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Marina Gaeta

Fourth-year MD student

Where did you grow up and where were you living immediately prior to medical school?

I grew up in a small college town, Ithaca, New York, which is where Cornell University is located. I stayed in my hometown for college and actually moved to New Haven after graduation, where I had been hired as a middle school science teacher in the bilingual program of the largest primary school in the local school district. I loved living in New Haven and the opportunity to stay within the community that had become my second home played a role in why I was so thrilled to be accepted to Yale.

Why did you choose Yale School of Medicine?

Yale is a really special, fit-based program where I knew I would be set up to be my “best self” throughout medical school, which in turn would help me grow into the best doctor I could be. Two main reasons for this were the Yale System and the incredible faculty at Yale. The Yale System is a group of institutional policies and infrastructure meant to treat students as adult learners. Everyone hears a lot about the Yale System in terms of having a lot of preclinical flexibility to learn how you learn best, but the philosophy extends to so much more, including an extremely supportive clerkship environment that allows you the time and resources to become an exceptional clinician, and a post-clinical period where you have the opportunity to “choose your own adventure” to craft a personalized curriculum to make you as successful as possible in your next steps in medicine. Relatedly, since many of our faculty trained at Yale or believe deeply in the Yale System philosophy, our faculty are truly one-of-a-kind in terms of the level of support, enthusiasm, approachability, and true investment in our success as students. As someone who was reserved in college and struggled to find mentorship, I was so impressed by the meaningful conversations I had with my interviewers at Yale, which demonstrated a unique atmosphere here where students are treated as valued peers. Five years later, I have over a dozen people I would consider a mentor, found incredible support in my specialty of interest, and have had the chance to achieve things I never imagined could be possible because of the opportunities faculty created for me.

Can you briefly describe your schedule on a typical weekday?

What’s so fun about fourth year is that your schedule exists in modular two-week blocks, so month-to-month your schedule changes drastically! The last two weeks, I was on an advanced Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) elective, where I was taking care of the sickest patients in the hospital. MICU is known for having the longest days (sometimes 12 hours in the hospital on admitting day), but the hours flew by as I was learning so much and was deeply involved in patient care. During that elective, I would be in the hospital by 6:30am to get overnight sign-out, and spent the day checking on my patients, presenting patient updates to my team on rounds, helping create daily plans for my patients, calling consultants, updating my patients’ families, and assisting with or completing any procedures for the patients on our team. After finishing up for the day, I’d catch up with my husband, see friends, squeeze in a workout, or complete extracurricular commitments. Now I’m on a research block, so my time is much less structured. I’m taking a lot of meetings with my principal investigator and collaborators, doing literature review and data analysis for new projects, writing up further-along projects for submission to conferences and journals, and preparing a poster that I’ll be presenting at an upcoming conference. Soon I’ll be back in the hospital for an Addiction Medicine elective and I can’t wait! Another special part of my schedule is my weekly Street Medicine elective, which runs longitudinally one evening a week for the entire school year. Street Medicine involves providing care for people experiencing homelessness (predominantly unsheltered homelessness) by meeting them where they are – literally and metaphorically. So, we see our patients at a local soup kitchen, popular public areas, temporary housing, and encampments. This elective has been such a meaningful way for me to grow relationships with my patients over time and learn about the understand the challenges of navigating social systems that you may not be aware of when you only see patients in healthcare settings.

What neighborhood do you live in/near New Haven?

For the first 3 years of medical school, I lived in Downtown New Haven, which is just a few blocks from the medical school and Yale New Haven Hospital York Street campus (the main hospital where most of your rotations will be). Most med students live in this area, which is a busy, walkable area with tons of restaurants, bars, ice cream places, and shops. I loved living so near my classmates because it was easy to make plans and helped our class become really close right away. Now, however, I actually live most of the time at home in Manhattan with my husband, and either commute on the train or stay with friends for my weekly commitments (my Street Medicine elective or HAVEN, our free clinic which I help lead) or sublet for longer periods of time. I am so grateful for the flexibility of Yale’s curriculum, which allows me to take all the electives I’m interested in and be extremely involved in extracurriculars, while balancing my personal life by getting to live with my husband when I’m on rotations that don’t require me to be in person.

What is your favorite thing to do in/near New Haven?

So many things! I love to run, and New Haven is such a beautiful, running-friendly city. My normal path is through downtown to and up East Rock Park, which is a gorgeous park with views of the city located in a residential neighborhood of New Haven where I used to live before medical school. Connecticut also has beaches, believe it or not, where my friends and I go in the summer to relax or go kayaking. The food in New Haven is also great. Even before COVID there was a strong patio/outdoor eating culture, and the weather is very mild compared to where I grew up, so it’s something you can enjoy most months of the year.

Do you have any final thoughts or advice for prospective students?

Go where you’ll thrive! I attribute my happiness in medical school to picking based on fit. This is your time to learn as much as you can, find mentorship, and make great friends while forming your professional identity. I would encourage prospective students to be introspective and choose a school that aligns with your values, learning style, and personality. Being at Yale has shown me that it’s possible to set the groundwork to become a strong clinician in a way that is joyful and nurturing, without sacrificing your wellbeing or your life outside of medicine in the process. It has been exciting to grow into a physician-scientist and leader without compromising the other sides of myself as a daughter, partner, friend, and sibling (for example, I’ve never had to miss a friend’s wedding through all 5 years of medical school, even when on clerkships). When deciding between programs, I recommend that you reach out to people you met at different schools to talk further or ask the admissions office to connect you with people who share your interests. These conversations helped me gauge that Yale was the best place for me, and I feel grateful for my decision every day.