"Wrestling champion & Future doctor"
- Nadav Altman
Yakov Gelman, a sixth-year student at the Third Faculty of Medicine (LF3) - Charles University, shares his journey from Ashdod in Israel, being a wrestling champion to the inception of his medical career in the Czech Republic, the heart of Europe. His story starts before in the 1990’s where his physician parents undertook Aliyah from Russia. The medical sphere not only influenced Yakov but his brother too, who following in the footsteps of their parents became an ophthalmologist.
Reflecting on his academic inclinations, Yakov reveals despite his early love for mathematics and physics, which initially drew him towards civil engineering. Having a shift of motivation, he later embarked on his medical studies in 2018.
Choosing a medical specialty, according to Yakov, involves considering various factors, including whether there is a preference for surgeries or clinics, and the type of patients one is drawn to— whether it be the elderly, athletes, children, or other specific populations.
One of his criteria for selecting a medical specialty was to adopt a comprehensive clinical approach. This view partly coincides with his parents who always said that "internists and family physicians are the true doctors, who approach patients holistically, and they are the ones who leave a lasting impression." Their broader perspective on the field makes it very special.
Although currently leaning towards orthopaedics, Gelman remains undecided. "I've always been interested in sports. I also enjoyed working with my hands, so orthopaedics seems quite appealing to me", recounting a recent immersive experience in orthopaedics where he observed surgeries and found the intricacies of the field captivating. Initially, he had concerns that orthopaedics might not prioritise clinical aspects as much as other fields; however, after talking to orthopaedic surgeons, these concerns were diminished, as it was indicated to Yakov that orthopaedics also involved rehabilitation and long-term approach."Since I was an athlete all my life, I have always been interested in sports," he explains, shedding light on his inclination towards orthopaedics. Yakov has competed in free wrestling both in Israel and in the Czech Republic for several years, three-times achieving the top spot in the Czech Republic!
Despite his achievements, Gelman shares that he faced a crisis in his first year, nearly failing and struggling to adapt to the demanding workload. "It was tough, but at the last moment, it was like I decided that I must, and I'll put in the effort for two more months, and I'll pass this year. It was very challenging, but it paid off", he reflects on overcoming the challenges of his early academic years.
In terms of study methods, Yakov recently discovered the effectiveness of textbooks in his sixth year, endorsing the faculty's recommendation. “Many students use notes from upper years, and I did it myself. The message is that there's a reason why people succeeded in writing a book, and there’s a reason why the faculty recommends it. I wish I had started using books as my primary source much earlier.”
With that said, if Yakov could change something about his studies, it would not be the method of studying. "These are our years of youth, and finding balance is essential," he remarks, expressing a desire to enjoy the journey more. In hindsight, he contemplates changing the type of relaxation, meaning using the little free time we have for more than watching TV and scrolling; making the most of the opportunities central Europe offers for weekend travel, as this was one of the reasons Yakov chose to study in this central location.
Looking ahead, Yakov shares concerns about technology potentially replacing medical professionals. “In the end, you can provide symptoms to Google or even chat GPT; it gives you options. In the future, it surely will be able to analyse what is statistically likely. AI might even be able to take an X-Ray, an MRI, maybe do a physical exam of some sort and recommend treatment." He later jokes that new developments must stop quickly before it is too late.
Navigating the challenges of studying abroad, Yakov acknowledges the social and family-related difficulties, especially being far from home. “Friends from back home call me, and I must tell them that I have to study. They say it’s awful and it sometimes is. Being so far away from home makes it even more challenging.”
In summary, Yakov Gelman's story unfolds as a journey of self-discovery, academic resilience, and a passion for making a meaningful impact in the field of medicine.