Friday, May 4, 2018

Fourth-Year Student Reflects on Obstacles and Journey to Medical School

Alex Geiger has wanted to be a doctor since he was a little girl.

Geiger, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, remembers walking out of a store in rural New York thinking it would be amazing to be a physician and to be able to help others.

His journey has had many obstacles, including coming out as a transgender male and undergoing a transition, but throughout all of these struggles, his goal of becoming a doctor has been a constant.

“How many people can honestly say that they became what they wanted to be when they were five years old?” he said. “It has been nearly 25 years since I decided to become a physician, and I feel so deeply honored to be achieving this dream.”

Geiger will join 80 other medical students May 7 when he graduates from the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. Ceremonies will begin at 3:00 p.m. from the campus at Fifth and Van Buren streets, and students and faculty in full regalia will be led by the Phoenix Pipe Band to Symphony Hall. The commencement program begins at 3:30 p.m.

Alex with His Husband Tray“My story has greatly impacted the way I interact with others,” he said. “It reminds me that every individual you meet has a rich journey, filled with their own obstacles that brought them to that point. It reminds me to give each person I meet the benefit of the doubt, cast aside judgment and treat others with kindness. I hope to bring this compassion to the bedside to make a difference in the lives of my patients.”

Geiger grew up in multiple small towns in upstate New York, between Syracuse and Rochester. The smallest of the towns was Cleveland, N.Y., population 750. He attended the University of Connecticut and received a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and Arizona State University for a master’s degree in public health.

The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix was an easy choice for Geiger. He said he could tell from the multiple mini-interview process that the school didn’t just value science, but the human side of medicine, as well. After he received his acceptance call, he canceled his interviews at all the other medical schools he was applying.

The culture is the number one reason I decided to attend the College of Medicine – Phoenix,” Geiger said. “It felt like a big family — a place where everyone looks out for each other, has each others' backs and genuinely cares about each others' success.”

Throughout his four years of medical school, Geiger has been involved with a variety of clubs, volunteer activities and student-led programs, including being Community Health Initiative – Phoenix (CHIP) leader for Crews’n Healthmobile, a Phoenix Children’s Hospital outreach initiative for local youth who live on the streets; Native Health; and the American Diabetes Association. He also was a leader for LGBTQ in Medicine; an active member of Medical Students for Choice; a mentor for teens aging out of the foster care system through the Arizona’s Children Association; and a camp counselor for kids with Type 1 Diabetes through Camp Souring Eagle.

After graduation, Geiger will begin a four-year residency at Indiana University in internal medicine – pediatrics.

“I chose internal medicine – pediatrics because I enjoy caring for patients throughout their lifespan,” he said. “I felt that this residency, which evenly splits four years between internal medicine and pediatrics, would best prepare me to care for both children and adults with complex illnesses.”

The biggest support for Geiger throughout medical school has been his husband, Tray, and his older sister.

“I'm pretty sure everyone in Plymouth, N.H., where she lives, knows that her brother is going to be a doctor,” Geiger said. “She keeps me grounded and reminds me of where I came from. I don't get to see my family often since they're on the other side of the country, but they're coming out for graduation and I couldn't be more excited.”

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About the College

Founded in 2007, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders to optimize health and health care in Arizona and beyond. By cultivating collaborative research locally and globally, the college accelerates discovery in a number of critical areas — including cancer, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular disease. Championed as a student-centric campus, the college has graduated 433 physicians, all of whom received exceptional training from nine clinical partners and 1,800 diverse faculty members. As the anchor to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, which is projected to have an economic impact of $3.1 billion by 2025, the college prides itself on engaging with the community, fostering education, inclusion, access and advocacy.