Zipurksy poses with three SACH patients, including Houzanoul (left) after his heart surgery.

Meet Jonathan Zipursky DMS ’12:
The 2011-2012 Syvertsen Fellow

Discovering the Heart of Medicine

It was a three-year-old boy named Houzanoul who helped Jon Zipursky understand and feel the gravity of congenital heart diseases in children. The summer after his first year in medical school, Zipursky had traveled to Israel to volunteer with the nonprofit organization Save a Child’s Heart (SACH).

“I vividly recall watching Houzanoul run around the yard behind the SACH house, stopping every few minutes in tears to catch his breath while squatting low to the ground,” wrote Zipursky in a Spring 2011 feature article in Dartmouth Medicine magazine. Zipursky is the 2011-12 Syvertsen Fellow, an honor given to a fourth-year medical student who exhibits the qualities that Dr. Rolf C. Syvertsen embodied, such as academic excellence, scientific rigor, and humanism.

Zipursky’s experience in Israel was “formative,” he says, not because he plans to pursue pediatrics--his interests lie in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and oncology--but because it showed him the toll an illness can take on a family. It’s not just the patient that a physician cares for, he learned, “it’s everyone around them, too.”

That realization is one of many that Zipursky experienced during his four years at DMS. With a degree in biochemistry, he entered medical school with a passion for the science of medicine. But it was his passion for delivering excellent and compassionate clinical care that really blossomed during his time as a student, thanks, in part, to his experiences in Israel and his DMS mentors.

Zipurksy was particularly moved by how much DMS physicians care about their patients and how much they enjoy their work. He found that especially true when he took an elective rotation in gastroenterology at DHMC. The faculty and the fellows “were really excited and enthusiastic about what they were doing and that really pulled me in.” Zipursky credits Assistant Professor Corey Siegel, who directs Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, with sparking his interest in gastroenterology and giving him the opportunity to learn how to design and carryout a research project. Under Siegel’s guidance, Zipursky developed a survey to test the effectiveness of an interactive, online tool in educating patients about colonoscopies.

“He’s guided me through the whole research process and helped me to develop my own ideas,” says Zipursky. So often medical students are asked to help with a project that is already in progress, he says, but Siegel “helped me create a project for myself.” That has been “an invaluable experience,” says Zipursky---an experience that will serve him well, no matter which field he chooses. 

As for being named a Syvertsen Fellow, Zipursky says the honor meant even more to him after attending an honorary dinner with his fellow Syvertsen Scholars and the Syvertsen Memorial Alumni Committee. “Hearing the way former students talked about him,” he says, “you could see how inspiring he was.”

But what resonates the most with Zipursky when he thinks of this legendary DMS professor and mentor is Dr. Syvertsen’s “love of learning and passion for medicine.” So far in his medical career, Zipursky embodies both qualities--and many more.

January 2012

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