Student Hospitalist Scholars: Discovering a passion for research

Leaving finance to study bone biopsies in osteomyelitis.


Editor’s Note: The Society of Hospital Medicine’s (SHM’s) Physician in Training Committee launched a scholarship program in 2015 for medical students to help transform health care and revolutionize patient care. The program has been expanded for the 2017-2018 year, offering two options for students to receive funding and engage in scholarly work during their first, second, and third years of medical school. As a part of the program, recipients are required to write about their experience on a biweekly basis.

When I decided to leave the business world to pursue a career in medicine, I envisioned myself in a clinic or an operating room helping the people in my community with the knowledge and skills acquired in my medical training. The thought of becoming a researcher had never even crossed my mind.

I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, a city which has no major academic medical centers. Prior to entering medical school, I was enrolled in a postbaccalaureate program at Johns Hopkins University, where I took the basic science classes necessary to apply. I was quite surprised to learn that, even at this level of education, I was required to participate in a research project. This experience changed the way I envisioned my entire career as a physician.

I am now a fourth year medical student and a pioneer of the “new curriculum” at Weill Cornell Medical College. In contrast to the traditional medical school curriculum, Cornell carved out 6 months of protected research time for all medical students by condensing the preclinical curriculum from 2 years to 1.5 years. I learned how much I enjoyed research at Johns Hopkins, which is one of the main reasons I applied here.

Despite my interest in research, I still struggled with the ultimate career question: What kind of doctor do I want to be?

After completing my medicine clerkship, I remember feeling intellectually stimulated in a way I hadn’t experienced in the previous years. While this may have had to do with the subject matter, I attribute much of this feeling to my clerkship director whose passion for medicine and teaching was contagious. I ultimately chose Ernie Esquivel, MD, to be my research mentor because of how much he impacted my education.

Cole Hirschfeld

Together we came up with a project to study the utility of bone biopsies in the management of osteomyelitis. We are doing this by analyzing changes from empiric to final antibiotics after bone biopsy results become available to determine how clinicians use this information to guide their management of the disease. We were also interested in analyzing predictors of positive bone cultures in this population. The success of this project will mostly be based on our ability to perform these analyses, regardless of what the results may be. We hypothesize that, in fact, bone biopsy results are not likely to have a significant impact on antibiotic management of osteomyelitis in nonvertebral bones.

I was one of the lucky few to be awarded a grant from the Society of Hospital Medicine, which will be instrumental in the success of the project. This grant will not only support my ongoing research efforts but will also afford me the opportunity to attend the annual SHM conference and become integrated into the medical community in a way that would otherwise never be possible.

Cole Hirschfeld is originally from Phoenix, Ariz. He received undergraduate degrees in finance and entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona and went on to work in the finance industry for 2 years before deciding to change careers and attend medical school. He is now a fourth year medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College and plans to apply for residency in internal medicine.

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