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Meet J.D. Serfas

J.D. Serfas

Degree: M.D.

Hometown: Asheville, NC

After graduation, J.D. and his wife and baby son, are moving to Boston so he can start his internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. He plans on sub-specializing in either cardiology or pulmonology/critical care and then pursue a career in academic medicine.

Q: What inspired you to take up your field of study?

A: My path to medical school was an unusual one, After college, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a professional actor, without even an inkling that medicine would be my eventual career choice.  While there, I also worked as a teacher and tutor, and I found the relationships I established with my students to be very rewarding.  Through conversations with my father, who is a tremendous physician and role model, I came to see that a career in medicine could offer similar rewards through the doctor-patient relationship, and also fit my interest in science and intellectual curiosity.

Q: Who at the University encouraged you along the path to your degree?

A: Dr. Ed Haponik, in the pulmonary/critical care division, has been a wonderful mentor and advocate for me, especially as I navigated the intimidating and complex process of applying for residency positions.  He always encouraged me to do my best, even when it was tempting to settle for something less, and I’ve always appreciated that. Thanks, Dr. Haponik!

Q: What class did you enjoy most and why?

A: My favorite class was my month-long rotation in the Medical Intensive Care Unit during my fourth year.  Learning to take care of patients when they’re at their sickest — and how to compassionately help patients’ families through some very challenging times — was both humbling and highly educational.

Q: What surprising or unexpected happened during your time in medical school?

A: To some extent, every patient encounter is a surprise.  One of the most amazing things about practicing medicine is that people will share the most intimate details of their lives with you within minutes of meeting you. I’ve discovered that every person I see has a fascinating, surprising story to tell, so long as you listen.

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at Wake Forest?

A: The birth of my son! He was born four weeks early this past December. My wife went into labor just three hours after I had returned from an interview! Thankfully, the birth was uncomplicated (my wife was a champ), and our baby boy is happy and healthy.

Q: Did you have time to volunteer?

A: I’ve had the good fortune to work extensively with DEAC (Delivering Equal Access to Care), Wake Forest’s student-run free clinic for the underserved, throughout my four years here. I’ve served as a volunteer, research director, advisory board member, and for the past year, one of the directors of the entire clinic. It’s been an enlightening experience to see so many patients get help from fantastic Wake Forest physicians.

Q: What is the most dramatic change you’ve undergone during your medical studies?

A: Without a doubt, the most transformative period for any medical student is the third year, which is the first year that is spent exclusively in a clinical setting. It’s one thing to read about a disease in a textbook and take multiple choice tests on which medications are used to treat which conditions, and it’s an entirely different thing to see real people, with families, loved ones, and lives outside the hospital, being affected by those same conditions. Caring for those people is a true privilege, and it’s one that I first experienced as a third year student.

Q: What does earning this degree mean to you?

A: It’s very gratifying – it’s taken a lot of work to get here, and I’m excited to begin the next stage of my training.

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