Deborah Goss, M.D.

Deborah GossDr. Deborah A. Goss (Hutter) ’93 entered Immaculata as a pre-med student, earning a degree in biology and chemistry, but she didn’t take it for granted that she would get into medical school.

“I was very realistic,” said Goss. “I wasn’t sure I was going to get in and, if I didn’t, I thought I might be a chemist, though I really like working with people more than being in the lab doing research.”

Not only did Goss get into med school, she was accepted to more than one. “I was surprised,” she said, “because you can’t just apply everywhere. You pick a few schools, whatever you can afford, and I was in a strange position because I was a resident of Florida going to school in Pennsylvania, so Florida saw me as an out-of-state student, Pennsylvania viewed me the same way, and med schools like to take a certain number of applicants from their own state, so I had some serious doubts about getting in. I actually took my GRE because I just didn’t know. I was amazed when it happened.”

Goss went to Creighton University in Nebraska, a Jesuit-run institution where IU grads were already enrolled. “I actually stayed with some classmates who were ahead of me when I went out there for the interview,” said Goss.

“I chose Creighton because I wanted to continue a Catholic education. In medical education there are a lot of ethical questions, and I wanted that to come from the Catholic background.

“It was a fabulous school and a very easy transition coming from Immaculata. I never would have figured out how to get ready and get through the process. Dr. Dugan and Dr. Piatka even practiced the interview process with us. Panel interviews can be very intimidating, but they would have us come in dressed in a suit and answer questions. Those are the things you need.”

Goss ended up being a chief resident and when she went to a chief residents conference, there were other Creighton grads there, as well. “I think that really shines nicely on Immaculata and on Creighton.”

Goss originally intended to go into family practice. “I wanted to take care of the family. In the midwest, when you do that you’re trained to be the only doctor in 50 miles. But when I returned to the east coast, I saw that family practitioners did it differently. There were lots of referrals to specialists, and that’s not what I wanted to do. It’s very hard to be the only person in the area doing a particular kind of practice.”

So Goss decided to use all the knowledge she was acquiring about the heart, the stomach, the bones and focus on pulmonary medicine. She discovered that “those doctors cover it all and when there are other issues such as stomach bleeding or uncontrolled diabetes, specialists come in to work with you and you’re kind of ‘captain of the ship,’ so to speak.”

Goss specializes in pulmonary critical care, sleep medicine, women’s health and lung cancer at Hackensack Sleep and Pulmonary Center, affiliated with Hackensack University Medical Center. She finds that after working in the ICU, “sleep medicine is lighter. It provides some balance, some relief. I can be talking about taking someone off the ventilator, then hear about someone’s snoring problems.”

Goss speaks openly about some of “the hardest conversations to have. A family had lost their mom. The kids were 5 and 8 and the husband said to me ‘I can’t tell them.’ I said I would do it, so we sat them down and we explained to them that mommy was gone, and thank God you have some faith, because you can say your mom loves you and will always be with you. Without a religious training background, it’s hard to do that, to explain things in terms of faith. I was given that language and I’m comfortable with it. I’m not uncomfortable talking about God and telling a patient ‘I’ll say a prayer for you.’”

Goss noted that her strong spiritual sense also informs her dealings with patients and families of different faiths. “You have a healthy respect for other faiths, and you understand what’s important to them.”

Goss and her husband, a respiratory therapist who teaches at Bergen Community College, have been married a year. “There was a speaker at graduation at IU who said ‘you can have it all–just not at the same time.’ Hopefully, in five years I will still be in medicine, but I’ll have family concerns to balance. Maybe someday I’ll have a little Immaculata student.”

Goss sums up her feelings about IU with this story: “My twin sister, Dottie Lobo, and I both wore our Immaculata rings until we were married and put on our wedding bands. That’s how special Immaculata is.”

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