Christopher Kropiewnicki ’15 Selected for Primary Care Scholars Program at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
When Christopher Kropiewnicki ’15 graduated from Wilkes, his career path as researcher seemed clear. He entered the University of Kansas to pursue a doctorate in computational biology. But less than a year into his doctoral program, he began to wonder if it was the right choice.
That questioning eventually led Kropiewnicki to leave his doctoral program. Now a second-year medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton, Pa., he is among the first group of students admitted to the Geisinger Primary Care Scholars Program. The selected scholars receive a monthly stipend and pay no tuition or fees in exchange for agreeing to work in a primary-care area, such as family medicine, internal medicine or medicine-pediatrics in the Geisinger Health System after completing their degree.
Kropniewicki says that working as a primary care doctor with its emphasis on building long-term relationships with patients will offer what he felt was missing.
“It’s very much working in isolation,” says Kropiewnicki of computational biology, a branch of research biology that uses computer applications to simulate biological systems and interpret experimental data. “I’d go into the lab, work and not really see anybody. That was my day. It was lacking that interaction with people.”
Kropniewicki, who had also considered medical school while he studied biology at Wilkes, left the doctoral program and earned the master of biomedical science degree offered at Geisinger. He also worked in the office of a primary care physician in his hometown of Nanticoke, Pa. While he was there, he saw that the internal medicine doctor who he shadowed had close relationships with his patients, often asking them about family members and inquiring about their lives. “I can’t tell you all the times after appointments that people came up to me and said, ‘He’s one of the good guys. He saved my life.’ I decided I wanted those relationships and that rapport,” Kropiewnicki says.
He had considered a career in medicine while at Wilkes and received guidance from Eileen Sharp, who was then the health sciences advisor. His interest in computational biology also was sparked working on research into RNA modeling with former Wilkes biology faculty member Christian Laing. Looking back, he realizes that even when doing research, medicine was his focus. “All the research projects I applied to were all medical in nature.”
Now he relishes the emphasis on communicating with patients, citing a class in patient-center medicine as one of his favorites. Kropiewnicki has not yet settled on his area of specialization, but says he is considering combining a mental health focus with primary care.