Future M.D. meets Marine Ecology
A future medical doctor gets the opportunity to study marine ecology in the beautiful, Florida Keys. So I am a full-time student at Rutgers studying biology and for once in my life, feeling like I am on the right path. I have spent a lot of time switching majors, changing my goals, traveling, doing real estate and never felt I was on the path, which God intended for my life. That is until now. I want to become a doctor and not just a doctor, but also a good doctor!
“What makes a good doctor?” one might ask. Well, for a lot of people they would say someone that is compassionate, ethnical, respectful, maybe even one with great MCAT (medical school admissions exam) results. Which for me, I believe I possess. But besides possessing all those characteristics, I believe a good doctor is one that is well knowledgeable. Not just knowledgeable in biology as a biology major, but in as many subjects as possible. I am not a traditional student nor medical school applicant; most people believe that could be a disadvantage but I find the strengths in it. For example, I possess a Liberal Arts degree and a pharmacy technician license. The Liberal Arts degree gave me many free electives that I spent taking a lot of psychology courses. The medical admissions exam now tests psychology.  Also my pharmacy technician license gave me the opportunity to put my chemistry class in motion and compound drugs for patients. I was able to not only gain hospital experience but also the opportunity to shadow doctors in their practices.
Most college students on the same journey of becoming a doctor like myself do not see the need of courses besides it being prerequisites to certain medical schools. But I can see strengths out of every subject I studied. For example, the importance of physics with force and motion, when a patient is going through rehab after an extremely bad stroke is crucial. Or what about the need for pharmacologic treatment for your patient, we do not live in the Stone Age, and the rapidly changing treatment option is built based on the foundations of chemistry.  Acetaminophen for your patient’s headache or ibuprofen for their swollen ankle, both is composed of chemicals.  I could go on forever, but you can see why I decided to study Marine ecology with Dr. Vagelli and my colleagues. All experiences, especially science courses interlink with each other. So to be able to have the chance to study marine ecology, I jumped at it.
Dr. Vagelli passion for his studies and his students to succeed is beyond admirable. It was the first day in the water and within the first hour, I could tell Dr. Vagelli enjoys what he does.  It is very rare to have a professor that is not only equally excited to teach you as he is in enjoying his field for himself.  Coming into this experience with absolutely no marine ecology or marine biology courses, I was nervous. But every time I asked a question or wanted to know why a certain organism did something, Dr. Vagelli was eager to answer. Even at times when I drifted beyond in the water, he would call me over so I wouldn’t miss something cool in another area of the water.  Dr. Vagelli wanted not only me, but also all of his students to thoroughly enjoy the experience in the Florida Keys; and we definitely did.
I definitely enjoyed everything about this experience but the highlight would be learning about the horseshoe crab.  Dr. Vagelli caught a horse crab for us to hold and begin to inform us about the importance of horse crab’s blood to medicine.  I was so intrigued, how this little invertebrate could be so helpful to humans in medicine. I was so amazed and still am, that I am interested in during further research in them.  According to an article in CNN, over 600,000 crabs are captured during mating season to donate around 30% of their blood.  Research on the horseshoe crabs gave medicine the gift of endotoxin testing. This test called the “Limulus amebocyte lysate” (LAL) and is based on the fact the horseshoe crab gels or clots when it comes in contact with endotoxin.
In conclusion, even though marine ecology is not necessary my field of expertise, I have learned a lot.  The horseshoe crabs and their contributions amazed me so much; I am already thinking how I can research them some more.  Even though my plans is to hopefully get right into a medical school after my bachelors in biology is done; if I do not get in, I plan to get my masters at Rutgers.  Getting my masters from Rutgers will give me the opportunity to not only enjoy some more of Dr. Vagelli’s courses but to also study horseshoe crabs as my masters’ thesis. I also would like to mention, I conclude this course with increased knowledge on marine ecology and being able to bring “more to the table”, as a future doctor. And for that, I am beyond grateful!