A Day in the Life of…

Informational Interview

Student: Singyi Yen

Interviewee: Dr. Chiu-Bin Hsiao

Dr. Hsiao is the medical director of the Positive Health Clinic of Allegheny General Hospital. The Positive Health Clinic is the designated AIDS center in North Allegheny, Pittsburgh, PA, where Dr. Hsiao cares for several hundred HIV+ individuals; the clinic offers both primary care and comprehensive HIV care for its patients. In addition, Dr. Hsiao is also an infectious diseases physician and offers in-patient consultations on various related cases.

Q: May I ask you to go more in-depth into what a typical workday looks like for you? What do you like about it, what do you not like?

Dr. Hsiao: The workday looks like that because I am a more senior person; I’m not a junior anymore. So, what people want me to do falls more in an advising mode rather than an action mode. Basically, I have five clinics and I help one clinic a week. And sometimes, once a month, I have weekend calls; on Saturday and Sunday, I have to go in and see patients and people that need an infectious disease consultation. They have questions about infectious diseases so we go to see the patient and give advice. And then, we do have many administrative things. Also, I have a couple clinical studies, clinical trials to run. [laughs] So, it’s quite busy. I also teach medical students.

Q: Wow, you are a really busy person, it’s very impressive! So now, did you always know that you wanted to be this kind of doctor, or to pursue this career?

Dr. Hsiao: Umm, no I haven’t always known. But I guess it depends on how long ago you’re talking about. I graduated in 1984 from medical school and at that time, I had no idea. But then, when I was in Toledo, Ohio, I studied microbiology and I ended up really liking it. I did my residency at the University of Buffalo, where I official “joined” medicine and decided to go for infectious diseases.

Q: So what do you find interesting about infectious diseases, what drew you in?

Dr. Hsiao: People say that if you are in infectious diseases either you are super smart or super dumb. The reason is that people often don’t get paid well in infectious diseases. The reason, however, that you do it is because of a passion. Being a physician, there’s a lot of different things you need to know and that’s really hard, and sometimes – oftentimes – frustrating. How can you know all of it? So basically, [your success] is based on your knowledge and experience. Not only that, you have to know how to dissect the cause, the reason, and then you try to find a resolution. Then, you finally take care of [the patient]. Most of the fields, like cardiology and radiology, are all like that. However, infectious disease is very special. In infectious diseases, you are like an inspector, or the police, or a CIA agent, and you are trying to solve a crime. There is a pathogen causing somebody to get sick and there is a pathogenesis. How do you know the cause, how do you know what type of pathogen is involved? So you need to gather all of the information, no matter whether the information is good information or bad information. Whatever the information is, you need to put it into consideration; you analyze it all together, just like you are trying to solve a crime. Only after you go through that are you able to find the criminal, or, if you do not find the criminal, you are able to prevent the crime from going further, getting worse. So that’s why infectious disease is, I think, a very, very good field.

Q: Wow, that’s really awesome! [Dr. Hsiao laughs] Because I have definitely met other people who are just in the career for the money or something like that, but hearing somebody talk about their field in that way is really inspiring.

Dr. Hsiao: [laughs] I mean, that’s why I am in infectious disease, but why do I designate in HIV? Well, actually, I know infectious diseases much better than HIV, but my HIV is very good too. The problem is, nobody wants to take care of this group of people, so if I don’t take care of them, who will? So I decided to take care of them. And you can learn a lot from this group of people. Since they have immunodeficiency, there are lots of new things happening. In the normal population, you may not even see it; I mean, occasionally you might see it, but from the HIV population, you can learn more than from the regular patient population.

Q: So you had mentioned before that you studied microbiology. Did you feel that the major adequately prepared you for going into this field, or into medical school?

Dr. Hsiao: Actually, I learned microbiology after medical school. I graduated from medical school in Taipei, so when I came to the US, I had to try and adapt to the system and that was my first step. I went to graduate school and focused in something that I was the worst at when I was in medical school. So I chose microbiology and it turned out well. The thing is, whether that was truly helpful, I don’t know. Obviously, I was more prepared for infectious disease because I had focused in microbiology for a couple of years. My focus became more on infectious disease only during my residency. So that’s how I prepared myself. And also, my fellowship was very crucial because my mentors were very good, very supportive and they let me do whatever I wanted [laughs]. I did microbiology, molecular biology, sequencing of bacteria. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I had to come in and collect the sputum sample and isolate the haemophilus influenza mollica tyrase, something like that. It takes a lot of hard work.

Q: So then, can you describe the mindset or the work ethic of a successful physician?

Dr. Hsiao: As a physician, the work ethic is simple, patient first and do no harm. Do not play god. There is no absolute in medicine, you just have to do your best. Because I am older, I am the professor now. As a professor, something I say that people find interesting is that the pathogen you see may not be causing the illness and the thing that you don’t see is not necessarily not the one causing the illness. Even if you do everything right, things can go wrong. And even if you do everything wrong, things can still end up fine, so don’t give yourself the credit. You just have to keep going and do your best. That’s it.

Q: Last question, what advice do you have for someone who is interested in pursuing a medical career?

Dr. Hsiao: Obviously, the number one thing is don’t count on the fact that you are going to earn a lot of money. And number two, medicine is a hard career, it takes a long time before it is finished. So you have to love it to choose it. You should like to be with people; if you cannot stand people, their attitudes, you might struggle and you might not be outstanding. The thing is, people might be underserved. They might smell really bad, they might have poor hygiene, they are ill, they are sick, they may not be loveable. As a physician, if you cannot stand that, you cannot be a physician because those people are the ones that really need the help. Unfortunately, I see many physicians that don’t address those who are sick, those who are in need; they only take care of the people who are already healthy. That is not a true physician. I think the most important characteristic of a physician is passion. Every field, it doesn’t matter whether you want to be a physician or a musician or an engineer, it has to be your passion. So if you think your character is suitable to be a physician and you have the passion to help people, go for it. It’s just the passion. It doesn’t matter how smart, or not smart, you are, in the end, the most important thing is still passion.

Dr. Hsiao is one of my father’s long ago classmates. When the opportunity presented itself to interview him, I couldn’t pass it up. Dr. Hsiao is such an encouraging professional and he is very grounded and passionate in what he does. I chose to interview Dr. Hsiao because I felt that he would provide valuable insight into a type of medical career that I am very interested in. Initially, I had wanted to delve deeper into a certain undergraduate major, but having a discussion with someone who has overcome many of the steps in a medical career and has come out very successful, I now feel, was much more beneficial. By better understanding my end career goal, I believe that I am now better equipped to choose an appropriate and helpful major.

This interview served to strengthen my resolve and certainty in pursuing a medical career. It also presented me with a new field, infectious diseases, that I had previously known little about, but, surprisingly, aligned well with my imagined career. Talking with Dr. Hsiao has definitely relieved some concerns and worries about choosing a “correct” undergraduate major, instead, supporting the idea that as long as I am willing to work hard and spend time in a certain field, any major I end up declaring can start me down the right path. The focus of my major exploration has since shifted from trying to find one that will help me be successful in medicine to looking for a major that greatly interests and inspires me.

Most of the information that Dr. Hsiao shared seemed, at least to me, typical of a profession in the medical field. First off, a career in medicine requires a lot of time and effort (and money), so it would be extremely valuable to find a specialty that inspires passion. Secondly, what it looks like to be a physician can vary between specialties, but the main focus of medicine is to help the patient in any way possible. While most of the overall information was what I expected from a doctor, several other things that Dr. Hsiao mentioned definitely took me by surprise. Looking at Dr. Hsiao’s own story, he hadn’t had a perfectly set plan that he followed, instead, he explored different options until he found a niche that he enjoyed; from this, I’ve learned that I don’t have to have the next ten years of life strictly planned out. Additionally, Dr. Hsiao eventually entered a field of study, microbiology, that he originally struggled with, showing that difficulties can be overcome and even defeated. The last piece of material that was unexpected was that not all medical careers result in a high salary, at least not as high as generally believed. While this does not deter me from the career, it is an interesting piece of data to archive for later.

I am fairly certain in my decision to enter into a medical profession; more courses and focus areas need to be studied, however, before a specialty can be chosen. I would like to compile some information about different medical fields and careers and their representative courses/majors. As I continue to explore the different sciences, I can not only better choose an undergraduate major that interests me, but also take a step in determining a medical specialty. Furthermore, the (hopefully) future medical school education also needs to be taken into consideration. In terms of career, I am pretty set on medicine, disregarding the specialty area. As for declaring an undergraduate major, I feel that the next semester of courses actually spent in the different sciences will help to solidify a choice before the school year is over.

Several resources were available and used throughout the year to explore different majors. One that I found extremely helpful was the Exploration Office’s “What Can I Do with a Major in…?” resource. I appreciated the long term mindset that the information sheets provided. For most students, the end goal of receiving a college degree is usually to enter into a good career. The sheets for the different majors provided an easily understandable and accessible overview of the different career fields the specific major could lead to; the information was definitely helpful in picking out potential majors. Another activity that I found extremely beneficial was this one, the informational interview. I can sort and read through piles and piles of information about a certain major or career, but actually being able to have a conversation with an individual applying all the information in a very real way was most helpful.

Overall, the discussion with Dr. Hsiao was a very interesting and pleasing experience that inspired thoughts of hard work, passion, and kindness that will accompany me as I continue into the unknowns of the future.

Social and Behavioral Sciences (ASC)

The second installment of the College of Arts and Sciences series covered the social and behavioral sciences. The four major areas that were covered included International Studies, Communications and Journalism, Geography, and Psychology, with psychology as my main major of interest. Ever since I took psych in high school, the subject area has always fascinated me. The mind and its processes provide such a diverse range of captivating concepts to study. Beyond aligning with my academic and educational interests, the psychology major also complements my career goals extremely well. With the intention of going to medical school in mind, a focus in psychology would equip me with a strong foundation of knowledge about the mental processes to go along with a physiological and anatomical medical education. Having an understanding of both the physical and mental workings of the human body would help me become a better doctor, and able to help more people.

Psychology, along with neuroscience, has always been a strong contender for potential majors. And it was this persistent interest that encouraged me to attend this early morning lecture. Beyond psychology, after taking an anthropology course this semester, the anthropological sciences have sparked an interest. The anthropology major, however, was already discussed in the previous lecture, and the neuroscience major was unfortunately not discussed this morning.

Most of the information presented I had already known, but an interesting fact was that the Psychology major exists as either a BA or a BS. Though not terribly different in the coursework, I like knowing that an option exists that caters to a student’s individual strengths and interests. Many of the other majors in the college, in fact, have either a BA or a BS option.

The four major areas generally matched my thoughts of them before walking into the lecture. Focusing on the psychology major, it has many distinct areas of study and generally involves working with people. Furthermore, having a psychology major doesn’t limit your potential careers to psychiatry or clinical psychology; psych majors work in a large variety of different settings. The one thing that was a little new to me was how research intensive the major is. With such a strong research component, I was slightly turned away from pursuing a psych degree.

Concerning the psych major, I have a few final questions. Do all areas of study within the major include such a major research focus? And if so, what does the research look like, lab work, surveys, observational studies? Finally, while I know that psychology can still be considered a science degree, how well does the program prepare you for medical school?

Natural and Mathematical Sciences (ASC)

At Ohio State, the majors in the College of Arts and Sciences are so numerous, they have to be split into three different sessions. And even only addressing the natural and mathematical science majors in the college, only are few majors were able to be deeply discussed. Of the majors discussed, I am most interested in the biochemistry major; I am, however, also considering a minor in anthropology. Biochemistry exists at the interface between biology and chemistry, two areas of study that greatly interest me. Beyond combining my interests in the two scientific fields, a biochemistry major also provides a solid foundation of education for other educational opportunities and specializations. Specifically, a biochemistry major would prepare me well for continuing on to medical school.

The College of Arts and Sciences, especially the natural science majors, has always been a strong contender of interest considering my intention of going into a scientific field. I had chosen to attend this lecture because of my strong interest in the majors within this segment of the college.

The lecture provided many interesting tidbits of information, with the most interesting, at least to me, pertaining to the many resources available to students not only in the college, but also just interested in a major in the college. On the college website, there’s a new search device (explore programs) that allows students to select interests and then matches the specified interests to specific majors and/or programs. Additionally, multiple student organizations exist that allow students to explore a certain field of study without declaring a major. Once a major has been chosen, the college, and the university, provides many resources to help their students succeed. Different services offered include a writing center, career services, tutoring, the list goes on.

The majors presented generally aligned with my past conceptions of the different majors. The majors are diverse and usually provide a fairly broad educational base that spans across several specializations. Furthermore, majors in this college are understandably difficult and require a good amount of work and effort to do well. Resources exist, however, to help students overcome the difficulties. Overall, while the majors can be harder than some, it can be extremely satisfying obtaining a degree from this college in the end.

Concerning a degree in biochemistry, I have questions concerning the possible careers following graduation. In the event that I decide not to go on to medical school, what would I be prepared to do? Another related question I have is how well do the program requirements satisfy prerequisites for medical school? Finally, how rigid is the coursework for majors in this college, would there be adequate time to pursue a minor, or even a double major?



Walking into the lecture hall this very early morning, I had not expected to add a major to my list of potential futures. Much to my surprise, the Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, or the BSPS for short, slid its way to near the top of my list of possible majors. (This has to stop happening or else the short list will grow to be too long).

Within the BSPS, I am most interested in the Health Professions Pathway. This pathway provides students with a strong foundation in the math and sciences, while also fulfilling most or all of the prerequisites for health related professional programs. With its strong focus in the math and sciences, along with the highly qualified pre-health training, the BSPS Health Professions Pathway perfectly aligns with my interests. I am currently very interested in attending medical school and, eventually, becoming a doctor. The BSPS not only equips students with the necessary courses to apply to professional school, it also provides students with a solid knowledge base of medications which is an integral part of any health profession. In addition to lining up with my career interests, the BSPS is also very appealing to me academically. The heavy core of math and science courses, two of my favorite subject areas, would encourage me to become invested in my classes and their various applications.

Although I had initially chosen to attend this lecture on a whim to satisfy the class requirements, I am very glad to have been introduced to the BSPS major. Previously, I was under the preconceived notion that the BSPS was only for students intent on continuing  on to pharmacy school and becoming a pharmacist in some capacity. Instead, I learned that the BSPS can, and often does, prepare students for a variety of health professions and other various careers.

The most interesting, and inspiring, information to hear is that the renowned faculty that teach at the professional and graduate level also instruct the BSPS students. Many of the BSPS graduates have even emphasized the high level of interest and care the faculty have for the undergraduate students; in fact, 81% of the graduating class would choose BSPS again. As a smaller undergraduate program, students can really get a more specialized and individualized education.

In considering this major, a few questions have come up. Does the BSPS major offer built in internship/clinical opportunities like some of the other health related majors? And if, in the end, I decide not to continue on to medical school, what are my other career options, with a special interest in those that are similar to a physician?

The Other 60 Percent (SHRS)

The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences is home to the “other” 60 percent of the health care workforce. The graduates of this school are ushered into an in-demand workforce that provides diagnostic, technical, therapeutic, and patient care services that directly complement the other medical professions.

As I currently have the intent of attending medical school, the Health Sciences and Medical Laboratory Sciences majors (two of the seven undergraduate degrees offered) have garnered my interest. These two majors provide pre-med students with a more comprehensive look at healthcare, equipping them with a solid knowledge base about the various activities that are crucial to the practice of medicine; this knowledge ultimately helps students to become better doctors in the future. In addition to these majors being a good fit for my career interests, they also line up with my academic interests. The natural sciences, especially chemistry and anatomy & physiology, are endlessly fascinating to me. These majors, while still allowing me to explore some other interests (analytics, etc), give me the opportunity to focus most of my time and effort on learning things that I genuinely find interesting. I dragged myself out of bed at 7:30am for this lecture because of my interest in pursuing a medical profession; needless to say, I am gladly walking away with a couple majors that I may soon declare mine.

Before, I was strongly considering a degree in the pure natural sciences. I thought the HRS majors were for students not planning on going on to professional school. Now I know that several majors, namely the two previously listed, greatly complement a medical education. They provide a sturdy foundation of medical care education (and experience) that can be used to springboard a future doctor’s learning.

Now, of course, what would a lecture be without learning some new tidbit that shatters past misconceptions. The truth has been revealed; medical schools don’t really care about what major an applicant has declared. As long as the student has completed the listed prerequisites, they are (or should be) academically equipped to enter medical school.

Finally, there are a few questions that have been brewing after the session. While most of the majors have clinic time built in, what about the majors that don’t? Would those students still be able to obtain some clinical experience? If yes, are they at a severe disadvantage when looking for those opportunities? Lastly, the question that encompasses a great fear, what if I don’t receive admission into the programs? What are my next steps?

Year in Review

[ “Year in Review”  is where you should reflect on the past year and show how you have evolved as a person and as a student.  You may want to focus on your growth in a particular area (as a leader, scholar, researcher, etc.) or you may want to talk about your overall experience over the past year.  For more information, go to: http://honors-scholars.osu.edu/e-portfolio. Delete these instructions and add your own post.]


[“Career” is where you can collect information about your experiences and skills that will apply to your future career.  Like your resume, this is information that will evolve over time and should be continually updated.   For more information, go to: http://honors-scholars.osu.edu/e-portfolio. Delete these instructions and add your own post.]


[Artifacts are the items you consider to be representative of your academic interests and achievements. For each entry, include both an artifact and a detailed annotation.  An annotation is a reflective description of the artifact that attempts to communicate its significance.  For more information, go to: http://honors-scholars.osu.edu/e-portfolio. Delete these instructions and add your own post.]