Discovering a Passion for Medicine Through Writing

Stephanie Hart '12CC, ’15PBPM is now a third-year medical student at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and is planning on pursuing a career in pediatrics. But medical school wasn’t always the plan.

December 06, 2019

In 2012, Hart graduated from Columbia College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a special concentration in business management. She landed a job at Morgan Stanley as a special consultant, but quickly realized that finance was not her passion, and began exploring other career possibilities, which eventually led her to screenwriting. 

While working on a screenplay, Hart was confronted with writing a traumatic scene in which her protagonist was shot in the shoulder and hurled into the back of an ambulance. Determined to portray the event authentically, Hart spent hours researching the anatomy of the shoulder. She taught herself about the different layers the bullet would’ve penetrated, what vasculature and nerves the bullet had to avoid in order for the protagonist to survive, and the kinds of vital signs that would make the audience worry about his fate, but wouldn’t ultimately kill him. 

“By the end, I had 20 minutes’ worth of dialogue about the protagonist’s medical condition for what should have been a 30-second scene. That’s when it clicked that perhaps medicine was my passion.”

Shortly after, Hart enrolled in an EMT course in order to confirm her interest in medicine. She eventually became a licensed EMS provider, and decided she wanted to pursue further medical education. 

She chose the Postbac Premed Program because her experience as an undergraduate—both academically and in terms of student life—at Columbia had been positive, and she was intrigued by the numerous extracurricular activities offered by the Program.

Hart took full advantage of the opportunities afforded to her as a Postbac Premed student, including traveling to Nicaragua and Guatemala on a service trip to provide medical care to underserved populations in rural communities. She also served as President of the Premedical Association and a peer advisor, and ran the annual Columbia University Medical School Fair.

Through my experiences at Columbia, I made connections with people who have remained close even to this day, and I couldn’t have made it to this point if it weren’t for the friends, advisors, and mentors I met in the Postbac Premed Program.

Stephanie Hart

Regarding her coursework, Hart dreaded completing the physics requirement, recalling her struggles with the subject in high school. But her apprehension quickly disappeared once classes began.

“Physics actually became one of my favorite classes at Columbia. The physics faculty were so supportive, and always made themselves available to students through office hours or private meetings. In our last physics class, Professor John Parsons excitedly jumped on top of his desk in the front of the lecture hall to explain the research he does at CERN in Switzerland, breaking it down into topics we had learned over the course of the year—which actually helped us review some of the material for the final exam. Physics had always seemed so abstract to me, but his passion for the subject and ability to apply it to his real-life research only helped reinforce the material”

Stephanie Hart and guests at the 2015 Postbac Premed Program Class Day Ceremony

Today, at Vanderbilt, Hart is a part of the Med Scholars Program, performing research in pulmonary hypertension. She recently completed her clerkship year, in which she completed eight-week rotations in the hospital in internal medicine, surgery, OB/GYN, pediatrics, neurology, and psychiatry. Ultimately, she chose to pursue a career in pediatrics.

“It wasn’t until my clerkship that I realized pediatrics was the path I wanted to pursue. I absolutely love working with children. Even the sickest children’s eyes light up when you ask to play with them—and for a few minutes while they play, their suffering seems to be eased. However, I have seen possibly the most challenging cases including child abuse and neglect, and it’s those children who need doctors and advocates the most.”

Hart will graduate from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2021.

“Through my experiences at Columbia, I made connections with people who have remained close even to this day, and I couldn’t have made it to this point if it weren’t for the friends, advisors, and mentors I met in the Postbac Premed Program,” Hart said.