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10 Robert WoodJohnson
Zeynep Uzumcu, MD '17, poet
utgers University is a family tradition for Zeynep Uzumcu,
MD '17, who graduated from the medical school in the
spring. First, her mother graduated from Rutgers Douglass
Residential College, having returned to school after raising her
children. The same year her mother graduated, Zeynep began
at Douglass, and her sister just graduated from Douglass.
Initially, Dr. Uzumcu says she planned on becoming "one of
my heroes, an English teacher." She recalls writing her first
poem in third grade, in a journal a teacher gave her. "I remem-
ber looking at clouds and wanting to write about them, and my
third-grade teacher was very encouraging," she says.
As her family moved successively from Turkey, where she was
born, to Ohio, Washington, Saudi Arabia, and North Brunswick,
Zeynep filled journal after journal, even while she was a double
major in English and chemistry. Her decision to concentrate on
medicine was because she wanted "to be a part of change in com-
munity well-being on a tangible level." Still, when it was time for
medical school, it wasn't a given that Zeynep would remain at
Rutgers. She applied all over the East Coast.
"In the end, I made a decision about a school that reflected
my philosophy," she says. "I had met so many people passionate
about their community, and there were projects being done here
that were involved with the community on a very deep level."
As much as she loved her classes, by her second year Zeynep
needed another outlet. She and some classmates created a pub-
lication, Arbor Vitae, "tree of life" in Latin (as well as a struc-
ture within the cerebellum). They wanted a publication "that
reflected the voices of students and faculty on the subjects of
medicine. We just wanted our community to have a place to
express themselves," she says.
Although they might seem disparate, Dr. Uzumcu, now a first-
year resident, sees a connection between medicine and writing.
"The things you encounter in your life on a regular basis
become the things that you write about," she says. "In terms of
how writing translates into medicine, the way I conceptualized
it is being more careful about how I speak. It is a verbal transfer.
Your patients come and tell you their stories and everything
they have experienced up to that point in life. You, as a clini-
cian, have to interpret what they told you in a way that remains
true to your patients and communicate to them with informa-
tion that is digestible and mindful."
Dr. Uzumcu headed to a family practice residency at Thomas
Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia after graduation.
"The concept of the specialty was pluripotent, a complicated
way of saying you could be dropped in the middle of anywhere
and fulfill the basic health needs of the community," she says.
Even with her new responsibilities, Dr. Uzumcu, whose poet-
ry has been featured in the Journal of the American Medical
ne of my goals
is to find a community
of like-minded people
interested in writing as
well as medicine," says
Zeynep Uzumcu, MD '17.