Alumni Spotlight: Eric Bendixen, DO ’19

Written by Logan Stott, Marketing Assistant

A graduate of RVUCOM-CO Class of 2019, Dr. Bendixen is currently a second-year resident at Valley Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to his duties as a physician, he is also an avid researcher and is currently finalizing a case report on Primary Duodenal Adenocarcinoma (along with other cases related to ICU/Critical Care).

After initially pursuing a degree in International Business with a minor in French, a freshman human biology course swayed him to change his major to Kinesiology, with an emphasis in physical therapy. “From there, and [in] further undergraduate courses, I discovered the field of osteopathic medicine—which seemed to be a blend of kinesthetics and medicine—was best suited for me,” Dr. Bendixen said. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, a bout of tragic family illnesses showed him first-hand the patient/physician relationship. “It was a gradual discovery, but [I] cannot imagine myself doing anything else and being nearly as content or satisfied with my career[.]”

We spoke to Dr. Bendixen about his current plans, specialty, and career in the medical field. His responses gave honest, forthcoming insight into the rewarding but challenging careers of medical residents:

Why did you choose your current specialty?

“My specialty chose me. [After] failing to match into Anesthesia, I completed a preliminary surgical intern year at the University of Colorado. Although I loved the Operating Room setting, I matched into Internal Medicine as a backup and couldn’t be happier or more assured that this was the field meant for me. Talking with patients and family members in order to come up with informed treatment plans gives me the biggest sense of personal satisfaction. I enjoy seeing my patients’ progress day-to-day, until they ultimately get discharged, and having them follow up in my clinic 2-3 weeks later. Internal medicine has a wide breadth of scope; I don’t feel limited in what tools I could potentially develop to offer anything my patients [might need] (surgical interventions aside). Certainly, the variety of cases is all-encompassing, and I feel that I am using and continuing to develop my knowledge base to become a well-rounded physician.”

How was your residency impacted by the pandemic?

“COVID broke in March of my intern surgical year, while I was [working] overnight [shifts] at Denver Health Medical Center. Everyone was rightfully terrified and cautious, as we did not know what was truly going on. We didn’t have tests for several weeks, [there were] PPE shortages, etc. Being [a surgical intern], it was okay; however, a lot of elective cases [were cancelled] and my overall work load quickly dropped. [When I switched into internal medicine], I was on the opposite end.”

In the early days of the pandemic, an overfull Intensive Care Unit (ICU) led to many COVID patients instead being housed in the Emergency Room, Post-Anesthesia Care Units, and Step Down Units.

“Thankfully, much of that is in the past and COVID has become an otherwise routine admit [and] workup following vaccination rollout. Much like how my attendings who trained during the HIV outbreaks tell their stories, I anticipate doing the same one day with my trainees.”

Aside from the pandemic, what has been the most memorable experience from residency so far?

“I would say the first time I cardioverted a patient on my own [stands out] the most. I was on my ICU rotation as a second year [medical resident]. My senior and ICU fellows were elsewhere with other patients who were also coding, [so] I was alone. My patient progressed into unstable Atrial Fibrillation which, per Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support guidelines, required cardioversion.”

As the only physician readily available, Dr. Bendixen carried out the cardioversion with the assistance of “a few well-seasoned” Medical Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurses.

“This event wasn’t unexpected given her clinical course to that point (which was a prolonged COVID ICU course). However, that was a profound moment to me early in my second year of residency. When I realized that I was the only physician [there], with several nurses looking at me for orders. I gave the order, adjusted the set joules, pressed the button, and said a silent prayer. We got her out of the rhythm and were able to wean off vasopressors. It was just one of those moments where I truly appreciated the impact and responsibility of what [being] a physician entails.”

What are your plans after finishing residency?

“[I’m] deciding between pulmonary medicine, critical care gastrointestinal fellowship, or a hospitalist fellowship at this time. I can see myself doing any of the three and having a happy [and] successful career — another perk of internal medicine in my mind.”

What has surprised you the most about becoming a physician?

“I think just [my] ability to get through it. Looking back [ten] years ago when I started as a medical scribe, everything seemed [daunting] and I had no real appreciation for what it was. The hundreds of hours of lecture series with I-don’t-know-how-many thousands of questions in just our first two years of school. Followed by clinical years, driving coast-[to]-coast for [sub-internships], and ultimately placing into residency (where you certainly [work] more hours than my other non-medical friends and family). Despite all this, [I] could not see myself doing anything else. Every day provides some sort of intrinsic reward, which I truly value… because it is not easy and [it] requires immense perseverance.”

Eric Bendixen (left) points to his alma mater.

What’s your favorite memory from your time at RVU?

“Too many. I thoroughly enjoyed my tenure at RVU and am forever grateful that I was selected to our institution. Certainly, the study group I formed for Anatomy Lab, and us running through ‘The Buck List’ (the set list of anatomy protocols students would study in now-retired Dr. Buck’s class) on every [medical cadaver] possible to identify structures will always stay with me. Another would’ve just been any post-test ski trip weekend with my RVU friends/family. Perhaps too many [of those trips] was the guilt I felt at the time; however, looking back [I didn’t go on] enough. Those connections I formed at RVU are lifelong.”

What is some advice you wish you could have given yourself when you first started medical school?

“Attend lecture[s] and interface with faculty more. I was more proactive [my] first year, going to nearly every single lecture in person. It was time-consuming, however [I] was certainly more present and engaged.”

When Dr. Bendixen isn’t at work, he busies himself by weight training, doing yoga, and partaking in an occasional Netflix binge. Before moving to the Nevada desert, he enjoyed skiing. “[I] certainly miss the Colorado mountains and hope to be closer to them one day,” he said.

“[I] wanted to say thank you to Rocky Vista University again for my education,” Dr. Bendixen said. “[I] firmly believe that I have been trained to be [a] well-rounded, educated and compassionate physician, which I owe to a number of faculty and colleagues that have been part of my journey.”

Dr. Bendixen is currently working in Internal Medicine in Las Vegas, Nevada and welcomes others from the RVU community: ”I’m always happy to hear [from or] help RVU students [who want to] come join our program.”

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