UMHS Class of 2021 grad Dr. Esther Galant was born in Haiti and moved to the USA at age 11, living in New York for most of her life. She starts an Anesthesiology residency at Rush University Medical Center in Illinois this summer.
The UMHS Endeavour caught up with Dr. Galant to talk about her early interest in medicine, why she chose UMHS over other medical schools, her upcoming Anesthesiology residency, advice for current and prospective medical students and more.
Early love of biology & medicine
Little girls dream of becoming many things, but Dr. Galant said she had a love of biology and medicine at a young age.
“I’ve only wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “Which is a mystery to me, because growing up in Haiti, I didn’t have much interactions with physicians. In high school, I always looked forward to biology class. I still remember learning about villi in 11th grade. The surface area and absorptions were the most mind-blowing thing to me. I attended Long Island University for undergrad. My thought was, if I have to study something for four years let it be a topic I love, so I was a biology major. As the years went by, my love for biology reinforced my decision to go to medical school.”
An intelligent young woman with a passion for biology like Dr. Galant certainly had her choice of medical schools when it was time to apply, but she decided on UMHS for many reasons.
“What attracted me most to UMHS was the small class size and the approachable staff. I learned from undergrad that I do best in a small group. Before applying, I read the student blogs on the school website. It was clear that the staff and students were welcoming and accommodating to incoming students. I would always see students talk about going to the professors’ offices at any time. That is something I appreciated.”
Professors and staff in St. Kitts helped guide her through the basic sciences portion of the program.
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“All of the professors on the island were amazing and had their own unique style of teaching which made the material easy to absorb,” she said. “Going into medical school, I was expecting the greatest academic challenge. To my surprise it was all the other components of life that challenged me the most. I am so grateful for [Student Affairs Coordinator] Ms. Tameisha Daniel. She was part of the welcoming committee and was the first staff member I met from UMHS. During the time on the island, I cried in her office, prayed and laughed hysterically in her office. She is relatable, always has an encouraging word and filled in the gap created from being away from home.”
Studying on St. Kitts offered unique experiences that were challenging but ultimately helped Dr. Galant.
“I joke and tell my friends that ‘dedication is studying with candlelight.’ I was on the island for two hurricanes and that made me more resilient and flexible. Being on the island also gave me insight about a different health care system.”
Studying medicine abroad offered many advantages for Dr. Galant, training her to become the best doctor possible.
“Learning in a different culture and being in the hospital on the island allows students to be more understanding of individuals different from themselves, making them more compassionate,” she said. “One important characteristic that I believe will make students graduating from UMHS stand out is flexibility. Clinical rotations in the States are all about being able to move to different affiliated sites. That also eliminates the fear that students may have about moving to different states. After all, the majority of us end up moving away for residency.”
The basic sciences and clinical experience at UMHS were both key to Dr. Galant’s success.
“Having a solid basic science understanding from the island gave me a great foundation to build on throughout the years. It all started with [Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology] Dr. Thomas Last knocking his own glasses off his face, out of excitement, while teaching cell biology. Another component which I believe helped is rotating at different facilities. I got to network with physicians and residents at different hospitals and programs. Lastly, having rotated in different states gave me the opportunity to tell programs during interviews that I have spent time in your city and am confident this is a place I would be happy living in.”
Anesthesiology residency in Illinois
Dr. Galant starts an Anesthesiology residency at Rush University Medical Center in Illinois.
“I am overly excited for this opportunity. This was one of my top programs. I still cannot believe I am getting the opportunity to learn from some of the country’s top pain physicians. And get to live in a city that I love! It will not completely sink in until I am in a Rush University lab coat on their medical floor.”
Dr. Galant finds Anesthesiology a fascinating specialty.
“There is a meme of a duck floating on a pond. Over the surface it looks like it’s just enjoying the breeze and relaxing but under the surface, it shows its legs working really hard. That is how I see Anesthesiology and that also fits who I am as a person. Additionally, through my rotations I discovered I enjoyed taking care of acutely ill patients. My last rotation was in pain medicine in Louisiana. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it. Anesthesiology gives me the opportunity to do pain management and take care of acutely ill individuals.’”
She said she has specific plans for her residency.
“One of my goals for residency is to practice more self-compassion and be more generous with my time and energy. I want to inspire and empower my co-residents, attendings and patients in everything I do.”
Advice for current & incoming students
Dr. Galant has a few tips for current and incoming students at UMHS.
“Your time on the island is going to go by fast,” she said. “Go study on the beach because you will not get that chance again.”
When it comes time to apply for residency, Dr. Galant advises students to seek help and guidance from the UMHS Office of Academic Affairs.
“The Match process is stressful wherever you go. I admire [Associate Dean of Academic & Student Affairs in New York] Patrick McCormick for easing the stress and anxiety by being transparent and always responding in a timely matter.”
How COVID-19 changed medicine
Entering residency at the end of the pandemic might give some new doctors pause, but Dr. Gallant is confident that the public has more appreciation for medical professionals after what everyone has experienced.
“I believe the public fully understands the significance of physicians. This pandemic shed a lot of light on physicians’ work environment, their mental health and the sacrifices physicians make daily.”
For Dr. Galant, the pandemic taught her a lot.
“I learned about the relationship of political input, hospital leadership and the community we serve. It also taught me the power of educating and establishing trust with the community we serve.”
In addition to the many UMHS professors and staff professionals who helped her along the way, Dr. Galant also leaned on friends for support during med school.
“I would be ungrateful if I didn’t thank my two friends Francesca and Domani for always coming through with exclusive information and all the jokes,” she said. “We have grown so much together, always providing honest feedback to one another. I believe if we combine all our characteristics, we would make one epic superhero doctor.”
(Top photo): Dr. Esther Galant. Photo courtesy of Dr. Galant.
Scott is Director of Digital Content at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.