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Health Center Today, May 6, 2011

Austin Schirmer’s Leadership Skills Prompt Positive Changes

By Carolyn Pennington

David Austin Schirmer III

David Austin Schirmer III, Medical School Commencement Speaker

Photo by Janine Gelineau

When Austin Schirmer arrived at the School of Medicine, the self-described people person immediately became involved in student life. Four years later, a number of positive changes have been made to the school thanks to his enthusiasm, hard work and leadership skills.

Despite the hectic schedule of a medical student, the Darien native immediately got involved with several student organizations, including the student honor board. The student-run board is responsible for adjudicating alleged violations of the honor code. He has been a member of the board all four years and this year was appointed its chair.

Schirmer also demonstrated his leadership skills as a member of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). He played an integral role in designing, administering and co-authoring a report to the LCME regarding student opinions and concerns regarding the medical school.

“It was a great experience because it was up to us to design a survey that we thought would provide a good picture of the medical school overall,” says Schirmer. “Ultimately it proved to do just that and led to several improvements that the school is proud of.” The report helped bring about positive changes including increasing the space available for students to study and recreate. Feedback from the study is also being used to help revise the school’s academic programs and curriculum.

Schirmer, a graduate of Trinity College, is grateful to his advisors and other faculty members who helped guide him through medical school. Starting in his first year, Schirmer’s student continuity practice advisor was Dr. David Jaworski, a family medicine practitioner in Mansfield.

“Dr. Jaworski taught me this wonderful talent of active listening with patients,” explains Schirmer. “I learned so much and was exposed to a wide range of conditions through the diversity of patients that he saw. He gave me invaluable advice about my career and really prepared me for clinical practice.”

During his third year of medical school, Schirmer was still undecided about his specialty. He had been gravitating toward orthopaedics. He had even helped organize and run a successful orthopaedic surgery scholars group for two years.

So when Schirmer started his required rotation in obstetrics/gynecology, he had no expectations. “I never really saw myself going into that specialty, so I never thought much about it,” explains Schirmer. But when he started working with the ob/gyn and reproductive specialists at the Health Center he soon realized the field offered just what he was looking for.

“I discovered it was an amazing mix of surgery, outpatient procedures, and basic medicine,” says Schirmer. “I wanted to make sure I could be in the operating room and do procedures but still practice office medicine, too.” Schirmer also likes the variety within the field, from every-day ob-gyn issues to high-risk pregnancies and infertility.

Schirmer, who has always lived in the Northeast, is looking forward to spending the next four years in Atlanta where he’ll do his ob/gyn residency training. “But I will miss it here, I really loved it,” notes Schirmer. “UConn is a special place.”