Alicja Dewera-Moczerniuk, M.D.
Pediatric Healthcare Associates, Connecticut
When I decided to pursue my medical degree (right about my 23rd birthday), I soon realized that all application deadlines for medical schools in the US for that year had long passed. But interestingly enough one of my professors made me aware of a possibility of studying medicine in English and for less money in a great country of Poland, which I left for America 10 years before. Even though I thought about waiting another year to make myself eligible for a med school in the US I decided to test the waters and apply to a few Polish schools at once. Soon I learned that I was accepted into PUMS.
How it all began
I have decided to pursue my medical degree right about my 23rd birthday. At that time I was a Montclair State University graduate (Bachelor in Molecular Biology) and began my work career in the cardiology lab of Dr. Steven Vater at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jerseys. Although I found research and working with rats and mice quite enjoyable, I thought that working with people would be even more challenging and interesting. That – more or less – influenced my decision to apply to a medical school.
Just in time
I soon realized that, since it was April of 2003, all application deadlines for medical schools in the US for that year have long passed. But interestingly enough one of the professors from New Jersey Medical School made me aware of a possibility of studying medicine in English and for less money in a great country of Poland, which I left for America in 1993. Even though I thought about waiting another year to make myself eligible for a med school in the US I decided to test the waters and apply to a few Polish schools at once.
Soon I learned that I was accepted into PUMS and was to start my education in September. My newly wed husband supported my decision from the very beginning hence we moved back to Poland with little or no hesitation at all. Now we both look back at those 4 years spent in Poland as the most amazing years of our lives.
Always a helping hand
PUMS – as an institution – was very welcoming and accommodating from the very beginning. Female advisors from Dean’s Office were very helpful and provided assistance with anything that was needed: obtaining health insurance, bank accounts, apartment rental etc. It was important and beneficial especially for students, who did not speak Polish as they always were willing to go out of their way to make things as easy as possible for all newcomers.
When it comes to didactics I can fully attest that all of the professors were very dedicated and knowledgeable. Some spoke with heavier accents then others, but relaying their message was never an issue. They were prominent experts in their fields and they too were always willing to help. Some of them – such as Drs.: Dr. Biczysko, Nowak, Marszalek, Breborowicz or Niedziela – will stay with us forever, not only because they remind us of good times as PUMS medical student, but more importantly they thought us the book knowledge and showed us what it means to be a GOOD doctor.
I took my USMLE STEP 1 in Berlin in 2006 when I was still in Poland, but passing of STEP 2 was celebrated back in the US in 2007. Neither exam caused me any problems, because of education and preparedness I had obtained at PUMS. In 3rd and 4th year we were also subjected to a nationally standardized Shelf Exam – the same test all American medical students take. In addition to that I chose to do my last semester of 4th year as an elective at New York’s SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn. The experience was both thrilling and unforgettable, especially treating of multiple gunshot wounds.
After graduating from PUMS we made our way back to America. All three of us, because during my 3rd year of school I gave birth to our firstborn daughter Ida Marie. Application for residency in Pediatrics followed, which I began in July of 2008. Although I had many good interviews in the Tri-State area I chose the program that was closest to my mother’s place, who was at the time helping us with our daughter, while I was working 30 hr calls every 4th day. Despite of the challenge we were fortunate enough to welcome a new addition to our family, as Antoni Tomasz was born in 2009.
Going into residency
My residency was completed at St. Joseph’s Children Hospital, in Patterson NJ. On top of being conveniently located this program had a lot to offer. Most of teaching attendings were simply excellent. Our Pediatric unit was always very busy and so was the NICU. We had all subspecialties within the house, and the experience and hard work prepared me well for outpatient practice. Patient population was very diverse; you could meet people from all over the world with very unique and medically intriguing diseases. Also, people in the program were as diverse as the patient population: from Australia, Central and South America, Mallorca, Nepal, India, Jordan, Pakistan, and last, but not least Poland.
And the final step…
My final step in breaking into my medical career was finding the right place to practice pediatric medicine. I was a step away of signing a contract with hospital in Saipan, a small island on the Pacific Ocean, but I had a change of heart and decided to join Pediatric Healthcare Associates – a well-run and established practice in Connecticut. I have been with that group since December 2011 and I have been very happy. My day at work is never boring and everyday is a challenge. But I welcome it with all my heart, because I realize that getting involved with so many interesting cases not only keeps my adrenaline running high, but also stimulates my doctor ego to strive for excellence. I really am happy!
Happiness is mostly a by-product of doing what makes us feel fulfilled!