Dr. David Schwartzberg (Class of 2011): The Anatomy of a Surgeon
As a Junior Chief General Surgery Resident at NYU Langone Medical Center, Dr. David Schwartzberg runs an entire surgical team either at the Manhattan VA Hospital, Bellevue Hospital or NYU Tisch Hospital. Every day, he makes decisions impacting patient’s lives by managing their pre- and post- operative care and with his attendings, performing some of the most advanced operations in the country. Nearly a decade earlier, he was a medical school applicant unable to enter a U.S. program due to his low MCAT score. This is Dr. Schwartzberg’s story:
Family of Medicine
Though Dr. Schwartzberg comes from a family of physicians, initially he wanted to become a musician. After a long conversation with his grandmother, she guided into the medical profession as he switched his business major to pre-med midway through college. Though he remembers wanting to be a pediatric heart surgeon as a child, he is now focused on surgical oncology, specifically colo-rectal oncology.
Putting in the Work
After just falling short of getting into a U.S. medical school, Dr. Schwartzberg considered spending two years performing research in a lab and retaking the MCATs before reapplying to U.S. medical schools again or forging ahead and applying to a Caribbean medical school. He enrolled at AUA, where he proved U.S. medical school admission committees wrong: he excelled during Basic Sciences and won the Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity’s Outstanding Medical Student award while becoming an anatomy prosector and teaching assistant.
He chose AUA over Ross and St. George’s because he could complete all of his clinical rotations close to home in New York, at the same locations that U.S. medical students rotate. For his electives, he focused exclusively on surgery and pursued research opportunities that would eventually land him his position at NYU.
“You should get involved with research early and ask attendings physicians during clinical rotations about research opportunities,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “If you’re really passionate about becoming a surgeon, you’ll need to give up your free time.”
After graduation, Dr. Schwartzberg obtained a Categorical General Surgery Residency at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ, but continued building his research credentials. His research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering focused on colon cancer, particularly concerned with patients at risk of being afflicted with a rare, aggressive form of the disease and operative treatment strategies. Additional research was in the field of pediatric surgery to identify metabolic surgical options for obese children as well as other projects. One of his projects helped identify computerized orders that became a problematic ordering tool.
“There was a belief that using computers would spare us from human error when forming a diagnosis or documenting orders,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “However, the results of my research proved that these computerized systems produced more errors than humans during the early implementing phase.”
Dr. Schwartzberg is now one of six Junior Chief Surgery Residents to be appointed at NYU for three reasons: his research, awards, and scoring in the top percentiles on the American Board of In-Training Exam (ABSITE). Before earning this prestigious residency, he received the Sills Award for being an outstanding teacher to medical students and fellow residents as well as the David Averbach Award for Outstanding Resident, Best Surgical Manuscript and multiple other academic accolades. At Sloan-Kettering, he earned the Dr. Murray Brennan Research scholarship, which gave him an opportunity to meet with the top surgeons in the United States. His decision to attend NYU also allowed him to see some familiar faces.
“All of my friends and family live in New York and I really relished being able to live closer to them,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “NYU is one of the best hospitals in the country and there is no better place to train,” he said.
Since he started his residency at NYU, Dr. Schwartzberg has been working around the clock. Up at 5am he reviews labs, radiologic imaging and vital signs before leading a team to care for and treat his patient’s. By 6:40AM, he makes recommendations on which patients should have an operation that day.
He spends the rest of the day teaching students at NYU School of Medicine as a Junior Teaching Assistant and focuses on surgeries until midnight. His routine starts all over a few hours later. Even though his hours are long, he still finds time to work on more research projects at Sloan-Kettering, study and start a family. Next year, his final year at NYU, he will be one of the Chief Residents in General Surgery. In the meantime, he will continue to work to become a leader in his field and eventually become a surgeon.
“Patients come up to me and ask if I can be their surgeon,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “As a resident, I can’t give them a card since I’m just a resident, but it’s nice to know that my work is making a difference in their lives.”