Brian Ghezelaiagh, M.D., always knew he wanted to be a doctor. His mother is a dentist with patients she’s seen for 25 years. Brian spent many hours in his youth visiting her solo practice; he had a chance to experience how gratifying being a healthcare provider can be.
Brian’s been legally blind since birth due to coloboma, a congenital eye condition causing limited vision. He still has some usable vision and uses access technology to read print, use a computer, watch TV, and more. Brian attended a public school from kindergarten through 12th grade and had a vocational rehabilitation specialist he worked with for many years, two or three days a week.
“He would go over everything from resources available to people who are blind or low vision, adaptive technology, learning how to use computer software like ZoomText and how to touch type – which remains invaluable to me even today. I write a lot of notes when I see patients,” says Brian, a psychiatrist. “But maybe most importantly, he taught me how to advocate for myself.”
Pursuing the dream of being a doctor
That skill set served Brian very well. Like many people, he wasn’t exactly sure what his future might look like when he started college other than wanting to be a doctor. He discovered a dual-degree program at Brooklyn College (part of the City University System of New York CUNY) that combines a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree program. If you meet specific course requirements for the bachelor’s degree and get a certain score on the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®), you’re guaranteed admission to Downstate Health Sciences University. Down State is part of the State University System of New York SUNY.
“It’s a little daunting out of high school to commit to a career in medicine, which means eight years in college,” Brian says. “But being guaranteed a seat in medical school is kind of a big deal, because the medical school admission process is very competitive.” He adds that he had a lot of encouragement from his family and people he met or read about who were blind or low vision and had careers in the healthcare field. “The idea that there were people who are blind or low vision who went before me gave me a lot of courage,” Brian says.
Clearly, Brian had what it takes. He graduated Summa Cum Laude – the highest honors – from Brooklyn College, earned his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from Downstate Health Sciences University and completed his psychiatry residency training at Stony Brook Medicine.
“Your residency is like post-doctoral training – people are probably familiar with residencies from shows like Grey’s Anatomy or Scrubs,” Brian says. “That’s what determines your medical specialty. Everyone has an intern year, which is a very formative year where you’re doing a lot of different tasks, from managing as many as 100 patients in the hospital overnight to working in outpatient clinics. You’re basically learning how to do your job as a doctor.”
After his internship year, Brian spent three more years completing his psychiatry residency to become a Board-certified psychiatrist in July 2022.
Putting knowledge into practice
Brian immediately launched his solo practice, Brookhaven Psychiatry, inspired largely by his mother’s solo practice and the flexibility it offers. He shares the practice space with his wife, Wendy, who is a dentist.
“I do everything from seeing patients to running the front and back office to cleaning toilets to working with insurance companies and billing,” says Brian, who is 31 years old. “You have to embrace the business side of medicine in addition to the medicine part, which I’ve come to enjoy a lot. I like the autonomy.”
He identifies himself as a generalist because he treats the full spectrum of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and more, as well as substance use disorders. He provides medication management services and psychotherapy and considers his career very gratifying.
“I see many patients who’ve told me I’ve helped them immensely, and I’ve seen them improve with my own eyes,” Brian says. “It’s such a privilege to do a job where you’re making a living but also helping people in the process. I just try to help the person in front of me.”
Brian has even more to share about his career experiences. Join the APH ConnectCenter for CareerConversation on December 7, 2023, at 6:00 PM Eastern as we interview Brian and provide time for the audience’s career-related questions! Register for the webinar here.