Nikki Gero, Class of 2009, Massena, NY

Nikki Gero, Ms IV, Massena, NYNikki Gero took time off from her medical studies at SUNY Upstate to earn an MBA. When she came back to Upstate and started seeing patients in clinical settings, Gero gave up any notion of a desk job.

"We got to treat patients and get to know them," Gero said. "That was the joy of it. They felt like 'our' patients. That's what I came to medical school for."

One patient was in the ICU at the Veterans Administration Medical Center for three weeks of Nikki's five-week Medicine rotation there. She got to know him quite well.

"As a medical student, you have that ability to develop relationships and be a part of the family," she said. "That's what I took from that experience, that I was making a difference in somebody's life."

Nikki's career path was set, though, when she did her rotation in the Pediatric Emergency Department at SUNY Upstate's University Hospital.

"From the first day, I adored it. I love the fact that you never know what you're going to get," she said. "I try to make a difference in each kid's care."

Here's what sealed the deal:

A 6-year-old boy was brought into the ER on a busy day, and he and the family had to wait for a while. Nikki talked to the boy and tried to comfort him. The boy's father became impatient and announced they were taking the boy to a different hospital. The boy started to cry, and his dad asked him what was wrong.

"I don't want to leave her," he told him, pointing to Nikki.