2015 AUC graduate Matthew Lew (above, left) and his wife, Cecily

While he was in junior high, Matthew Lew went on a medical mission trip to Tijuana with his dad (a Los Angeles family medicine physician), his family, and some of his father’s colleagues. The goal: provide quality medical care to the area’s underserved populations.

This wasn’t Lew’s first brush with medicine. As a child, he’d often tagged along with his dad during rounds. But it was probably the most significant.

When they arrived in Tijuana, Lew was assigned a task: hand out vitamins. Seemed like a small thing, at first. Until he saw how people reacted.

“Just seeing the amount of joy the people got from receiving a little bottle of vitamins made me realize there’s so much more I could do to help them,” he says.

That was the moment, he says, that it all clicked. He wanted to be a physician.

Lew is well on his way. The 2015 American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) graduate recently matched at Eisenhower Medical Center in California in family medicine—his first choice. And in talking to him, it’s clear that above all, helping people is his modus operandi in becoming a doctor.

“Sometimes, I think I get more of a benefit from what I’m doing than patients do,” he laughs.

Why He Chose AUC Over a U.S. School

After applying to medical schools, Lew had two options—attend AUC, or accept an offer from an osteopathic school in the United States.

“I talked to a lot of older doctors, and they said Go get your MD,” he says. But the degree type, though a factor, wasn’t the only reason he chose AUC.

“To be a physician, you need to be culturally competent, to be able to get along with a lot of different people from different backgrounds,” he says. “A wonderful way to do that is to go and live in a different country.”

It worked for him. “AUC, as a school, was fantastic,” he says. “A lot of people may see it as a disadvantage to attend a Caribbean medical school, but you can make it an advantage. In fact, [residency interviews] open with that question—why did you choose AUC over a DO school? Because it gives you a different perspective on medicine.”

His wife joined him on the island during his studies. “She was a trooper,” he says. He credits AUC’s Spouses Organization with helping his wife find activities and fulfilling things to do on the island while Lew focused on his studies.

How It Feels to Match

Matching at Eisenhower made all of his studying at AUC—whether he was walking up and down the beach scrutinizing his microbiology notes or suturing wounds in the emergency room during U.S. clinicals—completely worth it.

“You get that email congratulating you, saying you’ve matched, and that initial stress and anxiety is replaced by excitement,” he says. “It’s like OK! I’m going somewhere. I’ve finally met my goal. It was fantastic.”

Lew—like all successful matches—had to wait until the end of the week to find out where he’d matched. “It was torturous trying to guess where you’d end up for the next three years of your life,” he says. “Luckily, I knew that all of my options were in California, but I had many colleagues who had the possibility of ending up anywhere across the country.”

An Eye on the Future

While he waits for residency training to begin, Lew has been working at Kern Medical in California, where he completed most of his clinical rotations. He’s helping to train new physicians, residents, and medical students on the new electronic medical record system there, among other responsibilities.

Lew already has a few thoughts on where he’d like his career to go. He’d like to work in family practice with his father, he says—family medicine allows doctors to forge lifelong relationships with their patients, and that continuity of care appeals to him both as a professional and as a person.

“You aren’t just treating patients,” he says. “You’re their friends.”

Lew starts his residency training in July 2016.

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Gerry Kimbrough

Posted April 11, 2016 05:05 PM

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