Maxwell Thomas scrubbed in to this first surgery at 14. His uncle, a surgeon, invited Maxwell to observe an operation during a visit to India. Everything made an impression – from the patient, a young man who walked into the office wearing a scarf in 105-degree heat to hide the growth on his neck, to watching the first incision of a tracheotomy.
It was intense, part of a trip that included a visit to a leper colony, Maxwell said, but the experience fueled his interest in medicine. He watched doctors in India work in an imperfect system, often for low pay, “because they loved it,” he said. “There are surgeons who do really complex and beautiful surgeries for people who wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
Maxwell came to Downstate interested in primary care, but will explore all of Downstate’s opportunities. He is researching the effects of tonsillectomy right now on asthma patients in a clinical ENT project at Kings County Hospital.
Maxwell hopes to volunteer at the Brooklyn Free Clinic, a student-run clinic for the uninsured supported by SUNY Downstate College of Medicine alumni. He couldn’t get a spot this year, but will apply again. “It’s a great organization,” he said. It’s a continuation of care for the underserved he first witnessed in India, while being a uniquely Downstate student institution. “It seems like more of us are involved than aren’t involved.”
SUNY Downstate alumni fund the Brooklyn Free Clinic, nearing its tenth year of providing hands-on educational medical experience to students, and vital community health service to Brooklyn.