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Meet Chris Bastos and Kristy Lagana

Both interested in internal medicine, two MD program students look for couples residency match.

By Lisa Ryan

Chris Bastos and Kristy Lagana, Drexel MD Students

Chris Bastos (right)
Hometown: Union, New Jersey
Undergraduate: Penn State University, 2016, BS in Biology

Kristy Lagana (left)
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Undergraduate: University of Maryland, BS in Biology

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

CB: I was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in Union, New Jersey. My parents immigrated to this country from Portugal with my older brother, and we frequently take trips back to see our family. My parents escaped poverty and came to this country in search of a better life and accomplished the American dream along the way. My brother is now married and has two beautiful daughters who I try to spoil any chance I get.

During my early years, I spent most of my free time playing soccer or video games, and spending time with family and friends. After graduating from high school, I decided to attend Penn State to study biology. I took a gap year before enrolling at the College of Medicine; during that year I worked as a medical scribe in the Lankenau Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

KL: I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest in my family. I have an older sister and an older brother, and also have a 4-year-old nephew who's the best. My siblings and I are all first-generation college students, and I'm the first in the family to go into health care and the first to earn a degree past undergrad. I did gymnastics, cheerleading and lacrosse growing up. It was my dream to become a doctor ever since high school, but I never really imagined getting to where I am today.

What drew you to medicine, and to the College of Medicine specifically?

CB: I knew since a young age that I was passionate about the sciences like biology and chemistry, but did not know which field to pursue. As I went through the first two years of college, I began to wonder if I wanted to become a physician and decided to pursue some internships that would help me gain exposure. The combination of my internship at a New Jersey hospital, experience as a clinic volunteer at the Penn State Student Health Center, and my time as a medical scribe helped solidify my decision to pursue medicine. The College of Medicine was a perfect fit for me since it was a great school, based in a large city with affiliations with various health systems and patient populations, and close to my family in New Jersey.

KL: I always knew that I wanted a career that would give me financial and job security because growing up, I saw my mom experience difficulties as a single mother of three. Being successful on my own has always very important to me. In high school, I loved all of my science classes and felt I had a knack for biology. Becoming a doctor seemed like an obvious choice due to my class interests, but a nearly impossible goal to achieve (something that made me want it even more).

After a long journey through undergrad, I ended up being drawn to the College of Medicine. I loved the history of its legacy schools, with Hahnemann being created to help underrepresented students, including first-generation students, get a medical education, and with the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania being one of the first in the world to educate women physicians.

Chris Bastos and Kristy Lagana, Drexel MD Students

What organizations, extracurriculars, research or community service experiences have you been involved in at Drexel? How have they impacted your experience here?

CB: Throughout my time at the College of Medicine, I’ve participated in a variety of activities, including interest groups, peer mentoring, soccer and some research. The one that has had the greatest impact on me is serving as one of the presidents for the Class of 2021. It has been an honor to hold the position during each of my four years as a medical student and I have developed amazing relationships with members of the class and the Student Government Association (SGA). I feel lucky to be able to represent and advocate for our class. I love to see the growth and changes our class has gone through and to see that it is finally paying off as fourth-year students.

KL: The better question is what was I not involved in at Drexel? (ha ha). A short list includes: student interviewer, admissions committee member, peer mentor and Rocky Society service representative. I also helped precept a history of medicine elective. I was the Streetside Health Outreach Project (HOP) Clinic advocacy coordinator, and I completed the Medical Student Summer Research Fellowship. I also submitted a manuscript for my own research in addiction medicine to peer-reviewed journals and presented the research at several conferences and poster seminars. As you can see, I like to keep busy. It's hard to say how these things affected me, but being able to learn everything from all these experiences has definitely created the doctor that I am going to be. It's made me a better and stronger person, too.

What specialty do you plan to go into? What influenced that choice?

CB: I am currently applying to internal medicine, as is Kristy! I believe I will pursue a cardiology fellowship after, but I am still keeping an open mind as I navigate the next phase of my medical education. I had incredible experiences during my medicine rotations throughout third and fourth year, which piqued my interest in the field. I also appreciated internal medicine's focus on the big picture, and the career flexibility it provides. At the College of Medicine, I had several great mentors that completed residency in internal medicine, and their advice and guidance helped me feel confident in my decision.

KL: I loved so many things and I knew I could do all of them within internal medicine. I also love to keep busy, like I said before, and I became aware especially within my fourth year that there are innumerable career opportunities after internal medicine that aren't all clinical in nature. I am really excited about the prospect of being able to do cool, new things for the rest of my career.

What are some of your favorite medical school memories? What lessons have you learned here that you'll carry on into residency?

CB: My favorite medical school memories are ones I’ve made with my classmates, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether it was studying together on campus or enjoying a post-exam social/formal prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I value every interaction I had with classmates. Since medical school can be so stressful, I really learned the importance of maintaining the friendships and relationships you care about. This lesson will follow us and become even more important as we head into residency.

KL: All of my favorite memories are with the people that I have grown to love so much here. I also have some really fond memories from my work at Streetside, with the admissions committee and my research. I've learned that the people you invest your time in will completely make or break your everyday and overall experiences. I've learned how valuable our time is, and how precious being able to spend important moments with family and friends are. I've learned how good I feel when I'm doing work that inspires me, how powerful and utterly capable it makes me feel. I've learned that the world is much bigger than I ever could have imagined, and that career possibilities are endless and there for the taking.

What has it been like going through medical school together? What was the couples match process like?

CB: I feel lucky to have been able to go through medical school with my best friend and partner, Kristy. It has been incredible to go through the challenges of medical school together, and without her it would have been exponentially harder. She constantly inspires me, and I am always in awe of all her accomplishments. I think the same applies going through the couples match process together. Like the regular match process, it can be stressful and difficult at times, but having someone with me throughout it was invaluable. Through our support and communication with each other, it turned out to be much easier than all of the rumors you hear about it. We advocated for each other and put ourselves in a situation where we are very happy and excited!

KL: I can't imagine going through medical school without Chris. We both noticed each other on the very first day of school and met officially at a social event during orientation week. Our connection was undeniable, and even if we wanted to get away from each other, we couldn't because we ended up in the same core group too. He has been my partner in crime, and also my inspiration for pushing myself harder. When he was at school studying in the dungeon for 10 hours a day, I was there doing the same just to keep up with him and also to be around him. He made the whole thing fun and worth it.

The couples match was way better than I thought it was going to be. We heard so many scary things about it and rumors about one partner holding the other back, but we really didn't experience that. I think we really leaned into the process and allowed our applications to complement each other in a way that I believe is representative of our relationship in general.

How are you feeling ahead of Match Day? What are you looking forward to about the next step in your medical careers?

CB: Very excited! I still cannot believe that we are finally at this moment four years later. I am definitely nervous and anxious, but I know that things will fall into place the way they are meant to. I am looking forward to many things, but the main thing I am looking forward to is being a consistent part of a medical team. It is tough as a medical student to have to rotate every four to five weeks and meet a whole new team and health system. It will be nice to have consistency for a change and do it while learning and becoming a resident physician. I am excited to see what the future has in store for Kristy and me!

KL: Ever since we created our ROL for the first time, we have just been anxious and ready for Match Day to get here already. We feel really proud of everything that we accomplished, excited to push ourselves to even further heights in the future, and very excited to have had the opportunity to interview at so many incredible programs all over the country. I personally am excited for the next step just to become as good of a doctor as I possibly can, and I'm excited to look out for the special 'extra' opportunities that might present themselves over the next few years.

What advice would you give other couples who will go through the match process together?

CB: I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind throughout the process! Do not fixate on just one or two programs/cities. I would never have guessed our final rank list, but after going through the process with an open mind and without bias, the list almost created itself. Be sure to advocate for each other and always remember what you value most as you decide on programs!

KL: I think my advice would be to try and take as much pressure off yourself as you can because the process does take patience, forgiveness and understanding. I would also say to really embrace the opportunity and talk each other up as much possible and definitely advocate for each other! Reaching out to programs on each other's behalf really does work.

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