Learn more about Dr. Matthew Drakely's inspiring story

The Other Side of the White Coat: One Resident’s Story

By Matthew Drakeley, MD

When I was a sophomore in college, I started to develop numbness and tingling in my left arm and was unable to discriminate between hot and cold temperatures. I was ultimately diagnosed with a Type I Chiari Malformation with extensive syrinx (fluid-filled sacs) lining my spinal cord for which I underwent decompressive brain surgery at the age of 21.

My neurosurgeon, Raymond Sekula, MD, was amazing throughout the whole process. Whether it was answering my family’s questions for over one and a half hours at the initial consultation or personally washing my hair on day two after surgery, his compassion was unparalleled.

My experiences as a patient helped fuel my desire to pursue a career in medicine and I am currently a chief resident in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UPMC.

Last week when I was seeing a rehab consult on the neuro step-down unit at UPMC Presbyterian, I had the pleasure of watching Dr. Sekula walk one of his post-operative patients down the hall. After greeting each other with big smiles and a hug, I told Dr. Sekula that I remembered that day very well.

At that moment, I realized that my journey through medicine as a patient had come full circle. Now on the other side of the white coat, I have the responsibility of continuing to treat every patient, family, and staff member with the same dignity and integrity that I was fortunate enough to receive.