Tutor Spotlight: Timothy Dyster – Med School Tutors

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Timothy Dyster is quite possibly one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Like many of our tutors, Tim is not only a warm, encouraging and supportive tutor, but he is a total beast and is very accomplished academically.

    He knows the ins and outs of the exams for which he tutors, and takes great pleasure in seeing his students excel. What’s particularly great about Tim is that even though he’s a USMLE wizard, he makes sure his students are never ashamed to admit when they don’t know something as well as they’d like to or when a topic is particularly thorny from them.

    Through his warmth, overall exam and content mastery, and general awesomeness, he consistently helps each of his students blast through their previous plateaus and excel on their exams. Read on to hear more from Tim!

    Where do you go to medical school?

    Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons—although students affectionately call it P&S.

    What are you doing now?

    I’m currently on a research year in a neurosurgical lab at Columbia University.  We look at neuropsychiatric disease and neurophysiology that might be related to it.

    What are your career plans?

    Education is so, so important to me, and I really enjoy thinking about complex systems, including how medical school curricula work over four-plus years to shape student doctors into who they become. I hope, regardless of specialty, someday there’s the possibility to think about those kinds of things and be a part of optimizing a medical school curriculum during my career. If the opportunity ever presented itself, I’d jump at the chance to be a curriculum director or dean.

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

    I loved reading about zebra diagnoses during medical school—one of my preceptors used to poke fun at me for it, she actually called me “Zebraman.” But once at the hospital a patient came in with very low blood sugar, and the team was really stumped by it. I suggested a rare paraneoplastic syndrome as a possible cause, and sure enough, antibody testing was consistent with the zebra diagnosis. I was so excited to be a part of figuring out what was going on and making a real difference in the patient’s care and clinical outcome.

    Do you do any research? Any publications?

    As I mentioned above, I am actually doing research in a neurophysiology lab right now. However, my interest in education has also led me to do some educational program development and I have presented at a few education conferences, including NEGEA.

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

    Foremost, I love teaching. I have spent so many moments in medical school feeling confused by the onslaught of new material that sometimes is presented by an expert who can’t remember what it is like to not-know. To learn optimally, you really need someone who can meet you wherever you’re at as a student. I wanted to be that person for someone.

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

    I actually interview med school applicants at P&S, so I think a lot about admissions processes. I would say first and foremost anyone who gets through it should feel proud of making it that far! It’s a tiring process. My second piece of advice would be to really pay attention to the student body when you go on re-visit/accepted student events. Your classmates will determine your experience. I’ve been lucky enough to have incredible ones, and I picked P&S because I could see how wonderful and warm people were when I came to check it out a second time. That has made all the difference, I think.

    What is your favorite thing to eat?

    I like food A LOT so this is sort of a tough question. I think the truth is hamburgers are probably my favorite meal, but when I’m getting my fancy or my healthy on then probably salmon (with a nice glass of wine).

    What is the most exciting place you have ever traveled?

    It’s corny because I live here now, but it’s definitely NYC. Times Square is definitely too busy and crowded, but I go down there once in a while just for the energy of it. I’ve never been someplace so alive. It fills you up, even if you’re packed on the sidewalk like a sardine.

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

    Architecture. I think it’s incredible to be able to create something physical from out of your mind, and the ways that the design of physical structures alter how people interact and behave is incredible. I watched a really awesome TED talk recently (“Why great architecture should tell a story” delivered by Ole Scheeren) about an architecture firm that treats the buildings it creates like living systems. They actually imagine characters who would inhabit the building, then literally walk through what each character would do during the day, where they would go, and who they would meet. It’s an incredible way to think about design. I’d love to do that.

    What do you like to do outside of medicine?

    I am a huge fan of music and theatrical art, so recently I have been trying to see shows on Broadway about twice per month. I did a lot of work in theatre during college, and I have a few friends who are on Broadway now. It’s been really cool to see their work, and a sort of weird feeling to see them on a Broadway stage. Also, I started reading about whiskey recently and am trying to develop my palette a bit. I think it’s good to always have one or two new adventures happening. It keeps life interesting, and eclectic interests make it easier to connect with new people.

    Clearly Tim’s winning smile runs in the Dyster family. #AwesomeSiblingsFTW