From Bench to Bedside and Back with Sam Brondfield

Medical Student Confronts Cancer at Bench, Bedside and Beyond: Sam Brondfield
By Kevin Eisenmann on May 29, 2012

At one of the highest-ranked medical schools in the country, it’s not surprising to find students with big appetites for learning. In the laboratory, there are those who seek out challenges at the bench, peering into microscopes for answers. Others work at the bedside, guiding patients through treatment options. And then there are the caregivers who heal patients’ hearts and minds, often overlooked collateral damage when disease strikes.

Fourth-year medical student Sam Brondfield is different. He has spent his student career exploring disease in every stage. It’s ambitious, but Brondfield — who first was interested in studying the stars — has always seen the bigger picture. Medical student Sam Brondfield talks about his work with Art for Recovery's Firefly Project, which pairs UCSF students with patients to share the experience of living with cancer.

“I started my undergrad intending to study astrophysics,” he said. “But I realized it was too far removed, literally, from my everyday life.”

Brondfield turned his sights to more earthly pursuits, earning a degree in biochemistry from Harvard. And while his parents, both doctors, had never pushed him to follow in their footsteps, his interest in medicine and helping others led him to UCSF in 2008.

“Professors were telling me that UCSF was a special place that emphasized the emotional side of caring for others,” Brondfield said. “That was appealing to me even more than its outstanding academic reputation.”

Moving Out of the Classroom and Into the Lab

At UCSF, Brondfield learned about Pathways to Discovery, an innovation training program that allows students, residents, and fellows to tackle research and other healthcare improvements in areas outside the standard curriculum. Pathways students learn how to lead in creating solutions to pressing health problems by completing additional coursework and a research project, and in some cases, additional degree programs. While most medical schools offer concentration programs, UCSF’s is unique in that it facilitates career development for students at all training levels and from all health professions. Read MoreMMP