Biology Background Paves Way to Medical School

Dr. Jeff Buchalter came to the University of Central Florida in 1983 with his mind set on medical school.

He started his academic career at Brevard Community College, a choice he intentionally made to ensure his best chance of becoming a physician. Even though Buchalter grew up in Titusville where the space industry is the dominant field, he always knew he would either make it to med school or law school.

“In our family, you either became a doctor or a lawyer,” Buchalter said. “BCC was 10 minutes from my house and I was able to get all of my basic coursework completed with the highest GPA possible and then focus on my pre-med requirements while at UCF, all while still living at home.”

Buchalter jokes he stayed home so his mother could make sure he ate and had clean clothes. But there is some truth to that. Buchalter studied extremely hard while commuting – he didn’t have time for much else, besides creating a new fruit fly as part of his research in the Biology Department’s genetics lab.

“Biology has a strong foundation for med school,” Buchalter said. “I also participated in research which was very important for me. I worked on gene sequencing which was used for oncology based medication testing. I actually did create a new fruit fly which was published and has my name attached to it, OPH82B. The B is for Buchalter.”

It was his family care doctor who inspired Buchalter to take the biology route to med school. He says the day he found out he was accepted was one of the best days of his life. After graduating summa cum lade from UCF, Buchalter was accepted to multiple medical schools and took the position at the University of South Florida as UCF did not have a medical school.

After four years, he graduated and matched with his number one choice for residency at the Baylor College of Medicines, Anesthesiology Program. He completed his residency and was accepted into the subspecialty Fellowship Training Program in Pain Medicine at the University of Texas and MD Andersons Cancer Center in Houston Texas.  Following his training, he became board-certified in both anesthesiology and pain medicine.

“Anesthesiology is the general specialty that people go into before they sub-specialize in pain management,” Buchalter explained. “Anesthesiology trains physicians to do epidurals and other nerve-blocking procedures for surgery. Back when pain medicine first developed, anesthesiologists were the people developing it.”

He made his way back to Florida, and eventually to UCF by way of his son Brandon, who graduated in 2014. Brandon is following in his father’s footsteps and will be a doctor of chiropractic. As a family, the Buchalters attended The War on I-4 game this season.

“The game was unbelievable, what an unbelievable year,” he said. “UCF is a well-positioned school.”

Buchalter is now the chairman of the Gulf Coast Pain Institute in Pensacola. The Gulf Coast Pain Institute specializes in chronic back pain treatment using stem cell therapy and implanted electrodes to shut off pain nerves and regenerate a healthier spine.

As chairman, he oversees 13 providers including medical doctors, chiropractors and a physical therapy department. He has a very active practice and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of spine-related pain disorders. Buchalter performs multiple procedures to help relieve pain, restore function and renew hope in patients suffering from both acute and chronic pain.

“I’ve had patients who came in here under the age of 15 with spinal injuries,” he said. “From watching them recover to be able to help them again throughout their life is such a rewarding experience.”

Medicine takes a lot of devotion, and getting to where he is today was a tough journey. But he says he wouldn’t change it. He enjoys teaching at the Florida State College of Medicine and hopes to bring his expertise to UCF’s College of Medicine in the near future.

“Pursue your dreams, work hard to endorse the principles of integrity, ethics and compassion in all aspects of your life, and most of all enjoy the ride,” Buchalter said.

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