Internship yields surgery e-book

First-year College of Medicine student helps Yale Cancer Center turn a page on brain tumor patient information

| Author: Gary H. Piatek

Career coaches probably wouldn't recommend what CMU College of Medicine student Brian Shear did during his first-year summer internship.

When his mentor at the Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center showed him the text-filled, 56-page informational binder she recently had put together for brain tumor patients, Shear immediately began thinking how he could make it better.

The former Apple Inc. employee asked her if he could create an electronic version, carefully noting that it would be easier to read, cost less to produce than the $50 per binder and be accessible to anyone in the world.

"Coincidentally, we were thinking about the same thing," said his mentor, Dr. Jennifer Moliterno, chief of neurosurgical oncology in the department of neurosurgery. "He had shown himself to be very capable, so we turned him loose.

"A lot of people have ideas," Moliterno said, "but he was able to take his to completion in a matter of weeks and do a phenomenal job."

On Sept. 29, the e-book was unveiled at the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance's charity walk-run.

From Apple to Central Michigan University

As a biology and chemistry undergraduate at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Shear worked with an orthopedic surgeon and was considering it as a possible career. But he also was very interested in technology.

Scrolling through Facebook one day, he saw an ad from Apple looking for someone to do marketing and development in the area. Although he didn't have a technology background, he decided he had nothing to lose by applying.

Apple hired him because he had a different way of looking at things, his boss told him.

While at Apple, he was able to also do some work for its health care division.

"I always found myself drifting back to medical stuff," he said.

The career-deciding moment for Shear occurred on a plane ride from Arizona back to D.C., when soon after takeoff the woman sitting in front of him passed out.

Shear, along with an internal medicine physician and a lifeguard, jumped out of their seats and started working on her.

Shear pulled off his Apple watch and put it on the woman to monitor her pulse. When the plane landed, he gave the watch to the emergency technician so doctors could have her pulse data from the flight.

"That's when I decided that I want to go to medical school. I want to be the one using the latest technology and be a part of pushing it forward, not the one making and selling it."

CMU: A place to "make my mark for innovation"

When Shear started looking for a medical school, he focused on Michigan. He had fallen in love with the state while working for Apple in Ann Arbor.

CMU caught his eye because the College of Medicine is young, has the latest technology and a team-based learning structure.

"As a newer program, there is a greater opportunity for me to make my mark for innovation, to impact people's lives in a positive way," he said. "I looked at the College of Medicine like I would a startup business."

CMU makes its mark on Shear

Shear credits CMED for giving him the skills that not only helped him land the internship at Yale, but to do well enough to have his e-book idea taken seriously.

He particularly noted the clinical skills and art of medicine classes, in which students learn to look at the human side of medicine, and his involvement with the Blue Water Angels at CMED, which helped in pitching his idea to Moliterno.

"I allowed him to pursue the e-book because he had been doing a phenomenal job," said Moliterno, who Shear would daily observe in the operating rooms, during patient visits in her clinic and while doing rounds in the wards.

"I have a busy neurosurgical practice, and so it's important that students who work with me are able to take initiative and excel with their own motivation. Brian went above and beyond in every realm."

She said the hospital leaders were so impressed that they wanted him to transfer medical schools.

"I looked into it, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen," she said. "It's good for CMU that they get to keep him."

The electronic book is currently being reviewed by Yale's legal team with the hope of making it available by the end of the year.

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