Medicine + Humanity = Matthew Deek

Matthew Deek, a brilliant pre-med student who graduated recently from NJIT, is destined to become a research doctor who will humanize the field of medicine.

During his three years at NJIT, Matthew Deek merged his love of science with his affinity for the humanities.  He came to NJIT unsure of what to study, so he studied a bit of everything -- did a little of everything.

That he graduated last week with a 4.0 -- a perfect GPA -- is only part of his story. That he graduated in just three years is just part of his story. That he graduated having done three important research projects while editing a major student publication, as well as chairing the honors student council, is part of his story. 

His full story is this: He’s a gifted student whose drive and brilliance is tempered by his sense of humanity, according to his professors. He’s a self-effacing young scholar who wants to devote his life to helping people. His professors and advisers praise him profusely while noting that Matthew, the soul of humility, will never praise himself. 

A Well-Rounded Scholar

He entered the Albert Dorman Honors College as an undecided major, but soon majored in biology – the premed track.  Unlike most pre-med students, however, he has a deep interest in the humanities. He loves to read and write and is editor of Technology Observer magazine, published by the Honors College. He also travels widely. His father is Lebanese and Matthew visits Lebanon often, usually stopping first in Europe. He speaks French fluently and some Lebanese dialect.  Academically, he did a research project on how colleges could humanize their pre-med programs so as to produce humane doctors. And that’s precisely what he aims to one day be: a medical humanist.

His Future: a Medical Humanist

Matthew has been accepted at some of the nation’s top medical schools: Albert Einstein, Robert Wood Johnson, New Jersey Medical School and Stony Brook. He’s still waiting to hear from Yale.  And though he hasn’t decided which med school to attend, or which medical field to study, he knows he wants eventually to work as a research doctor. He intends to do research while also seeing patients. And perhaps most importantly, he knows the kind of doctor he’ll be.  

“To be a good doctor, you must spend a lot of time with your patients and listen to them closely” says Matthew, his voice filling with youthful idealism. “That makes patients feel good and helps you diagnose their problems. You can’t treat medicine like a factory or let patients become part of a vast medical bureaucracy.”  

Robert Friedman, an associate professor of humanities, oversaw Matt’s humanities research project.  Friedman characterizes Matt as a terrific scholar who sees medicine not as an avenue to personal profit but as a pathway to helping others.   

“Matthew will be a doctor who shows genuine care and concern for his patients,” says Friedman. “He’ll be the poster child for the caring doctor who personally knows his patients -- the kind of doctor that Americans remember fondly from the past.”

Using IT to Improve Healthcare

For another research project, Matthew studied how advances in information technologies can improve electronic medical records. He even researched how social media and telemedicine could improve America’s healthcare system. He published the results of his study in the Technology Observer.

“Given Matthew’s character, focus, leadership ability and empathy, he’ll be a great medical student and ultimately a highly effective research doctor,” said James McHugh, a professor of computer science who directed Matt’s IT research. “Matthew has a calmness of character rarely seen in someone so young.” 

He Even Loves Physics

Whenever Camelia Prodan tells a medical doctor what she does for a living – she teaches physics at NJIT – they have a common reply: “My doctors often tell me they didn’t like physics in university,” says Prodan. “I had Matthew in my class and I know he loves physics. He loves math and the sciences and is very well rounded.”

Matthew liked physics so much he also assisted Prodan with research on the biophysics of the brain. He spent endless hours in her lab, she said, even during evenings and weekends. His diligence resulted in his co-authoring a scholarly paper published in the Journal of Physiological Measurement.  He will soon publish a second paper on his research. “Matt is focused and trustworthy yet he’s modest,” Prodan added. “Everyone wanted to work with him.”

A Young Man of Very Fine Feelings

Paul Dine, assistant dean in the Honors College, is an erudite man who has several degrees, speaks several languages and has lived in several countries. Dine is the adviser for the Technology Observer and as such has worked closely with Matthew, who has written for, managed and edited the magazine. During one of their talks, Dine, one of whose degrees is in biblical studies, told Matthew he always wanted to visit Lebanon to see its ancient cedar trees, often mentioned in the Bible. 

The next time Matthew travelled to Lebanon, he visited the ancient trees of Lebanon and bought back what he thought was a little something for Dine. But that little something made a deep impression on Dine.     

“Matthew bought me a crucifix made from a branch of an ancient cedar trees,” said Dine, his voice filling with emotion. “He remembered our conversation and brought me back a magnificent crucifix. It was very thoughtful of him. I was touched. He is obviously a young man of very fine feelings.”

(By Robert Florida, Office of Strategic Communications)