Tutor Spotlight: Eric Burnett

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • We couldn’t be more pleased to have a brilliant doctor like Eric Burnett (second from left) on our tutoring team.

    An IM resident at Columbia, Eric is passionate about medicine and his patients, and equally passionate about the success of his students. Funny, classy, and caring, Eric is a natural teacher, and a great person to have on your side as you set out to crush your exams.

    Without further ado, here’s what he has to say:

    Where did you go to medical school?

    Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

    Where are you doing your residency and in what specialty?

    New York Presbyterian, Columbia University Medical Center: Internal Medicine.

    What are your career plans after residency?

    Currently deciding between fellowship in infectious diseases or hospitalist medicine. Either way I want medical education to be a large part of my future career choice.

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

    My medical career is still in its infancy, however one moment sticks out in my mind. I was on my general medicine rotation and I had admitted a patient to the lung transplant service with terrible ILD and pulmonary hypertension. She was frightened and alone, most of her family had left her over the years. Given that she was a critically ill patient, she needed an MD to accompany her to all of her pre-transplant workup tests, and as the intern, that responsibility fell on my shoulders. Over the course of several weeks I got to know my patient on a personal level, listened to her hopes and aspirations as well as her fears. She truly was a wonderful person. There was one time while we were waiting for a CT scan together that she looked over at me and through labored breath tremulously confessed that she was afraid she was not going to live to see Christmas. I had no medical remedy to offer her, the truth of the matter was that she didn’t have much time left. There wasn’t anything I could do to reverse that, so all I did was grab her hand and ask her to tell me more about her life outside the hospital, and she quickly began to regale with tales of her youth. For a brief moment she had forgotten the precarious state she was in, for a brief moment she had forgotten that she was dying, and it was at that moment that I realized that as a physician, sometimes the most important thing I can do is just listen to my patients.

    Do you do any research?

    I am currently pursuing projects that investigate the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in high risk HIV negative individuals as well as the impact hepatitis C co-infection has on HIV positive individuals.

    What brought you to Med School Tutors?

    I was an MS3 and a fellow MST tutor had recommended that I apply to MST after she learned I had an interest in teaching. I chose to become a tutor because I truly love medicine and there is no better way to share that passion with others than through teaching. Learning medicine can be a truly daunting task; and being able to help others on their journeys to become physicians is extremely satisfying work.

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

    Enjoy the free time while it lasts! As an intern I can honestly and wholeheartedly tell you that this time is the best time of your life. Take this time to reflect on all that you have accomplished in the past 4 years, you are all on the brink of realizing a lifelong goal, very few people on this earth are able to say that! You are amazing!

    Also, take this time to enjoy life, see family and friends, go travel the world, take up a new hobby, be spontaneous, because in a few short months you will be an intern and the amount of time you have to yourself will be severely limited.

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

    It was my first week of intern year and I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I was on the cardiology service and my team had admitted and NSTEMI patient over-night for observation. I had just finished pre-rounding and wanted to take a peek on my new patient before rounds to make sure he was stable. NYP has a large Dominican population, and quickly glancing at his name gave me the impression that my new admission was indeed from the Dominican Republic. I quickly ran into the room and introduced myself in Spanish and began the interview. It wasn’t until 5 minutes into this whirlwind interview that the patient raised his hand to interrupt me and in perfect English said, “I don’t understand why you’re speaking Spanish, but I have absolutely no idea what you’re saying.” Needless to say I was mortified, quickly apologized and ran out of the room. Later that day on rounds I was hoping to hide the embarrassment from the rest of the team, but the patient was more than happy to regale the whole team with my faux pas.

    What is your favorite thing to eat?

    I am a self proclaimed foodie, but my favorite thing to eat at the moment is chicken drunken noodles.

    What is the most exciting place you have ever traveled?

    I apparently did not take my own advice and travel after interviews, so my travel adventures have thus far been limited to the continental U.S. However, I do plan on traveling to Europe (London, Paris, Amsterdam) in the Spring during my vacation.

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

    I’d most likely be a teacher. I could always see myself teaching high school Spanish or biology.

    What do you like to do outside of medicine?

    I love to read, watch TV, and hike. I also love musical theater and opera, so luckily I live in NYC and have easy access to Broadway and the Met. Intern year has caused me to put a lot of my extracurricular hobbies on the back-burner, but I am still able to binge the latest Netflix series while eating drunken noodles on my golden weekends. 😀  I also love going to local coffee shops with my husband, Billy, and playing with our 2 year old Shiba Inu, Denver.