10-year anniversary: Phoenix became home to medical grads
Corinne Lieu Schmidt, MD’14, (pictured above) and Nick Matthees, MD’14, were just happy to be enrolled in the School of Medicine 10 years ago. They weren’t looking to also make history.
In 2012, Creighton officially took the first step in creating a health sciences campus in Phoenix, after many years of establishing relationships with area health care facilities for medical rotations. More than 40 medical students began serving their third and fourth years at the University’s new regional campus of the School of Medicine.
Today, the Creighton University Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix features nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and pharmacy programs and a four-year medical school. A physician assistant program will open next year.
And today, Schmidt and Matthees, who were not originally from Arizona or the Southwest, have made new homes for themselves in the Phoenix area and are physicians with busy practices that they love.
Schmidt was originally from the East San Francisco Bay area in northern California. When she first began medical school at Creighton in Omaha, she says she “definitely had an interest in going to Phoenix for the third- and fourth-year track” and she attended a tour in Phoenix prior to starting in Omaha.
“Initially, a lot of my decision to go to Phoenix was location-based. It is closer to the West Coast and a short drive from where I have family. Ultimately though, the opportunities for clinical experiences solidified my choice to go down to Phoenix.
“We had some very inspirational lectures from Dr. Sanjay Singh (professor and chair of the Neurology Department in the School of Medicine) in Omaha and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be in close proximity to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix.”
Now a pediatrician in Phoenix, Schmidt says being the first class in Arizona was exciting. “The energy was there from both the students and the staff, and it was contagious.
“We definitely had a good sense of humor. The running joke was, ‘OK, are we pioneers or guinea pigs?’ But, at the same time, we were very intentional with our feedback of our educational experiences because we knew we were laying the foundation for future classes.”
After graduation, she completed her residency at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, followed by a year of chief residency, and then became a pediatric hospitalist at Honor Health Scottsdale Shea and joined Pediatrix Medical Group, positions she holds today.
Matthees says before he arrived in Phoenix to complete medical school, “I told all of my family in North Dakota and Minnesota that Phoenix would only be a two-year adventure.”
Instead, after graduation in 2014, he stayed in Phoenix at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center for a year in general surgery, then four years of diagnostic radiology, and a one-year neuroradiology fellowship.
“Taking the risk to move to Phoenix to be part of a brand new program was intimidating and nerve-wracking,” he says, “but from the very first moment we interacted with St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dignity Health and the Creighton Phoenix Regional Campus staff, we could see the Creighton values reflected.
“They invited us to Phoenix to tour the hospital and meet the staff and took us to a Diamondbacks game. They even had a Creighton alumnus drive us around the city so we could evaluate potential apartments. It was clear they wanted us to be successful from day one.”
Following his residency and fellowship years, Matthees returned to his home state and was a neuroradiologist at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, for two years. He came back to Phoenix recently to be a staff neuroradiologist at Barrow Neurological Institute.
“Leaving the beautiful Midwest summers and the lakes was difficult, but ever since coming to the desert in medical school, I have felt a pull to the desert landscape, the diverse experiences in the Southwest and, of course, the weather. Leaving family was emotional, but I was excited to make new memories and reconnect with old friends in Phoenix.”
Now, looking back, both physicians are very happy with their decisions to attend Creighton and its budding Phoenix campus.
“Attending Creighton in Phoenix really shaped the foundation of my entire self as a doctor,” Matthees says, “from the specialty I chose to the place I practice. I did medical school rotations with world-class neuroradiologists at Barrow. Without that opportunity I might have specialized in a different field.
“The excellent teachers I had in every field during medical school strengthened my passion for teaching and made me want to work in academic medicine. I now feel like I’m giving back to all those who taught me.”
Schmidt says she chose Creighton because “the students seemed the happiest of all the places I interviewed. It was a very supportive environment to learn in, and I had an excellent clinical experience in my third and fourth years. I feel deeply privileged to be in the position to help people and their children and truly love what I do.”
Matthees adds that when their class first came to Arizona, “there were very few opportunities for people to complete health care training in the city of Phoenix, despite Phoenix being one of the most populous cities in the U.S.
“Creighton has played a huge role in helping ensure that this city can train and keep health care providers. With the number of new high-quality opportunities in Arizona now, I can’t wait to see Phoenix become a hub that draws and retains great talent in the health professions.”