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As Laura Hagopian ’06(Chelmsford, Mass.) enters her fourth year of college and begins applying to medical schools, she does so unsure of the particular branch of medicine she will ultimately practice.

But if she one day finds herself leaning toward pediatrics, Hagopian will know exactly what’s in store for her thanks to an alumni internship with pediatrician Philip Goldstein ’70 at Pediatric Medical Associates in Rydal, Pa.

“I’ve gotten to see a lot and gotten a lot of exposure to pediatrics, not only in primary care, but in a specialist’s setting,” says Hagopian, a chemistry major elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa.

For four weeks in July, Hagopian shadowed Goldstein as he cared for children in three different clinics.

“This was really a rotation for Laura to get a real overview – comprehensive exposure to what goes on in a suburban pediatrics practice,” Goldstein says. “I wanted her to get a flavor of all aspects of the practice and get a feel for what she enjoys and what she is interested in.”

While Hagopian could not actually practice medicine, she was involved in watching patient exams, observing patients, and listening as diagnoses were made.

“There are two different offices for his pediatrics practice, and one is in sort of a white collar neighborhood and the other is in more of a blue collar neighborhood,” Hagopian says. “I got to go to the [healthy] baby nursery, examine [healthy] babies, and talk to parents and be a part of the advice they were given. I also went to the neonatal intensive care unit at another area hospital with Phil’s wife, neonatologist Dr. Jan Volin, and through that saw deliveries, cesarean sections, and how neonates and premature babies were cared for. I’ve seen 26-week-old babies and one that was only 1.2 pounds, so that was an amazing experience.

“But my favorite thing was visiting an inner city, family medical clinic – that’s really interesting. You’re helping people who really need it, and that always has given me a sense of satisfaction. I like community service — I do a lot of it at Lafayette — because it just gives you a good feeling at the end of the day that you have helped someone who needs it.”

Goldstein says although Hagopian was limited in the amount of work she could do, she did not hesitate to learn about specific diagnoses on her own and ask relevant questions.

“Laura is clearly an ‘eyes wide open’ sort of person and takes advantage of every opportunity she has to see and hear and learn,” he says. “She spent extra time in the office and is a tremendously motivated student who really wants to get a flavor for what pediatrics is about so she can make a rational career decision.”

Hagopian admits her current interests lie in treating children; however, she is keeping the door open to other specialties she will be exposed to in medical school.

“The experience has been a really great meld,” she says. “I’m a chemistry major and I enjoy the science of chemistry, but I need a career where I’m interacting with a lot of people on a daily basis. I need the activism and social elements and I think that’s what makes medicine so great for me.”

Even if Hagopian doesn’t go into pediatrics, or decides to focus exclusively on inner city medicine, Goldstein is glad he was able to show her the spectrum of pediatrics.

“Getting exposure to all of this is a really unique window into the world for her,” he adds.

He also found some personal rewards in lending his expertise to Hagopian.

“Kids contemplating medicine really need to see what medicine is all about so they can make good career decisions,” Goldstein says. “I thought that through my association with my practice, I could give a student something I didn’t take advantage of as a pre-med. I love to teach bright, motivated students and thought ‘what better place to find them than at Lafayette?’ This is a way for me to give something meaningful back to the college that has done so much for me.”

Last year, Hagopian was the second consecutive Lafayette student to earn the annual Lehigh Valley American Chemical Society Organic Chemistry Scholarship, receiving a $1,000 award and an additional $100 prize for writing the best essay. She also received Lafayette’s Chemical Rubber Company Freshman Achievement Award, presented to the most outstanding first-year student in general chemistry, and its American Chemical Society Division of Polymer Chemistry Award, given to the sophomore or junior chemistry major with the most outstanding performance in the first two semesters of organic chemistry.

She has conducted EXCEL Scholars research with Chip Nataro, assistant professor of chemistry, to produce new compounds and find catalysts. She presented her findings last year at the 227th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif., which published the abstract she coauthored.

Hagopian participates in several programs through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center, including directing the Meals at Third Street Program, Best Buddies, and the Midnight Run, in which approximately 30 students deliver brown bag dinners, socks and mittens to the needy in New York. She is also a DJ for Lafayette’s radio station and has participated in intramural sports. She also is a certified medical technician with the Easton Emergency Squad.

Categorized in: Academic News