CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — A Shenendehowa High School graduate who developed a desire for helping people after receiving extended medical care as a child will graduate from medical school next week.
When Adam Bindelglass walked across the SPAC stage at graduation in June 2013 he was headed to Northeastern University in the fall to major in Behavioral Neuroscience. Along the way, however, he found it hard to shake a deep desire to help people using his hands that had formed early in his life.
As a five-year-old child Bindelglass and his two-year-old sister Amy were passengers in a car that was involved in a severe accident. His sister was killed in the crash but he survived. His injuries, however, required a number of surgeries and many hours of rehabilitation.
Due to the crash and the subsequent rehab work, Bindelglass spent a lot of time in Albany Medical Center Hospital where he watched as doctors cared for their patients. The dedication to serving mankind that he witnessed from the medical professionals in Albany as well as Ohio where the family later moved, made an impression on the youngster.
As a young patient with an inquisitive mind, he witnessed the doctors’ probing questions, their thoughtful responses, and the compassion they showed their patients. That ability to help people in need made an impression on Bindelglass as a child and deepened as he got older.
He specifically remembers an orthopedic surgeon at Albany Medical Center who did impressions of Disney characters for his young patients. When the young man asked questions the doctor could answer using the voice of Donald Duck.
“My doctors inspired me. They motivated me,” Bindelglass said last week. “I wanted to go into medicine from an early age.”
The injuries to the five-year-old were severe. Now, as a 26-year-old on the verge of becoming a doctor himself, he rattles them off like a soldier recounting war wounds to a civilian.
“I broke both arms, my left leg, my collar bone, broke my neck and tore the radial nerve in my arm,” he said. “I had a similar injury to that of Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman; yet I was able to recover and play soccer.”
In discussing the differences in their injuries Bindelglass said he had a cervical spine injury as did Reeve, a fracture of the same area, but one that may not have had as much damage done to the spinal cord.
“My remarkable recovery from an injury that often causes complete paralysis kind of inspired me because if my physicians can help me the way they did, then I can do the same for others,” he said.
As with many college students Bindelglass said while attending Northeastern he spent some time reconsidering his major and contemplated going into clinical psychology.
“There was never a huge doubt I wanted to work with patients at some point and I considered it for about six months but I realized what I really wanted was more of the medical background,” he said. “A lot of it goes back to my work background.”
After high school and during his first summer after starting college, Bindelglass said he reconnected with his spine surgeon at Albany Med. Through that connection, he landed a summer internship at Albany Medical Orthopedic Bone and Joint Center.
He started out with small duties and eventually worked his way up to shadowing the doctors including watching them operate and do spinal fusions.
Another summer job, this time as an emergency medical technician with an ambulance company in Boston, rekindled and refueled his desire to focus on becoming a doctor and going on to medical school.
“We’d get the patients to the hospital and the doctors and medical staff would come and take them and I would never find out what happened next,” he said. “I told myself for my next experience I have to be in the hospital; I need to figure out what goes on in the hospital and how hospital medicine functions and works.”
To reach that next step he applied for a pre-med volunteer position with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. From that, he followed up by landing an internship as a research assistant in the hospital’s internal medicine department.
“My work experience kind of kept me on track and kept my goals oriented and all along knowing, and thinking back, as to what motivated me,” he said.
In December 2017, Bindelglass received his undergraduate degree in Behavioral Neuroscience from Northeastern University. He’d completed what is usually a five-year program in four-and-a-half years. With his eyes firmly planted on obtaining a medical degree, he applied for and was accepted to the Renaissance School of Medicine at SUNY Stonybrook medical program to pursue a medical degree.
He put himself on the fast-track program there also. When Bindelglass graduates on May 20 he will be completing what is usually a four-year program in three years.
He starts his four-year residency at Stonybrook Hospital in July. With his medical degree nearly in hand Bindelglass said he’s now focused on becoming an anesthesiologist.
“I’d been in and out of operating rooms and shadowing doctors but never considered anesthesiology until I got to medical school,” he said. “I originally thought I’d go into a general internal medicine but I wanted to use my hands and do some procedural skills so I broadened my scope, asked myself what can I do that will give me some procedural skills and still hold my interest in physiology and how the body works and use that with my patients.”
The field anesthesiology is specialized and Bindelglass said he could go on to become a cardiac anesthesiologist or an obstetric anesthesiologist or go into the field of chronic pain. A one year fellowship is a possibility after completing his residency.
Asked to recall his best memories of Shen he recalled the soccer team winning the Section II championship his junior year. He also remembered his AP biology class which he said prepared him well for a medical career.
“It was my first real experience with dissection and it familiarized me with anatomy and how muscles work,” he said.
Bindelglass also fondly recalled the day-to-day conversations that had gone on in his homerooms and around the cluttered lunch tables in the school cafeterias.
“You see these people every day and because it is every day you take all those things for granted,” he said.