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Dean's Council Profile: Heather Summe, MD’12 R’16

Grateful for UMass Chan’s pivotal role in her successful medical career, an alumna gives back 

Heather SummeAs a busy parent juggling the demands of a medical career, household and two young children, Heather Summe, MD’12 R’16, still finds time to stay connected to UMass Chan Medical School. Dr. Summe served on the Class of 2012’s 10th reunion committee last year, encouraging support for UMass Chan among her classmates, and she’s a member of the Dean’s Council.

For Dr. Summe, sustaining a meaningful relationship with UMass Chan that includes giving and continued involvement with her class feels right. After all, she largely credits the Medical School with making her childhood dream of becoming a physician possible.

“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor,” recalls Dr. Summe. “It almost felt like medicine chose me. I just knew that medicine is what I was meant to do.”

Part of it was the awe-inspiring presence of the physicians she encountered as a child, which included her grandfather. “Doctors seemed to be all-knowing,” she said. “They had superpowers. They knew things nobody else knew. They could speak their own language.”

After relocating frequently during her childhood—stops included Kansas City, Phoenix, Atlanta and Hong Kong—Dr. Summe’s family settled in Weston, Massachusetts, where she attended high school. Dr. Summe went on to earn her Bachelor of Science from Georgetown University, where the human science program was akin to a “mini-medical school, which prepared me very well for UMass Chan.”

Dr. Summe entered the Medical School after earning a Master of Science in nutrition science from Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, followed by an additional year of research on bariatric surgery and diabetes at Columbia’s New York Nutrition and Obesity Research Center. Her acceptance to UMass Chan was a memorable occasion. “My lucky number has always been 24, and I got into the Medical School on April 24, on my 24th birthday. Nothing could have been better,” she said.

A frustrating adolescent experience with acne, for which she had difficulty finding effective treatments, is initially what compelled Dr. Summe to specialize in dermatology. “I don’t want teens to feel frustrated and powerless, the way I did,” she said.

Reflecting on her time at UMass Chan as a medical student, and later a dermatology resident, the people are what stand out as most defining her experience. This includes classmates, with whom Dr. Summe has remained close, as well as the outstanding faculty. “When I have clinical questions, I refer to my UMass network. I have so much trust and respect for the faculty,” she said.

Dr. Summe was also impressed with UMass Chan’s strength in a range of dermatology subspecialties, as well as her experience with continuity clinics during her residency. Through this unique educational model, residents have the same clinic with the same attending physician, with the opportunity to bring their own patients from medical dermatology clinics to surgical clinics for a procedure, and then back. She believes the model enables residents to take responsibility for their patients and learn from seeing the outcomes of management decisions.

Dr. Summe is currently the associate chair of the Department of Dermatology at Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital, which is part of Northwell Health, New York state’s largest health system, and is also an assistant professor of dermatology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. She works alongside fellow UMass Chan grad and former faculty member Amit Garg, MD’00. Currently, Dr. Summe is assisting Dr. Garg with the expansion of Northwell Health’s dermatology program to Lenox Hill.

While building a flourishing medical career, Dr. Summe is also busy navigating family life in New York City’s West Village, where she lives with her husband, Matthew Aleksinas, and two young daughters, who are ages 5 and 2. She enjoyed stopping by the Class of 2012’s 10th reunion last spring, where she was able to catch up with classmates and friends. 

Dr. Summe is happy to see continued growth at UMass Chan, including expanding class sizes. “There are so many motivated people that deserve to go to medical school, but it’s hard to get in. The more spots we can open up, the better for the profession and the communities we serve,” she said.

“UMass Chan gave me the opportunity to become a physician and dermatologist, and ultimately led me down a successful career path,” she said. “I owe it to give back to the school that has given so much to me and continues to give to other students.”




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