Intrigued by Science, Inspired by a Brother
There are few people in the world whose lives have not been touched by medicine in some way. Weill Cornell Medical College M.D.-Ph.D student Andrew Milewski is no exception.
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As a boy, Milewski, 22, of Rome, N.Y., and his older brother would play at the Erie Canal Village, a reconstructed 19th century settlement living history museum constructed on the first site the original Erie Canal, where their father was the caretaker and blacksmith. They'd run around the village in straw hats and overalls, give boat rides along the canal and drive a team of horses.
Suddenly, Milewski's brother and best friend could do none of that, diagnosed with epilepsy and Crohn's disease. His weight fluctuated, and he was in and out of the hospital. He struggled — until he tried a new drug called Humira.
"On this new treatment, it was like a switch had been flipped," Milewski said. "He just felt so much better, he looked a lot better. He ate what he wanted and he wasn't in the hospital anymore."
|Weill Cornell Medical College first-year M.D.-Ph.D. student Andrew Milewski
Photo credit: Carlos Rene Perez
While Milewski was always intrigued with science, it was his brother, now finishing college and an aspiring physician assistant, who inspired him to pursue a career in medicine.
"It was really awesome to see how medicine can be so powerful and can change somebody's life," he said. "I just wanted to do that. I thought it would be great if I could be a part of helping people."
So after graduating from Harvard University with a degree in chemistry and physics and a minor in molecular and cellular biology, Milewski set out to in search of an M.D.-Ph.D. program that would enable him to not only help people at the patient level, but also be at the front lines of discovering and designing new therapies that can have an immediate impact on patients much like his brother. The Tri-Institutional Program with Weill Cornell, Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was the perfect fit.
"Having these three institutions near each other and working together — that says something about the environment in this area," he said. "You have the collegiality, that these institutions can work together in such a coherent and friendly way — Weill Cornell's got to be doing something right."
That sense of belonging was only reinforced after his interview for admission and during his first research rotation this past summer. Working with Dr. Yi Wang, professor of physics in radiology at Weill Cornell, Milewski worked on a project to improve compensation for the motion of the heart during cardiac imaging. It's a field that's intriguing to which he can apply his knowledge of physics. But with medicine, he's keeping his options open.
"I may have been very lucky and just stumbled upon my research niche," he said. "But I still have a lot of choices to make and there are a lot of opportunities. I just need to see what I like."