The Journey to Medicine
When Marsha Alexander (D.O. ’02) graduated from the College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM), she had a special guest in attendance. Her son, only a year old at the time, came to cheer her on. Twenty years later, Alexander has a busy private practice and consults for the Stony Brook World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program. She has four children, and her oldest has returned to New York Tech, now as a part of the seven-year Life Sciences, B.S./Osteopathic Medicine, D.O. program. Alexander sat down with The Box to talk about her life and career.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am the daughter of immigrant parents from India who came to the United States with “two dollars in their pocket and the American Dream.” With faith, favor, and hard work, my parents moved from a tiny apartment in Manhattan to a home in the suburbs of Long Island, where I graduated high school. Along the way, we lived in several neighborhoods, including in Brooklyn and Queens. Though changing schools was not always easy, it did allow me to experience and appreciate various demographics and cultures within New York.
How did you come to study at New York Tech?
I graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology in three years from Stony Brook University. During my “gap” year, I had the fortune of becoming engaged to my husband and the privilege to volunteer in a research lab at NYITCOM. Apart from being drawn to the beautiful campus, I found the staff to be very invested, and the students were great critical thinkers. It seemed that they embodied resiliency and compassion, and it really left a lasting impression. As a result, I decided to apply to NYITCOM, and I have never regretted my decision since. For me, NYITCOM was a place where I gained a deeper appreciation for holistic medicine, great clinical exposure, and personal growth while being surrounded by a diverse, supportive community.
Did you face any specific challenges during your time at New York Tech?
I entered medical school as a married woman, and during my third year of medical school, I became pregnant with my first child. During that time, I was on a surgical rotation, and I was accidentally stuck with a contaminated needle by a surgical resident when he was trying to save a patient, who unfortunately passed away. Needless to say, it was a stressful moment on many levels, but what I remember most is the empathy and support I received from the administration and my peers. I was processing the loss of life for the first time as a medical student and dealing with my fears as a pregnant person who needed to follow protocols after encountering a contaminated needle. In the end, I was okay and so was my pregnancy, and I saw first-hand that caring for future clinicians and, as we learned the art of medicine, patient care was of the utmost importance to the administration and staff.
How did you come to support survivors of 9/11?
I finished my psychiatry residency at North Shore University Hospital at Manhasset in general psychiatry, where I had the privilege of being a chief resident. Then I completed my fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry from Long Island Jewish Hospital. Over the course of my career, I’ve enjoyed working with veterans at the Northport VA Medical Center. Currently, I have a private practice treating teens and adults for various mental health concerns and serve as a consultant to the Stony Brook World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program.
In 2001, I gave birth to my firstborn. I had just brought my premature baby home as a third-year medical student when the 9/11 tragedy occurred, and the country went to war. Holding my son in one hand and my study materials in the other, I wondered what the world would be like for our nation and future generations. Twenty years later, as a clinical psychiatrist, with expertise in post-traumatic stress disorder, I’m grateful to give back and serve others, especially our nation’s veterans and the victims of 9/11. NYITCOM gave me that foundation, and I am a grateful alumna.
This interview has been edited and condensed.