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MD Program Meet Nolan Feola

Nolan Feola, 2nd Year Drexel MD Program Student


Hometown: Rochester, New York
Undergraduate: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, BS in Biology
Medical School: Drexel University College of Medicine Class of 2021


Can you tell me a little about yourself before you came to Drexel?

I actually went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), which is an engineering school, for my undergraduate degree. Originally, I was thinking about going into biomedical engineering, but I realized that my real passion was in human interaction and not necessarily the engineering side of things. I changed my major to biology and never looked back.

I had an idea that I wanted to be a doctor leading into college, but I didn't really figure it out until I had gotten there. In high school and during undergrad, I participated in cross country and track and field, so I was a three-season athlete all year for 8 straight years. I think that gave me a nice balance and taught me how to use my time effectively before coming here. I graduated in 2017 and then came right to Drexel, so I've been plugging along this whole time.

Was there a particular moment or thing that happened that made you realize that you enjoyed human interaction more than engineering?

I had a really good relationship with my pediatrician. My mom was a nurse who worked in his office, so I got to have some good conversations with him. I realized that a lot of the things he talked about and wanted to do, I saw in myself. I had thought engineering was the way to go because I liked the sciences, but after having conversations with him, I realized that medicine was the direction I wanted to go in.

At college, I sat down with the premed advisor. He challenged me a bit by saying, "It sounds like you just kind of want it, but you're not doing anything about it." I started committing more time to volunteering in hospitals to show to myself—and I guess to show him, too—that it was something that I wanted to do and that I was not just talking about doing it.

Why did you apply to Drexel's medical school?

I wanted to stay in the Northeast so that I wasn't ever too far from home. Being in a big city like Philadelphia gives you good exposure to different patient populations. One day, I want to return to my hometown of Rochester, and I feel like it's a good idea to recognize and appreciate urban medicine and what working in a city system is like.

I like that the first two years are not right in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, but within the greater Philadelphia area. It gives you space away from the city, but also keeps you in close contact with the neighborhoods in the area that have different needs that need to be addressed.

Has it been an easy transition to medical school for you?

Yes. RPI is notoriously challenging, so it prepared me well for medical school. During the first year, there were a lot of new concepts and terms to learn, but I treated every day like it was my job to be here. The workload transition wasn't too difficult for me, and because I didn't take any time off in between undergrad and med school, I just rolled into the format.

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about having the classes flipped, but it gives me a lot more freedom. It allows me to work in the timeline that I feel like I am the most productive, so that's been super helpful. I wake up early and get to work so that I don't have to work late into the night, and that works really well for me.

How did you feel your first year went overall?

I thought the first year went really well. I was able to continue doing the activities I enjoy, like running. I also made a close circle of friends really quickly. Everyone here is super friendly and very open—maybe it's just having a doctor's personality. I found a good group of people to study with. I think it takes a few months to figure out how best to manage medical school, but once you know what works for you, things become a lot easier.

What has your experience with the faculty been like?

Because the classes are flipped, there's not as much face-to-face interaction. However, I do still appreciate the effort that they're putting in, because I know this is all new for them. When we have in-class sessions, the faculty are very helpful and informative. They're also pretty humble and human as well.

I've had a lot of good facilitators in my different groups. For example, in our case-based learning groups, the facilitators try to challenge you in a positive way. They don't want you to just say an answer. They want you to explain why. I think that's something a lot of the faculty does really well, which helps prepare you for later on. They don't want to just hear the right answer. They want your explanation or your thought process. I think being coerced into verbalizing that, helps you figure out why you're thinking the way you are.

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities, such as volunteering or groups?

Definitely. Volunteering is worked into the curriculum, so I'm not sure if that entirely counts, but we have a bunch of community outreach programs that we do. Right now I'm tutoring at the Northern Children's Services. It's a really cool program, and the course director is awesome there.

I'm president of the run club. We organize at least one run a week, and then we do the Broad Street Run in the spring. A bunch of people do the Philadelphia Marathon in the fall. It's a nice outlet to have.

I'm also president of the adolescent medicine interest group, which is a subspecialty that I'm interested in because I like working with adolescents, and have done a lot of tutoring and mentoring in the past.

I also work with local high schools to give their students tours and demonstrations in the gross lab. Those start up in the winter and in the spring, but I actually had an email exchange with someone the other day because they need to do a lot of paperwork ahead of time. I like it because it gives me a chance not only to demonstrate the knowledge for myself, but to pass on the information to high school students. I never experienced something like this when I was in high school, so I think it's super awesome that they get this opportunity.

Additionally, the school does a really good job with networking and shadowing opportunities. Even though adolescent medicine isn't a very large subspecialty, I was able to shadow with an adolescent medicine doctor who specializes in eating disorders. She works out of the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. I shadowed her a few times last spring. It was an eye-opening experience that I really enjoyed.

What advice do you have for someone who is considering coming to Drexel?

For someone who is coming to Drexel, I think one of the most important things that I'd say is, "Slow down and be honest with yourself." I think a lot of people think that as soon as they get here, it's going to be pedal to the metal the entire time, with no chance to be human. Yes, school is going to be challenging and there will be days where you don't do much other than study, but it's important to take a day a week or a few hours a day to relax. Having that balance is important for the longevity of your career. If you burn out now in school, you still have a long road ahead of you, so it's really important that you find the right balance — where you're not falling behind, but you're also keeping what makes you human close. That will go a long way.

Contact Information

Drexel University College of Medicine
Office of Admissions
60 N. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

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