By the time she was 8 years old, Michelle Gordon ’94 knew that she wanted to be a doctor.
Not only did she want to be like her uncles, who were doctors themselves, but the poking and prodding by physicians who first diagnosed her with atrial septal defect—a hole in the heart—was a major defining moment in her career choice.
Attending Harvey Mudd College later in life armed her with the skills she needed to make that choice a reality. And now she’s giving back.
“Harvey Mudd is a unique place,” says Gordon, a doctor of osteopathic medicine with her own surgical practice, Northern Westchester Surgical Associates, in Putnam Valley, NY. “It’s a really good stepping stone. You can go anywhere. You can do anything.”
“If I hadn’t worked through the Mudd experience, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” she adds. “I learned to think on my feet, critical thinking. Even though I wasn’t the best student in college, Harvey Mudd really prepared me. I can get through any situation.”
Gordon, who received her doctor of osteopathic medicine from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, wanted to make sure that other students had the same opportunity.
So, in 2007 she established the Michelle E. Gordon ‘94 Endowed Scholarship, to be awarded each year to a HMC student pursuing a medical profession, preferably a student interested in osteopathic medicine.
Gordon hopes to increase the awareness of osteopathic medicine, which is a whole-person approach to health care. Rather than treating symptoms, “osteopathic physicians understand how all the body’s systems are interconnected and how each one affects the others,” according to the American Osteopathic Association.
“I know osteopathic medicine is not well understood,” Gordon says. “It’s really looked upon by many as the little brother/little sister of medicine.”
The road to becoming a doctor was not always a smooth one for Gordon, who became a surgeon in 2005 and still occasionally practices osteopathic medicine.
“I struggled in medical school,” she says. “I took care of a sick kid as a single parent.”
After Michelle’s graduation from HMC, her son, Alexander, who was not quite 2 at the time, was diagnosed with leukemia which had spread through his central nervous system. For three years, he was in and out of the hospital undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments. Today, at 15, he is cancer-free.
Despite the obstacles, Gordon reached her career destination.
“I completed not only medical school, but the rigorous tasks of internship and residency,” she says. “Now I have something, and I want to give back.”