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How do you choose between a medical and a musical career? Find a way to do both

Kaitlyn DeHority (photo by Durst Breneiser/courtesy of Ithaca College)

Kaitlyn DeHority (photo by Durst Breneiser/courtesy of Ithaca College)


Future Upstate medical student Kaitlyn DeHority started classes at Ithaca College as a music major. She decided to add chemistry in her second semester. Four years later, she graduated with a dual degree in music and chemistry.

“I sat down and planned every semester of courses, so I could do both, and I checked in with my advisers and associate deans each semester to make sure I was on track,” DeHority recalls. “I put a ton of effort into it.”

Accomplished in both fields — she was an Ithaca College Presidential Scholar and the principal trumpet player in the college‘s Chamber and Symphony orchestras — DeHority had to make a decision which to pursue after graduation. How did she decide?

“A lot of people have a ‘light bulb‘ moment. Not me,” she says. “It was a series of little things along the way.”

Her passion for music became obvious in elementary school. DeHority performed throughout middle school and high school in the Fayetteville-Manlius school district, earning honors at county, state and national levels. Her involvement continued throughout her time at Ithaca College.

In high school, she attended a 10-day National Youth Leadership forum on medicine in Boston. Then in college, she spent a summer doing electrochemistry research. And she shadowed Upstate experts in anesthesiology, oncology and pathology. All of those experiences made a lasting impression.

When she arrived at Upstate in 2016, DeHority was used to rehearsing 15 hours a week, practicing another hour or two each day and performing regularly. She missed it. So, she joined the Syracuse University Brass Ensemble, where she performs almost weekly, along with Upstate‘s James Greenwald, MD, a professor of family medicine who also plays trombone.

“I‘m busier,” she says of the music in her life, “but more balanced.”

DeHority‘s two passions complement each other. Dedication, preparation and practice are required, whether it‘s with a patient or for a performance.

“Medicine is moving toward a team-based approach,” she describes. “It‘s impossible for one person to know everything, so you rely on your colleagues. It‘s the same with an ensemble. You bring your highest level, but you rely on your colleagues.”

Study music and medicine

An initiative called the Upstate Guaranteed Entrance Program for Select Majors aims to enroll about 10 high-caliber students each year to medical school who come from a diverse range of undergraduate programs.

Students will be accepted into Upstate‘s College of Medicine directly from high school, with the understanding that they will complete a bachelor‘s degree at SUNY Purchase College or another of SUNY campus before starting medical school.

They are able to pick from a range of pre-med degrees, including a bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of arts, bachelor of music or bachelor of science. Students will have to maintain a 3.5 grade point average in college and would not have to take the Medical College Admission Test.

Interested high schoolers must apply to the SUNY campus and interview at Upstate for consideration. To qualify they must have an average of at least 90, extracurricular activities having to do with health care, and an SAT score of at least 1360 or an ACT score of at least 29.

Upstate Health magazine summer 2018 issueThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Upstate Health magazine.