BS health sciences '15
By Roberta Sheronas Perry
Vincent Russell is a planner who doesn't shy away from a challenge when it comes to taking care of his family. It's what motivated him to join the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School right out of high school. It's also what motivated him to quit his civilian job and attend Drexel University as a full-time student.
Nuclear Power School isn't easy to get into, nor was it something Russell really liked. He chose it because he wanted to go to college and the nuclear field would give him the most money toward his education. It's an academically demanding program, notably one of the toughest in the U.S. military. Students spend upwards of 50 hours a week on their studies of engineering fundamentals, nuclear physics, chemistry, health physics and more. He may not have known this at the time, but this fast paced, exacting curriculum was the best preparation for the College of Nursing and Health Profession's health sciences program and eventually physician assistant (PA) school.
Russell remained in the Navy until 2009 before moving into commercial nuclear power at PSEG in southern New Jersey.
"I stayed in a little bit longer than I had planned to initially because one, I was doing pretty well, and two, I had a family to take care of," Russell says. "It really didn't seem to make a difference whether I was in the military or in commercial, so I talked to my wife, and with my veteran's benefits, we both agreed I could pursue a career in medicine."
He applied to Drexel with the ultimate goal of being a physician assistant. It took nearly 18 months to get everything in place. Remember, he's a planner. They sold their house to downsize and moved closer to Philadelphia and when Russell was accepted at CNHP, he quit his job and went to school full-time. CNHP's advisors were very helpful in figuring out what would transfer from the undergraduate degree in human resources management he got at The New School while still in the Navy.
"I was able to basically take a full load for seven quarters and received a bachelors degree in health science while I was getting all my prerequisite courses done for PA school," Russell says. "And we had a baby. My daughter was born December of the second quarter that I was at Drexel."
Russell was under the gun to finish his degree. There are constraints with the GI Bill, so in order to finish, he didn't do any co-ops. "I barely finished it in time. I actually had ten days overlap between my last quarter at Drexel and my first term at PA school," he remembers.
Russell was delighted to see so much of the work he did at Drexel pay off at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) where he completed his physician assistant studies. He had to finish a meta-data analysis at Drexel which ended up being very close to his thesis at PCOM. "Every step of the way, I felt like I had already done my master's paper," he says. At Drexel, Michael Kirifides, PhD, taught Russell's physiology course, and remarkably ended up teaching Russell the graduate-level version at PCOM. The parallels he makes between Drexel and PCOM are testament to the foundational education he received in the health sciences department.
Russell recently accepted a job at Christiana Hospital specifically into the Doctors for Emergency Services. This free-standing emergency department that treats thousands of patients each year seems to be the best place for him. He was a somewhat hyperactive kid and got bored easily. As an adult, his desire to constantly be doing something is a perfect match for emergency medicine.
Where does this former youth lacrosse and football coach see himself in five years? He’ll still be working out a busy schedule with his wife, a neonatal intensive care nurse who has a master’s degree in nursing leadership and education, and caring for their three-year-old daughter and thirteen-year-old son. He also hopes to have built his knowledge base up so that he can work in the higher acuity end of the ED.
"I see myself being some of the trauma coverage during the week and probably accepting leadership roles," Russell comments. He likes the idea of being in the thick of it, but because of his experience teaching both in the Navy and in the private sector, he doesn't see being an adjunct professor as a stretch. As far as other areas of medicine that interest him, general surgery is one because of the variety, however, trauma surgery and working in an ICU are a possibility. No matter what he chooses, it will add to his family's adventures.