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Interview with our WCM Faculty Member Dr. Melissa Rusli

Dr. Fred Pelzman: We want to welcome you to Weill Cornell Medicine and have you tell us a little about what brought you here, and introduce you to the Weill Cornell Community.

Dr. Melissa Rusli: Thank you for the warm welcome! I feel so honored to be part of the Weill Cornell Community. I was raised right here on the upper east side and walked past the medical college's tall arching windows every day to school. To that little girl, it has been a dream come true to train and practice medicine here. I started medical school at Weill Cornell Medicine in 2011, and have stayed ever since! I completed my Internal Medicine residency training at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine within the Primary Care track and served a year as the Primary Care Chief Resident afterward. Now I am a full-time clinician-educator at Weill Cornell Internal Medicine Associates, where I precept our wonderful internal medicine residents and teach our amazing medical students as the Associate Director of the Primary Care Clerkship. 

My ‘primary care’ story started in medical school with my involvement in the Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCC), a student-run free clinic serving as the primary care home base for the uninsured and undocumented in NYC. During my time as a Clinical Director, I fell in love with the wholesome care we provided for patients, a responsibility so characteristic for primary care physicians. The WCCC was also when I first got involved with medical education — teaching/mentoring younger students, assessing our initiatives, and sharing with other institutions. My academic interests in medical education continued during my Internal Medicine residency, and when I was a Chief Resident, I received a seed grant from the Primary Care Innovations Program for my project “Evaluation of an Outpatient Near-Peer Teaching Experience for NYP-Weill Cornell Internal Medicine Residents”; an initiative in which senior residents receive dedicated tools and time in the outpatient setting to teach their more junior co-residents. They receive individual feedback from an attending physician and repeated teaching opportunities throughout the year to continue to grow. Our goals are to better prepare our residents as independent clinicians and as educators in the outpatient setting, and if we could also spark interest in Primary Care as a long-term career, we certainly would not protest. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m also helping Peggy Leung, MD, with her COVID Telehealth High-Risk Patient Outreach project in which medical students practice their Telehealth communication skills, learn about social determinants of health and what resources are available, and help advocate for those patients’ individual needs. By collecting this information, we also learn what our patients’ needs are, and implement changes to our practice to better provide our community. 

Dr. Fred Pelzman: How does it feel working with primary care folks?

Dr. Melissa Rusli: Working with primary care folks is the best feeling! I’ve known the WCIMA staff since my time as a medical student in the WCCC, so this practice has truly been my home for many years. It has been the utmost privilege to work with such caring and committed people. My favorite aspect of our department is that every individual has unique academic interests and passions — yet we all work towards the common goal of improving and advancing our medical community. It is inspiring to learn from one another and to watch our collaborations come together. I am also extremely grateful to be able to continue to work with my mentors, the ones who knew I would be a general internist years before I realized it myself! I hope I’ve made them proud!

Dr. Fred Pelzman: Give me your elevator pitch of what you hope to accomplish here at Cornell.

Dr. Melissa Rusli: My driving mission is to train and support the next generation of doctors to be the absolute best they can be. Not just by measures of academic success, but also compassionate care, and personal fulfillment. In order to reach these goals, I also need to role model these behaviors by staying inquisitive, provide patient-centered care, and advocate for physician wellness in myself and my peers. I have grown so much already during my time at Weill Cornell Medicine, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. 

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