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The Long Path to a Dream Career

Alumni Michael Goldstein ’92 on his story, from refugee to cardiologist

One year into an engineering program in his home country of Russia, Michael Goldstein ’92 was drafted into the military. He spent the following two years in the military and while he served, he met a friend who was a paramedic. That friendship led Michael to an interest in medicine, and after his tour in the army was finished, instead of returning to engineering he enrolled in medical school in Russia. 

Before he could complete medical school, Michael put his education on hold to immigrate to the United States as a refugee. 

“I came to this country by myself at the age of 22,” Michael explained. “I moved to Salem and applied to finish my pre-med requirements at Salem State.”

He lived a five-minute drive from campus and enrolled as a commuter student in the biology program. 

“Salem State counted my two years of medical school in Russia toward my undergraduate degree, so I only had to finish two more years,” he continued. “Most importantly, I could go to school and work at the same time, which made it financially possible.”

Fifteen Years of Preparation

Michael worked full-time to put himself through college. He got a job as an orderly at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and worked the 3-11 shift so he could attend classes in the mornings. 

“It worked well so I could attend classes,” Michael said, “but the required labs were only held in the afternoon and I could never make it due to my work schedule. One of my professors helped me out – he gave me the key to the lab so I could go in on weekends and do the labs on my own.”

Two years later, Michael earned a B.S. in Biology from Salem State and continued on to achieve his medical degree from The University of Vermont’s College of Medicine in 1996. With his MD in hand, Michael dove head-first into a three-year residency at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., followed by a three-year fellowship at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass. 

After a total of 15 years of preparation between two countries, Dr. Michael Goldstein returned to Salem as an attending cardiologist at North Shore Medical Center. Today, he is also the incoming president of the Essex South chapter of the prestigious Massachusetts Medical Society, the oldest medical society in the U.S. and publisher of The New England Journal of Medicine.

“You have to like the science, and you have to like to read,” Michael explained about what it took to get through medical school. 

“Don’t take no for an answer,” he offered as advice for pre-med students. “You have to study hard and dedicate all your efforts to that one goal. If you can do that, you can get through medical school. It must be your primary target. It also helps if you love what you do.”

In the beginning, Michael’s career was supposed to be hydraulic engineering. Then once he shifted into medicine, cardiology was the clear choice. “I always wanted to be a cardiologist. A lot of what we do in cardiology is based on physics and hydraulics,” he explained. “The way the blood flows – in the end, it’s a pump and pipes.”

Active Member in His Community

Working in Salem and living in nearby Marblehead, Michael is an active member of the North Shore community. The area hosts a large Russian immigrant population, and many seek out Michael because he is bilingual and speaks their language. 

“I saw twelve patients this morning, and three of them were Russian-speakers,” he said. “It helps for them to be able to communicate easily with their doctor.”

Several of Michael’s former Salem State professors are also patients now. 

“I love maintaining a connection with Salem State,” he said. “We have a lot of nursing students working at the hospital, and I enjoy serving on Salem State’s Board of Overseers. It’s a privilege to be able to help give back to the school.”

“We’re lucky to have such an awesome resource,” he added. “Salem State really defines the City of Salem. It’s hard to imagine the city without the university.”

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