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Chris Musto, MD '20, chose early graduation to help battle COVID-19

Fourth year of medical school did not unfold the way Chris Musto, MD '20, expected. In February, he was looking forward to all of the crowning celebrations that mark the end of four years of academic rigor — particularly Match Day festivities, followed by the ceremonies of commencement. He and his wife planned to cap it all off with a vacation in June.

Instead, on March 17, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine closed its buildings. Match Day moved into the virtual space and the outlook on commencement was murky. On March 20 during a Zoom ceremony, Dr. Musto matched into a radiology residency at Geisinger.

Now successfully matched and with just a few learning objectives still to accomplish to satisfy his degree requirements, Dr. Musto had a choice. He could let the situation overwhelm and paralyze him, or he could look for a way to help. When he learned he could begin to help Geisinger patients before his residency began in July, he applied to get his degree early. He received his medical doctorate on April 17 and began training at Geisinger just 3 days later. His new role included taking calls on COVID-19 for Employee Health Services, answering questions from his new coworkers about symptoms, return-to-work guidelines and other concerns.

He said the decision to expedite graduation in order to enter the COVID-19 fray was an easy one. “It hit me how great the need must be when we were offered early graduation. Geisinger has invested a lot in me and I feel I owe it to the community. It’s perfect for me, especially since I will be staying in this community,” he said. “Naturally, I have some concerns. But others were already taking great risk to help — and it’s what I signed up to do as a doctor. So I was ready.”

Geisinger Commonwealth President and Dean Steven J. Scheinman, MD, found that decision inspiring. “We believe students who apply to medical school do so because they want to serve — to promote health and help the sick,” he said. “That is certainly true of Chris.”

Chris Musto, MD