“I am beyond excited to be in New York and begin serving and caring for a new community.” Tanner Powley, Columbia-Bassett Medical Student
Cooperstown, NY – Bassett Medical Center is pleased to welcome the 10 students comprising the Columbia-Bassett Medical School Program Class of 2026. The students have completed their 18 months of pre-clinical training on Columbia University’s New York City campus and will now be based at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown for the clinical component of their education.
“The Columbia-Bassett program is unique in its design, giving students experience with both urban and rural patient populations at New York City’s Presbyterian Hospital and Cooperstown’s Bassett Medical Center. We are proud of our long and successful partnership with Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons to provide our students with the best possible education,” said Dr. Henry Weil, Senior Associate Dean for the Columbia-Bassett Program, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, President of Bassett Medical Center, and Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Academic Officer of Bassett Healthcare Network.
Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) has partnered with Bassett since 1947 to give students a unique clinical education. Columbia and Bassett expanded this experience by establishing the Columbia-Bassett Medical School Program, which welcomed its first class of 10 VP&S students in 2012.
The Columbia-Bassett Medical School Program is competitive in its enrollment and is structured with a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes classroom training followed by practical experience. The first year and a half of the program takes place in New York City in pre-clinical studies. The second phase, two and a half years, begins at Bassett’s Cooperstown campus, consisting of a required one-year clinical experience. This is followed by a year and a half of electives and pursuit of an area of concentration utilizing the full array of opportunities at both the New York-Presbyterian and Bassett campuses.
Meet the Columbia-Bassett Class of 2026
Nithyashri Baskaran, known to all as Nithy, is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. Nithy graduated from Yale University in 2022 with a B.S. in biology. While at Yale, she became interested in how seeking patients’ stories could improve their care. “Since joining Columbia for medical school, I’ve been grateful to continue growing in relationship-centered healing,” said Nithy.
Simon Blanchard hails from the Philadelphia area. He graduated from Villanova University with a degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering and minors in Global Health and Biochemical Engineering. During college he volunteered as an Emergency Medical Technician, worked in a gene-therapy laboratory studying methods to improve the delivery of gene-therapy products, and volunteered with several tutoring and outreach organizations.
Katherine Dunkelberger is originally from rural Pennsylvania. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she studied bioengineering and explored both cutting-edge biotechnology and vast health disparities. She is studying medicine in the hopes of providing care to underserved communities. “I’m more excited than ever to move to Cooperstown and begin our major clinical year at Bassett Medical Center,” said Katherine.
Claire Howlett grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, and moved across the country for college at Stanford University, where she studied Cognitive Science and became interested in medicine and public health. She completed her pre-med requirements at Bryn Mawr College and spent three years working at SIRUM, a technology-based medication access nonprofit. Through this work, she became interested in healthcare delivery and how health systems design can impact patient access and quality of care. “I’m especially interested in primary care, psychiatry, and addiction medicine – I’m looking forward to exploring these areas clinically at Bassett,” said Claire.
Madhav Nekkar was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 2021 with a B.A. in economics. “I’m drawn to the Columbia-Bassett program due to its unique approach to medical education, allowing students to explore how to improve healthcare delivery at all levels. I’m excited for the opportunity to gain a patient-centric understanding of the health system, to learn how to build strong doctor-patient relationships through the course of the longitudinal curriculum, and to understand more about healthcare challenges in both urban and rural areas,” said Madhav.
Georgia Payne grew up in downtown Charleston, West Virginia. She attended Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where she studied Biology of Global Health. “I felt drawn to the Bassett program because of its emphasis on learning from patient relationships and improving health systems, knowledge that I hope to bring to my future practice,” said Georgia.
Tanner Powley was born in Germany and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri. He attended Missouri University of Science and Technology and received a BS in chemical engineering with an emphasis in biochemical processes. “I am beyond excited to be in New York and begin serving and caring for a new community,” said Tanner.
William Rork is originally from Dallas, Texas, and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated from Rice University with a degree in Neuroscience and Classical Studies. In his gap year, he worked in a clinical psychology lab at Baylor College of Medicine researching the psychosocial needs of individuals with brittle bone disease. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the Columbia-Bassett program and can’t wait for the opportunity to serve and learn from the Cooperstown community,” said William.
Kyle Tower was born and raised in the North Country, the northernmost part of New York State. Kyle noted: “It’s a very rural part of the country, and a place with limited access to healthcare—a huge part of what makes Bassett so exciting to me.” Since graduating from Columbia last year, he spent the intervening year doing social work with foster children in Brooklyn and Manhattan, something he says, “that has been incredibly rewarding, revealing, and challenging.”
Melissa Wang grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She attended Dartmouth College where she studied Biology and Anthropology of Global Health. In college, she was involved in developmental biology research and worked for hunger relief organizations and independent food councils in Boston and upstate New York. “I am ecstatic to receive my medical education at Columbia-Bassett, where I will learn how to enact change with my classmates and medical community across spheres of people, places, and systems,” said Melissa.
About Bassett Healthcare Network
Bassett Healthcare Network is an integrated health system that provides care and services to people living in a 5,600 square mile region in central New York. The organization includes five corporately affiliated hospitals, over two dozen community-based health centers, more than 20 school-based health centers, two skilled nursing facilities, and other health partners in related fields. To learn more about services available throughout the Bassett Healthcare Network, visit www.bassett.org. Follow Bassett on Facebook, X (formery Twitter), and LinkedIn. Bassett Healthcare Network is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
About Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) was founded in 1767. It is the graduate Medical School of Columbia University. VP&S was the first Medical School in the United States to award the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree to its graduates. Among the other Medical Universities in the United States, Columbia University ranked fourth for medical research by the U.S. News & World Report. For more than 250 years, VP&S has pioneered medical education, research, and patient care for patients from around the world.