Binghamton University alumnus gives students a look into the life of an anesthesiologist

A Binghamton University graduate came back to campus to speak to students about the path to becoming a doctor.

Dr. Michael Wolff, a working anesthesiologist at UHS Wilson Medical Center and member of the class of 1980, visited BU Friday.

According to Wolff, entry into medical school in the United States has become highly competitive in recent years.

“It doesn’t matter if you send out 20 applications and get rejected by 19 of them. All you need is one and you’re in,” Wolff said.

He emphasized that it takes many years of work and school to begin practicing medicine.

“The path to becoming a doctor does not end after college or medical school,” Wolff said.

First, applicants must be accepted into medical school, where Wolff described the first two years as an extension of college. In the third and fourth years, medical students start doing clinical rotations, which consist of four-to-six-week periods in subfields such as obstetrics, pediatrics or anesthesiology. Students also must make the decision of which specialization they want to go into and apply to internships and then residency programs.

The application to residency programs differs from that of applying to undergraduate or medical schools. It’s a process Wolff called “the match,” where the student ranks the different residency programs across the nation, a centralized agency then ranks the students from the perspective of the residency programs and everyone gets matched up with their highest-ranking combination.

The type of specialization a student goes into is influenced by external factors, such as observing older doctors practice their field. Many times, a student’s preconceived notion of what field they would specialize in changes in medical school. Wolff recounted that he initially wanted to go into obstetrics and gynecology because he loved delivering babies, but in time ended up choosing anesthesiology.

“There’s so much in medicine,” Wolff said. “There’s something for everyone.”

Trends are influential in medicine as well. Wolff said that sometimes anesthesiology is big, and some years a different field is popular because of new government findings or something popular in the news.

Wolff also talked about alternatives to medical school, such as nurse anesthetists who he said work phenomenal hours and can also earn a high salary. He also said he knows many anesthesiologists who wish they were nurse anesthetists.

Jake Driscoll, a junior majoring in biology, said he wants to be a nurse anesthetist because he wants to help others while still earning a great salary and having plenty of time for his life outside of work.

Wolff also mentioned medical schools in foreign countries as a viable way of becoming a doctor.

He also discussed going to osteopathic medical school, which may be easier to get accepted into, instead of traditional medical school. A doctor of osteopathic medicine is licensed in all 50 states to prescribe medicine, perform surgery and perform all the other functions of a standard medical doctor, but an osteopathic doctor is certified in an alternative brand of medicine that focuses on how the body’s structure affects its function. Osteopathic doctors will look for manipulations and adjustments to make to bones in order to solve medical issues. Wolff emphasized that these professionals are equal to their medical school colleagues in pay and lifestyle.

“You can go anywhere in the country and get a job,” Wolff said.

W. Thomas Langhorne, a pre-health professional adviser who helped set up the event, said that the night’s turnout was good. He said that there are about six lecturers a year, and this is the third year in a row they have been holding this speaker series.

Langhorne said the most popular majors for prospective medical school students at Binghamton University are integrative neuroscience and biology, adding that the success rate of entering medical school is typically between 60 and 65 percent.