Turning Point


One of the most enlightening and influential experiences of his undergraduate education has Steve Gwozdz '13 of Cheshire, Mass., set on a career as an orthopedic surgeon.

This past summer, Gwozdz served a summer internship with Suk Namkoong, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Orthopedic Associates of Northern Berkshire.

"Between discussions on diagnostics and observing various surgeries in the operating room, I learned in-depth anatomy and operative procedures," Gwozdz said. "It made my decision on where I go with my degree. I was able to connect my experiences with orthopedics to the athletic training department, where we learn a modern philosophy of evidence-based medicine."

Within MCLA's athletic training program, Gwozdz took an elective course in "Upper Body Assessment" and used evidence-based practice to diagnose and assess, without using an MRI or radiography, and connect it with the associated surgeries for each injury.

"I get the full picture of how it happened, why it happened, and then how it is treated," he said.

Gwozdz's experience with Dr. Namkoong had a profound effect on him. "Not only does he have one of the most challenging jobs, but he does it with ease, and is very humble about it. He shows he cares, not looking for extra money, but is sincere in his quest to help people."

Although he plans to use his degree as the first step to becoming a doctor, Gwozdz points out that, as a biology major concentrating on pre-professional studies, he has many career options he could pursue. This includes possible careers as a physical therapist or a pharmacist.

According to Gwozdz, whose minor is in chemistry, the most interesting aspect of biology involves the hands-on learning he does with work in the laboratory.

"Labs allow you to reproduce already completed experiments like those from more advanced course like 'Cell  Biology,' instructed by Dr. Ann Billetz (pictured with Gwozdz, left), where you get to follow the works of Nobel Laureates like Christian de Duve and use differential centrifugation to isolate the complex organelles of the cell like peroxisomes and lysosomes," he explained.

"In biology everything current is built off of the work of previous scientists. The most interesting things to me are the unanswered questions," Gwozdz continued. "It drives me to want to understand, and it serves as a reminder that, in biology, there is always an unanswered question looking for answers."

MCLA's biology professors, he said, "are incredibly intelligent, and when you surround yourself with the level of intelligence that is being provided by them it makes you grow - from that freshman right out of high school to a well-rounded intelligent, individual."

"The professors are always available. I can e-mail them and get a response within hours, or go directly to them and talk with them. They are some of the most approachable people."

When he's not in the lab, Gwozdz often can be found hanging out in Venable Hall, where he spends time reviewing notes, studying for an exam or writing a lab report.

"I like to hang out by the couches because you don't have to search for a professor - their offices are right down the hall, and they always make an appearance to see what I'm working on," he explained. "The biology department has their own little clique.  It's nice to have intelligent conversations with people who can actually understand some of the things you are studying, and sometimes you learn something new that you aren't studying. Everyone helps each other. We all have to take exams and want to see everyone succeed."

Why should high school students consider the College? "MCLA is affordable and yet maintains the highest level of education," Gwozdz said. "The degrees available are countless and the professors will do all that is in their power to make sure you grow and become successful."