Student Speaker: Gina Piscitello, MD, MS

Gina Piscitello, MD, MS

Gina Piscitello, MD, MS, from the Graduate College, will serve as the 2022 Student Commencement Speaker. Piscitello holds the special distinction of being the third University student speaker and the first student to represent the Graduate College as a part of Rush University’s commencement ceremony.

Piscitello is a member of the Rush University Graduate College Class of 2022. At Rush University’s 50th Commencement Ceremony, she will receive her Master of Science in Clinical Research.

Piscitello received a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University in 2011. She went on to receive her Doctor of Medicine in 2015 from the University of Minnesota. She then completed her residency in internal medicine and fellowships in hospice and palliative medicine and clinical medical ethics at the University of Chicago.

Piscitello is currently a physician at Rush University Medical Center and assistant professor at Rush Medical College. She specializes in in palliative medicine and hospital medicine and is a medical ethics consultant for the Medical Center. Palliative medicine includes improving quality of life care for patients suffering with serious or complex illnesses and helping patients identify options for care that best align with their preferences. 

Piscitello chose to pursue a Master of Science in Clinical Research at Rush because having a research career is important to her and she understands the importance of data analytics in identifying areas for improvement in health care. Piscitello hopes to take what she has learned in the clinical research program and use it to advance patient care in the areas of palliative medicine and clinical medical ethics.


“When students and recent graduates come together and advocate, real change can happen.”

A Q&A with Rush University 2022 Commencement Student Speaker Gina Piscitello, MD, MS

What drove you to have a career in health care and palliative medicine?

I had early exposure to health care and end-of-life care through my parents. My dad was a firefighter, so I would always hear about the medical calls he went on, which initially drew me to medicine. My mom volunteered at many funerals, and I think that early exposure played a big role in my decision to pursue the field of palliative medicine.

Palliative medicine is much more than end-of-life care, as its primary purpose is to improve symptoms and quality of life for any patient, but the end-of-life component of palliative medicine is what inspired me to pursue the field. I got to see how important death is to families, how it can bring people together. It’s a sad time, but there is so much that can be done to support others. You can help control patient symptoms, advocate for patients, bring families together again, help families through bereavement, and I think that is my big drive to pursue this field.

Once I learned palliative medicine existed during my second year of medical school, I knew it was the right place for me. I absolutely love my job and am very blessed to get to do it.

What did you study at Rush University and why?

I just completed a Master of Science in Clinical Research. I chose to pursue this degree because I hope to pursue a research career. I love direct patient care, but there are vast issues in health care where looking at the bigger picture is essential to help us provide direct patient care. With the master’s in clinical research, I’ve been able to learn about important areas needed to pursue research, such as grant writing, that I will continue to use in the future. Our statistics courses were especially great, and now I’m better able to analyze my own data and seek additional support when truly needed. 

How do you see yourself using your degree in the future?

Doing research at the intersection of clinical medical ethics and palliative medicine and being able to evaluate data to uncover ethical concerns in patient care and create interventions to improve these areas are goals for my career. One recent research project was an intervention to implement triggered palliative medicine consults in the medical intensive care unit, followed by evaluating the effect these triggered consults have on nurse moral distress. It was implemented while I completed the master’s program, with support from a multidisciplinary team including nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists. I am very grateful to Rush University for allowing us to pursue that research project, which is now published. 

What advice would you give a student coming into your program?

I would say some of the statistical methods you will learn in class may be a bit complex, and you may question your need to learn how to actually create and run the code for statistical analyses when you may have someone available to you in your future jobs who can do these analyses for you. My recommendation would be that being able to complete these analyses yourself is a great attribute, and I would recommend sticking with learning these topics, as they truly can be useful. Already we’ve needed to use propensity score matching, which we learned in class, for a research project, and it’s been great gift to have had the background in this from Rush. 

What would you like to impart to all of our graduating students who are about to begin their career?

Students and recent graduates have such power, more power than I think many realize they have. When they are able to come together and advocate, real change can happen.  Sometimes you are going to be told no, and doors may close on you. But keep going, because you each have something important to offer the world, unique from anyone else, and eventually there will another door that opens. You’ll meet someone who is willing to give you just a little bit of a chance, and you can really blossom from there. It may take time and effort to find them, but you just need one person to give you that chance, and when you find them, then you can just go for it.