Meet Amy Chan, DMS '11:
2010-11 Syvertsen Fellow Recognizes Dr. Sy’s Enduring Influence

Amy Chan expected to learn a lot at DMS, but she didn’t anticipate how much the experience would shape her. “Dartmouth made me a better person,” she says. “I didn’t expect that.”

Chan, who holds a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford, came to DMS after six years working for IBM in New York City. “We were always racing against time, trying to beat the competition to make the faster processor. Dartmouth taught me to slow down, to think before I speak, and to really listen,” she says. Chan finds that these lessons, taught in DMS’s On Doctoring course and modeled by her mentors over the last 3½ years, have not only shaped her interactions with patients, but extended to other relationships as well.

A pre-med and engineering major at Duke, Chan had imagined herself designing medical instrumentation. But when she found herself working on Play Station 3 and XBox 360 after several years at IBM, she decided it was time to change course. “It was getting me further and further from what I really wanted to do, and I was missing the human aspect,” she says. “That was when I decided to go back to medical school.”

At DMS, Chan gravitated toward geriatrics. “I love that patient population,” says Chan. “I like to take care of them, and they have a lot of interesting medical issues. If we take care of them well and keep them out of the hospital, we can keep them at home and keep them enjoying life.” She soon joined, and later led, DMS’s geriatrics and palliative care student interest group, which included training as a Hospice volunteer and accompanying visiting nurses on home visits to elderly patients.

But for Chan, the “Ah ha!” moment came during her neurology rotation at the beginning of her fourth year. “I realized that we were applying electrical engineering principles to understand the circuitry within the brain,” she says. “You get positive feedbacks, you get negative feedbacks, you get tonically on, tonically off – it was all strikingly familiar to me! There’s so much we can quantify in the brain electrically. I saw an exciting crossroad where not only may I be a future clinician and take care of patients, but I may also find a use for those electrical engineering skills I’ve collected. And of course there is a lot of the older population within neurology.”

Chan hopes to match with a neurology residency in the vicinity of New York City, where she and her husband, Daniele Casarotto, are based. The couple, who married in June 2010, have lived apart for six of their ten years together due to Chan’s pursuit of advanced education and his overseas assignments for IBM, where they met and where he continues to work.

Although Chan could have attended medical school in New York City, she chose to be four hours away, at Dartmouth. She explains that what drew her to DMS in 2007 are the same qualities that Dean Rolf Syvertsen sought to instill more than 50 years ago. “When I listened to the Syvertsen era students talk about Dr. Syvertsen on the video about him, each one of them encompassed exactly what had brought me to DMS. It’s about taking time to care, taking time to listen, finding what you love, and really doing your own personal best at it.” says Chan.

Of her selection as the 2010 Syvertsen Fellow, Chan says, “I look up to these qualities. To know that, leaving here, I have taken on some of these same qualities and can bring those with me – that means a lot to me. So much of how I approach my patients is shaped by the core values from DMS. Dartmouth gave me the academic medical training, but it also gave me that integrity. It molded who I am as a physician and as a person. That’s something beyond my expectation.”

December 2010

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