April 16, 2015
He already knew where he’d matched for his internal medicine residency: at his first-choice pick of Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ. So for Michael McEntee, MD, a 2014 Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) graduate, the congratulatory phone call he got from Overlook’s residency program coordinator later that day was just the icing on the cake.
“It was fantastic,” says Dr. McEntee, who was able to recall exactly when he got that phone call—shortly after 2 PM on Friday, March 20, 2015 (Match Day), just after he’d gotten back from work. “She [the coordinator] heard the elation in my voice—she said that they [Overlook] always know, after they hear how excited a new resident is, that they chose the right person for that residency program.”
Overlook Medical Center is just about 30 miles away from his hometown of North Brunswick, NJ.
“Ever since I enrolled, I knew that I was trying to match to a residency in New Jersey, to be close to home,” he says.
“Everything Happens for a Reason”
Interestingly, Dr. McEntee started out his medical career caring not for humans, but for their animal companions. He’d always been a science-minded student while pursuing his undergraduate at Rutgers University, but—speaking candidly—he “never really expected to go as far as getting my medical degree.”
“My MCAT scores were fine, but my GPA wasn’t the greatest,” he says. “And I remember getting a lot of flak from counselors at Rutgers when I was speaking with them about attending medical school. They though it was an unattainable goal…were pushing me in a different direction.”
As it turned out, Dr. McEntee found work—both during and after his time at Rutgers, from which he graduated in 2009—as a veterinary technician. “And the more I worked there, the more I enjoyed the clinical aspect of medicine,” he says. As it turned out, he ended up injuring his hand in 2011 (a severed tendon), which meant he needed to take some time off from work for rehabilitation.
“That’s what kind of spurred me to apply,” he says, thoughtfully. “Everything happens for a reason, right?”
Dr. McEntee, while still an undergrad at Rutgers, had noticed RUSM posters hanging up around campus, and—perhaps recalling what his counselors had told him—decided to submit his application.
“Ross was the only school that I applied to,” he says. “I was just happy to have the opportunity.”
The process moved quickly—he’d interviewed in September 2010, was accepted a month later in October, and soon landed on the island of Dominica in January 2011 to start RUSM’s Foundations of Medicine (basic sciences) curriculum.
The Transition to Life in Dominica
Getting used to island life, he says, was something of an interesting transition—one that ended up benefiting him in the long run. “It was total culture shock,” he says. “I’d never been out of the states by myself before. When I first landed, I considered going home.”
He’s glad he didn’t. “Without a doubt, it’s something that has shaped who I am in a huge way—not just in my career, but how I interact with people on a daily basis,” he says of his time on the island. “I’m a better person all around—I’m calmer, I’m nicer, I’m more accepting. I’m just better. It’s strengthened me, given me real resolve, and makes me feel like I can handle any situation that’s put in front of me.”
RUSM’s organ systems-based curriculum—an approach to teaching that organizes courses by systems within the body, enabling students to see how these systems work together—served as the “backbone” of his education on the technologically advanced RUSM campus in Dominica, he says.
“I think it prepared us as well as any other students, and I’ve rotated with groups of American medical school students, plus students who went to DO schools,” he says. “I never felt like I was outdone, never felt there was a piece of education I didn’t have. In fact, many times I felt like I was more prepared.”
US Clinical Rotations—Close to Home
After completing his Foundations of Medicine coursework, Dr. McEntee left Dominica and flew back to the United States for clinical rotations. He participated in what RUSM calls “tracked” clinical rotations, meaning he was able to complete all of his core rotations at hospitals in New York, within the same general geographic area. In Dr. McEntee’s case, he completed every core rotation—save pediatrics—at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, NY. “They were absolutely great to me,” says Dr. McEntee of that hospital. He was able to stay in New York for most of his elective rotations, too.
Given that the clinical side of medicine had appealed to him during his time as a vet tech, undergoing rotations in the US was an exciting, brave new world for Dr. McEntee. “It’s about showing you have the knowledge base to work, in a productive manner, as a member of a healthcare team,” he says. “In clinicals, they’ll let you go as far as you can.”
Though RUSM students generally get hands-on patient experience during their first few weeks on the island, clinical rotations take things to the next level. “You’ll do suturing, grand rounds…there’s a lot more,” he says. “If you’re spending a lot of face-time with the residents there and are showing the drive to learn, they’ll let you help in simple surgical procedures, hold tools, help close surgical sites, place central lines, teach you how to intubate—you name it, I’ve probably done it.”
Dr. McEntee credits RUSM’s clinical team, particularly Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Gary Belotzerkovsky, for supporting him every step of the way during his clinical experience.
“They went above and beyond to try and make everyone get exactly what they wanted,” he says of the team. “In fact, Gary personally helped me schedule one of my elective rotations. There was never a time that I felt someone wasn’t there either actively trying to address an issue or working on that issue and keeping us updated.”
A Successful Residency Match for McEntee
When he was devising his rank list—applicants need to submit a list of their preferred residency programs to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) after they register for the residency match—McEntee knew he’d be happy matching at any of the five programs he listed. Getting his top choice, he says, made him even happier.
“I’ve heard from my friends that [getting] your #1 or #2 [choice] is the norm,” he says.
Though he enjoyed all of the specialties he rotated through during his clinical years, there was something about internal medicine that he found fascinating. This factored in to his residency decision. “Internal medicine allows you to see a broad array of cases, but it’s also a lot more thought-process-involved,” he says. “You’ll get a lot of in-depth cases where you’re thinking about complicated pathologies, and it would allow me to seek a fellowship afterward.”
That fellowship, he says, would likely be in pulmonary and critical care, an area of medicine he became interested in when his mother was diagnosed with an “obscure form of pneumonia”, something physicians had been unable to fully diagnose at the time.
“I spent a lot of time in the ICU with her,” he says. “Just seeing how the ICU worked, the intricacies of her care—it really sparked an interest in me.”
For now, though, Dr. McEntee is happy to start the latest part of his path to practice.
“Ross provides you with an opportunity that a lot of other places may not give you,” he says. “And you can go as far as you’re willing to take yourself. As long as you’re willing to put in the work, there’s nothing you’ll need that Ross can’t provide.”
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