’s interdisciplinary environment spurred an interest in the business side of healthcare and led to my pursuit of an MBA. I completed my “residency training” in the business world as a management consultant, investment banker, and hedge fund investor.

After paying my dues on Wall Street, I attended medical school at Johns Hopkins, where I created Hopkins’ first selective course on health information technology and engaged in comparative effectiveness research.

I feel fortunate to begin my emergency medicine training at the University of Chicago. After years of watching a television show about a Chicago ER, I will be working in one and saving lives in the very helicopter featured in the opening credits of the TV show that piqued my interest in medicine.

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Eric Toone MD, MBA
AXA Resident Director Columbia University

Hi everyone, my name is Eric S. Toone and I am glad you have chosen to check out my biography! The University of Chicago is a great place to practice Emergency Medicine and I am a proud member of the class of 2017. I was raised in New York City, mostly the Bronx and Brooklyn, with my three sisters. I enjoyed an excellent college experience at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA where I majored in Chemistry and pursued a year abroad in Nantes, France to double major in and learn French. Afterwards, I took a couple of years off during which I bussed tables, sold cars, spent a summer working in a medical clinic in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala, and finally spent a year dabbling in healthcare administration at North Shore LIJ Health. I continued my education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York, NY, where I became extremely active in enhancing access to biomedical education for students from underserved backgrounds. While at Columbia, I also decided to enroll in the dual-degree program and spent an additional year pursuing a Masters in Business Administration at Columbia Business School, where I focused my studies on Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management.

Outside of Business and Medicine, I like to split my time between turning up and have fun and turning down to lay back and relax. More than anything, I enjoy traveling to do and see new things in new and, or old places. Whenever I can, I like to watch contemporary movies and HBO shows, attending concerts, music festivals, and sports events with friends, and hit the town to check out new or my favorite old bars and nightclubs. I enjoy indoor activities such as: hitting the gym and playing squash; I also enjoy outdoor activities such as: playing football, running, snowboarding, etc.  Most of all I love staying fit so that I can eat as much good food as I want and continue to expand my palate.

I have never lived in the Midwest, and I am really excited to embark on a new adventure pursuing life and practicing Emergency Medicine in Chicago!

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Omar Usman MD
Ohio State

I was born on Michigan State’s campus in the mid-80s while my father was completing his PhD in Mechanical Engineering. My parents and older brother had just migrated from Pakistan a year before, bringing along extreme fobbiness with them. Growing up in graduate student housing, I fondly remember college game-days as thousands of football fans headed to Spartan Stadium. Since then, I have found myself captivated by similar college traditions during my undergrad at University of Michigan, MBA at Northwestern University, and medical school at Ohio State University.

My family hopped around five cities in Michigan before settling down in Northville, a suburb of Detroit. They say that every Detroiter is related to the auto industry somehow; in my case, my father has worked at Ford over the last 20 years. Along the way, we welcomed two more brothers, which resulted in routine mischief around the household (my poor mother). One day we turned our kitchen floor into a slip-and-slide by simply adding water and shampoo! Our shenanigans were promptly halted in 2011 when I married my lovely wife, Mehwish, who brought along some much needed civility to our home.

In my spare time, I have created a handful of websites, including a food delivery service and a social polling network. I was also a business consultant at Accenture for two years before my elder brother dragged me off to medical school. During my final year in medical school, I fell in love with Emergency Medicine and completed an eye-opening medical rotation in Mumbai, India. I love traveling and hope to practice abroad one day. Outside of work, I enjoy cooking, baking, running, biking, and artsy stuff.

I am ecstatic to return to Chicago and re-explore the city. It is an honor to take care of some of the sickest patients from the south side, the most vulnerable to trauma in the west side, and the brightest students and professors in Hyde Park and Evanston. I look forward to working with the wonderful residents, faculty, and staff at the University of Chicago over the next three years.

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Kenneth Young MD
Chief Resident Loyola

Hi Everybody,

I was born in Chicago and moved frequently growing up; living in Virginia, several cities in Colorado, and finally moving back home to Illinois. Coming from a long and storied family of accountants, my first exposure to medicine started in high school, through a health careers program at my local hospital. There I was able to observe surgeries, talk to patients on the floors, and most importantly, spend time in the ER. I spent the rest of my time enjoying running, hanging out with my cross country friends, studying science, and watching the Simpsons. Very little has changed.

I was again drawn to the ER and EMS during college, through both volunteering and personal injuries. Graduating from the University of Illinois, a top-rated engineering school, I am happy to have a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering currently getting as much use as my VHS collection.

I attended medical school at Loyola, where I was fortunate enough to work with great people and amazing mentors. Enjoying all my experiences in med school, from clinical rotations to medical trips to Guatemala and Bolivia, I knew that the all-encompassing field of Emergency Medicine was exactly what I wanted. I had the opportunity to rotate at U of C over the summer, and immediately felt a strong connection with the people and program. My time there was even more significant since a close family member was recovering from surgery at U of C during the rotation, and I was able to visit before and after my shifts.

Needless to say, I am thrilled to start my training at a place that already means so much to me. I am the first doctor in my family and am happy to have already started fielding calls ranging from “look at this rash” to “relocate my jaw.”

During my free time I continue to be an avid (albeit much slower) runner, Blackhawks fan, and trivia champion.