The Motivational MD
Bryan Volpe ’20 is a biology major with an eye for detail and a mind for the medical field. His interest in Pace started early; he went the extra mile and sat in on a few biology classes on the Pleasantville Campus when he was still in high school. But it was the size of those classes that struck him: there were no more than 30 students per professor. “That kind of collegiate atmosphere is a rarity in universities throughout [the US], specifically in the scientific community. Many biology and chemistry students [...] often feel like just another number in their major due to the sheer volume of students,” Volpe told us. “I believed in Pace’s capacity to provide me with the mentorship and direction that I needed to grow as an individual.”
Taking advantage of those very mentoring opportunities early on, Volpe began conducting groundbreaking research with Dyson Assistant Professor of Biology Aaron Steiner, PhD, who he’s been involved with for over two years now. Along with Leslie Sanchez ’18, the three have been studying regeneration of hair cells in zebrafish. They hope to be able to apply positive findings to better understand how hair cell regeneration can potentially work in the human body. “I’ve always been compelled by the desire to disentangle the underpinnings of biological phenomena; driven by the chance to connect molecular dots,” Volpe explained.
“This great mystery and the chance to solve it is what draws me back to the lab every single week,” he continued. “There’s no place I’d rather be—energy pulses through my veins like electricity through a power line when I’m in [the] lab conducting confocal imaging of interneuromast cells.” This past July, their group presented at the national conference in Boston for the Society of Developmental Biology.
Of his numerous positions at a variety of work placements over the years, Volpe has also completed a staggering 561 hours of intensive clinical shadowing at The Valley Hospital of Ridgewood, NJ, where he was accepted into their physician shadowing program. “I specifically functioned as a pre-medical student where I was extensively instructed and taught by powerful physicians. Their wise teachings and my time with them not only bolstered my foundational knowledge base, but also provided me with direction,” Volpe explained.
All throughout his time at the hospital, he diligently carried a notebook everywhere with him. When people asked why, he answered with just one word. “Effort,” Volpe said. “To me, effort exists within all of us. No one can give us effort—it can only emanate from the decisions that we make pertaining to decisive action.” He filled each of those notebooks with annotations regarding his observations with each physician. It’s that kind of dedication that exemplifies the work ethic Volpe so clearly has.
There is, perhaps, no better example of this than a story he shared with us about his mentor at the hospital. Previously, the long-standing record was 15 patients transported in seven hours. They shattered that record by transporting 18. “We kept up that pace for the next three weeks, and individuals throughout the hospital began to notice us. I was cognizant of the fact that when coupled with hard work, modest tasks can give birth to extraordinary opportunities,” Volpe said, and he was right. “I was invited to shadow an RN in the cardiac unit, [and] she eventually pulled some strings to get me into the coronary catheterization lab.” He got to witness a patient’s heart being saved—and his mind was blown. “Since that moment, there hasn’t been an hour that has passed where I haven’t thought about going to medical school or getting my MD.”
Volpe has called his journey a “metamorphosis” over years of dedication and effort. We look forward to hearing about more of his many accomplishments in the future—and the patients he will inevitably save.