Christopher Klipstein, MD, has won over 25 teaching awards, been a role model for thousands of medical students and has transformed the Hospital, Interventional and Surgical Care (HISC) course, also known as the Medicine Clerkship.
As he turns the page on his 20-year run as clerkship director, he feels lucky to have landed what he sees as, “the perfect job.” This course plays a pivotal role in a medical student’s education and is often the first time they practice medicine under supervision.
“The program has gotten picked as a top clerkship many, many, times, and he is often picked as the teacher of the year by not just the students in internal medicine, but the whole medical school,” Dr. Lee Berkowitz, Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Medicine, said. “So, he has a very strong legacy as a clerkship director and as a great teacher.”
Dr. Klipstein grew up in Rochester, NY. He attended Williams College for his undergraduate degree and received his medical degree from the University of Rochester, where his father was a professor of medicine. However, for a year in between college and medical school he taught seventh and ninth grade math at a private school in Manhattan. This year of teaching is what Dr. Klipstein credits to much of his success.
“I was able to practice teaching and figure out my style,” Dr. Klipstein said. “But I think it was very important that I was teaching math, in that math is a subject like medicine, where everything builds on each other. So, I was very supportive of my students, but also very disciplined. If they didn’t understand 100 percent of the material I would have them come in after school and work with me until they got it.”
That philosophy persisted as he taught medical students. During the first two years of medical school students drink from a firehose of facts, it’s then Dr. Klipstein’s job to help them apply that information to clinical settings during the HISC course.
“I am known by the medical students to strike the pose, ‘Rodin’s The Thinker,’ Dr. Klipstein said. “This is my way of saying, ‘as a doctor you need to not just remember things but organize those facts in our brains to be able to use it clinically.’ So that’s what I really love about teaching. Thirty years of just watching those light bulbs go off and they’re like, ‘oh, that’s how this fits together.’”
Dr. Klipstein is also passionate about connecting with his students and makes it a priority to know everyone by name. As an advisor, he has helped guide many fourth-year medical students through applying for residency.
“The hugs that I’ve gotten at Match Day are some of my greatest memories,” Dr. Klipstein said. “I’ve always joked that I don’t do any research, but I feel like Match Day’s list of where all the UNC students have matched is my New England Journal of Medicine publication. I feel so proud for the students.”
Dr. Klipstein will be stepping away from his role as the HISC course director at the end of June, and passing the baton to Raquel Reyes, MD, MPH.
“I’m very happy for Raquel Reyes to start because she’s going to be amazing,” Dr. Klipstein said. “It’s fun for her to live this dream of having this amazing role that’s so critical to medical school. I’m really thrilled to have such a great person in there to carry on this legacy.”