Return to Blog Homepage

Tutor Spotlight: Dr. David Chapel – Med School Tutors

Dr. David Chapel is one of our most thorough, warm and successful tutors. He brings incredible focus and an incredible fund of knowledge to his work with his students, and he’s famous within the MST family for his attention to detail and his overall amazing level of care.

A consummate professional, David simultaneously puts his students at ease while also encouraging them to up their game. He helps support his students through their work together with compassion, accountability, an awesome sense of humor and an amazing drive. Without further ado, here’s more from David himself!

Where did you go to medical school?

I attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University (in the City of New York, to use the full name). At Columbia, I studied in the Columbia-Bassett Program, a ten-student cohort that, in addition to the general medical school requirements, devotes considerable time to the study of public health, healthcare systems management, and quality improvement.

Where are you doing your residency and in what specialty?

I am currently a first-year resident in the Department of Pathology at the University of Chicago. Trust me, it’s even more exciting than it sounds. I regularly spend time with Dr. Vinay Kumar (the top name on your trusty Robbins textbook) and Dr. Husain Sattar (whom you no doubt know from Pathoma). I am studying both anatomic and clinical pathology, a combined four-year program.

What are your career plans after residency?

This is really the eternal question: what will you do next? And, as always, it’s a tough question to answer with certainty. I have a real passion for surgical pathology, and I see myself specializing in one of the many fields into which surgical pathology is subdivided. Will it be gynecologic pathology, gastrointestinal pathology, head and neck pathology, or bone and soft tissue? It’s still too early to say, on that front! But however things shape up, I think it’s critical to first develop a broad skill in general surgical pathology. And I’ll ultimately be looking toward academic medicine, of this I am quite sure.

What accomplishment in your medical career are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my decision to go into pathology, in lieu of the many other medical careers that I was encouraged to pursue. To me, pathology was a passion, a career for which I could wake up excited, every day. While there were many attendings and advisors along the way who came down strongly in favor of, say, internal medicine or a surgical field, I ultimately made my career decision based on my own interests. It may sound trite, but it wasn’t easy to go against the wishes of so many people whom I admired and respected, and who had treated me so well during my years in medicine school. But, ultimately, whatever outside pressures you may feel, you have to pick the career that is going to satisfy and inspire you for the next forty years (or longer). It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but once you make the right decision, you’ll know.

Do you do any research? Any publications?

My medical school research focused on the epidemiology of agricultural injury in upstate New York, work that I did through the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health. This produced five publications and a number of oral presentations during my time at Columbia.

What brought you to Med School Tutors? Why did you choose to be a tutor?

I became an MST tutor four and a half years ago at the recommendation of a classmate who had tutored the MCAT during a year off between undergrad and med school. From the outset, I could tell that MST was an outstanding organization, with an important mission and a premium emphasis on fostering strong, trusting, productive relationships, both with clients and within the organization. I love my work at MST for so many reasons, but principal among them is the palpable impact that I am able to have on a student’s life. When one of my students gets into medical school or matches into her residency of choice, and one of her first thoughts is to send me a frantically excited text or email… well, that’s just about the greatest feeling in the world.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students as they are finishing interview season?

Whether you’re interviewing for medical school or residency, remember to follow your passion and to do what you love. That doesn’t mean doing what is easy or doing what is popular or even doing what feels good in the moment—regardless of what you choose, there will be moments (or days, or even weeks) when you’ll wonder how the heck you got yourself into such a mess. But if you’re true to yourself and follow a path that inspires you, those moments will be fleeting, and you’ll enjoy a rewarding career while touching the lives of countless others.

What is the most embarrassing story from your intern year OR what is the most awkward patient encounter you have ever had?


Some of my most awkward patient encounters actually came before medical school, when I was working in a long-term care facility for the elderly. One woman (we’ll call her Nina) was very interested in my joining her in bed, “just for a few minutes,” whenever I would enter her room to check on her during the night. Another woman (we’ll call her Harriett) interpreted my attempts to help her get ready for bed as bold and salacious advances. During my time in that position, I cared for about sixty aging adults, and each of them was unique and special. The relationships that I established with them were equally unique, and they continue to inspire me to the present day. But, yes, sometimes things could get a bit awkward! Like when William would come into our nursing room to ask for his Viagra, then explain in some detail why he needed it TMI, William, TMI

What is your favorite thing to eat?

I make my coffee in a cheap French press, and so many fine grounds filter through the mesh that you could argue that I have to “eat” my coffee, rather than drink it. In that case, my morning coffee is my favorite food! In the conventional sense, though, I’m going to have to sign up for some traditional Chicago-style deep dish. Sorry, New York: I love you, but your “pizza” is really just flatbread. And your hot dogs well, let’s not go there.

What is the most exciting place you have ever traveled?

I lived in Germany for four months during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I was a pre-med with a double major in German and microbiology, so the opportunity to work in a German urology practice was way too good to pass up. That trip changed my life in so many indelible ways, not least of which is the strong, close relationship that I built with my host family. As a nineteen-year-old who hadn’t spent much time outside of my home state of Michigan, the experience of living in Europe, traveling around Germany, and immersing myself in a foreign language was truly life-changing.

If you weren’t a doctor, what would you do?

I always say that, if I somehow ended up in some Medieval time warp, I would be a baker. I’m pretty good with yeast (re: microbiology major), and I have a soft spot for pretty much all baked goods. Also, I’m a morning person, so getting up at 3:00 to start the day’s dough would be no problem.

Then again, I come from a long line of farmers. In fact, I grew up on a functioning family farm in Michigan, which my dad continues to cultivate, like a champ. I’m the eighth generation of Chapels on that land, and there’s something romantically alluring about the idea of going back to further modernize the farming operations and make a living on the old family homestead.

What do you like to do outside of medicine?

I’m an avid runner and gym-goer. I actually do a good deal of my studying on the stair-stepper. (Think that’s crazy? Try it. Your workout goes by in the blink of an eye, and you’ll be amazed at how focused you’ll stay on whatever it is you’re reading.) I also enjoy opera and symphonic music. And I have a fondness for an innovative Friday-night cocktail, after a long week at work.