NYIT Students Win State Jeopardy Competition

October 16, 2015

"What is Boerhaave's Syndrome?"

That answer, in the form of a question, clinched the victory for NYIT's Physician Assistant Studies team at the New York State Medical Jeopardy competition, marking the first time an NYIT squad captured the title. Students Chris Malewicz, Whitney Stewart, and Marisa Testani met only once as a team for a few hours to prepare for the competition on Oct. 11 at the New York State Society of Physician Assistants (NYSSPA) annual conference in Tarrytown, N.Y.

"I would say we were definitely considered underdogs, having never won the competition before," said Testani. "The other schools probably did not consider us much competition."

That quickly changed. Lightning-fast buzzer reflexes and an encyclopedic knowledge of categories ranging from anatomy and oncology to immunizations and neurology led the trio to first, second, and third-round triumphs over teams from Pace and Hofstra universities and Weill Cornell Medical College.

"We decided to trust each other," said Stewart. "Sometimes we whispered answers and discussed them quickly to confirm them, and other times just buzzed in if we were really confident. Marisa crushed the immunizations category for a win over Cornell, and Chris was strong with neurology."

The crowd grew quiet during the final game, cheering only when each team answered correctly; NYIT and Wagner College traded the lead throughout the contest. By the end of play, the score was tied at 3,400.

In the final one-question round, NYIT went all in, wagering its entire point total. Associate Professor David Jackson, NYSSPA past president and Medical Jeopardy emcee, read the clue: "This represents a longitudinal full thickness esophageal rupture." (Translation: Name the condition arising from a tear in the passageway between the throat and the stomach.)

As the team huddled together to record their answers, someone in the crowd whistled the familiar Jeopardy jingle. The NYIT students were fairly confident they had won after learning that Wagner, which had bet 1,700 points, answered incorrectly.

Once Jackson read the answer, NYIT's team members jumped, screamed, and hugged; supporters in the audience added cheers of their own.

"At points they looked more nervous than we were," said Testani, recalling NYIT's fan section of about 15 students. "You could definitely feel how proud they were of us. It was a great moment."

Assistant Professor Kristine Prazak, who served as the team's coach, said: "They took on the challenge in addition to their current course load or clinical rotation schedule, and their hard work was demonstrated in their stellar performance."

Malewicz's medical knowledge of germs also came in handy as he declined a chance for a celebratory trophy kiss.

"I did not kiss it," he said. "I've learned a lot about things people touch."