A “GPS” for Students

Christina Chin: Einstein 'Navigator' Helps Students Find Their Way

With the start of a new academic year, Einstein students are navigating through new surroundings, subjects and questions about policies, college resources and the often-daunting process of applying for residency programs.

Christina Chin
Christina Chin
Because these “routes” can sometimes be unclear, students frequently turn to an experienced navigator to help them map their voyage: Christina Chin, assistant director of the office of student affairs (OSA).

Ms. Chin, who has served with the OSA for 15 years, received special recognition in May from Einstein's chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. “The Class of 2014 attempted to nominate Christina for induction into the prestigious, national society,” explained Dr. Stephen Baum, senior associate dean for student affairs, who heads the OSA. “But, because one must have a faculty appointment—which the students didn’t know—she was ineligible for induction. Instead, we arranged to present her a certificate of appreciation from the society at the annual Student Awards Ceremony.”

He added, “Where Christina’s concerned, there's a lot to appreciate.”

Serving as an Invaluable Advocate

Ms. Chin with student affairs colleagues Drs. Stephen Baum and Allison Ludwig
Ms. Chin with student affairs colleagues Drs. Stephen Baum and Allison Ludwig
The journey to a medical degree is filled with twists and turns, and the OSA acts as an advocate on behalf of students as they traverse their way. The office provides counseling, peer advising and study assistance; manages academic records through the college registrar; coordinates student clubs and activities; orchestrates events such as Orientation, Match Day, and Commencement; assists with residency application; and acts as a general liaison to faculty and administration.

For many students, Ms. Chin is the face of the OSA.

"She's an absolute gem," said Aviva Berkowitz, a fourth-year student from Brooklyn who plans to specialize in dermatology. Busy completing dozens of residency applications, Ms. Berkowitz has come to rely on the professionalism and dedication of Ms. Chin, who communicates closely with students, sometimes on a 24-hour basis.

"Students love her, but she's also very modest about what she does, very unassuming. I always knew she was wonderful, but I don't think I even fully realized the contributions she makes until I e-mailed her with a question one evening, and she took the time to respond to me at 10 p.m. I was thoroughly amazed.

"That's the way she is. She's a steady, guiding presence, which is especially helpful as I enter my fourth year. Christina truly cares about each and every student and we are so fortunate to have her."

Ms. Chin's colleagues are equally appreciative.

"She's simply unmatchable," said Dr. Baum, noting that Ms. Chin is the office's first assistant director, a position that was created to encompass the wide-ranging role she plays.

"Christina combines an encyclopedic knowledge of the job, an incredible work ethic, and a gentle, caring way of working with students. She's the complete package."

That combination of compassion and professionalism makes Ms. Chin a role model for students, according to Dr. Allison Ludwig, assistant dean for students.

"Christina truly cares about other people, and especially about our students. She senses their needs, she feels responsible for doing something, and she's extremely good at finding solutions. Those are qualities anyone would want in a physician.

"If students are looking for someone to pattern their professional lives after, they need look no farther than Christina."

At Home in the Bronx

Ms. Chin (front row, center), pictured with Dr. Edward Burns, executive dean, and fellow employees being recognized for 15 years of service at Einstein, in December 2013
Ms. Chin (front row, center), pictured with Dr. Edward Burns, executive dean, and fellow employees being recognized for 15 years of service at Einstein, in December 2013
In a similar way, Ms. Chin had to look no farther than her home when she joined the Einstein community in 1998.

"Born and raised in the Bronx, it felt natural to find a career at Einstein, to stay where my roots were," she said.

She credits her upbringing with her approach to her work.

"Being the child of a single-parent home, I saw my mother work tirelessly to provide for my brother and me, so we could have a better life," she said. "This is where my work ethic stems from.

"I'm simply following in my mother's footsteps, trying to create a better life for my own children."

Charting Challenging Terrain

Administering the OSA can make that work difficult, observed Dr. Baum.

Einstein welcomes 183 new students each year. Residency application is becoming more competitive. And the OSA is called upon to help students with a complex mix of deadline-driven paperwork and obstacles that can be personal or problematic. Even the experience of living and studying in New York City can be difficult, especially for students from other places. More than half of the student body comes from outside of New York, and nearly one in seven Einstein medical students was born outside the United States.

Nevertheless, Ms. Chin, the Bronx native and expert navigator, maintains a steady hand at the helm, helping tomorrow's physicians chart their individual courses.

And she feels the greatest reward for her efforts is not a certificate, nor the words of others.

"It gives me absolute joy when I see students I came to know during orientation become successful physicians," she said. "When they cross the stage at graduation a few years later, I can't help it, I just beam with pride."

Posted on: Tuesday, October 07, 2014