Many people might recognize Dr. Steven Stylianos, a pediatric surgeon at Columbian-Presbyterian Hospital in New York, from his appearance on Dateline after heading the team of surgeon that worked on conjoined twins a few years ago. Last week, Stylianos and two other physicians from the hospital visited the seniors enrolled in Jeff Tarallo’s sociology classes at Memorial High School in West New York to discuss their careers as well as help them with their sociology projects.
“It is so important for [the students] to see what kind of people they are,” said Vincent Silvestri, the director of guidance at Memorial High School. “They are such great role models.”
Dr. Jeffrey Bruce, a neurosurgeon, and Dr. Delores Malaspina, a psychologist and researcher, also spoke with the students.
From the horse’s mouth
The approximately 100 students who attended the assembly last week were able to get firsthand information to include in their projects.
“Besides their own research, the students were able to talk to doctors personally,” said Tarallo.
According to Tarallo, the students were asked to choose from a list of topics that ranged from such controversial subjects as cloning and stem cell research to mental health.
“We took notes on what was said,” said Munoz, who is doing his project on mental health.
Munoz and Jessica Cazorla, who is also doing her project on mental health, learned about schizophrenia and the different types of depression from Malaspina. Malaspina told the students that a lot of stress could cause depression in some people. “We have a lot of stress,” said Cazorla. “We can relate. We have prom coming up, we have finals, college acceptance.”
Melanie Cruz, who is doing a project on the pros and cons of cloning, was able to speak with Bruce about his views of human cloning.
“He thought that there wasn’t enough research out there to perform human cloning,” said Cruz.
Malaspina originally wanted to pursue an acting career after graduating from North Bergen High School. It wasn’t until after she graduated from college with a business degree that she decided that she wanted to become a psychiatrist.
“Some people think that unless you know that you want to be a doctor at 7 or 8 years old, then you can’t be one,” said Malaspina, who decided to study psychology after her sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia. “But that is not true.”
Through their own personal experiences, the doctors showed the students that they don’t necessarily have to know what they want to be right now.
Bruce admitted that he didn’t get into medical school when he first applied. He said he went into teaching before trying again.
Although many of the students did not want to pursue careers in medicine, they left the assembly with advice that could be used in any career.
“If you strive for it, you can reach it,” said Munoz, who wants to be a mechanical engineer. “That is true for any career.”
All three doctors stressed the importance of hard work in any field.
“You have to be reasonably smart,” said Bruce. “But you don’t have to be brilliant. You have to work hard and be very careful about what you do. That is true for anything that you decide to do. If you work hard, you are going to be successful.”
“There is no substitution for hard work or passion for what you do,” added Silvestri.