PCOM Georgia Alumni Return to Teach

Staff Report

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

In 2009, four years after PCOM Georgia was established, PCOM Georgia Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Renee Himmelbaum, DO ‘13, FAAP, and Department of Family Medicine Assistant Professor Joy Zarandy, DO ‘13, matriculated into the campus’ osteopathic medicine program. They both remember their student years in a similar fashion. 

Dr. Himmelbaum’s best memories revolve around the friends she made and “laughing through the tough times with them.” She said, “Quotes from faculty members still echo in my brain!”

Dr. Zarandy’s memories include “meeting my best friends, meeting my husband, putting on my white coat to go into the OSCE Suite (similar to today’s Simulation Center) and feeling like a ‘doctor.’” She also recalls having conversations in the hallway with faculty who treated her like a future colleague.

Today, Dr. Himmelbaum is in private practice as the owner of Suwanahoochee Pediatrics in Sugar Hill, while Dr. Zarandy teaches full time at PCOM Georgia, having worked for six years in a family medicine practice in North Atlanta, not far from campus.

“I remember the day I interviewed with Walter Ehrenfeuchter, DO ’79, FAAO, for medical school and I left knowing I wanted that,” Dr. Himmelbaum recalled. “It was very ironic because I never thought I wanted to teach, yet here I am!” 

“Teaching has rejuvenated my career in medicine,” Dr. Zarandy said. “I love medicine, practicing and treating patients, but honestly I was experiencing high burnout. PCOM has provided me the opportunity to maintain a healthy work/life balance so that I can continue to do medicine with the added benefit of teaching.” She added, “I’ve always loved teaching, but didn’t have the time while practicing medicine.”

Prior to joining PCOM Georgia full time, Dr. Zarandy served as a guest lecturer and osteopathic manipulative medicine table trainer while working in private practice. “I realized I always felt re-energized anytime I had a chance to teach. However, the busier I got in private practice, the less time I had to teach and the more burned out I felt.”

”One day, I took a PTO day from my practice to teach and my husband asked me ‘Why don’t you just teach fulltime?’ Once he planted the idea in my mind, just the idea of doing academic medicine fulltime lifted my spirits and I applied for a position at PCOM,” she said.

Himmelbaum said she always joked that teaching was her “tuition repayment program.”

“Initially, I thought I would only work while my practice was starting up. But I truly love the students and seeing them accomplish their goals,” she said.

Dr. Himmelbaum, who had two young children when she started medical school, advises students to hold on. “Life gets so much better after residency.”

Dr. Zarandy, the mother of two young sons, wants students to know that study/life or work/life balance is very important in such a demanding profession. 

“Find what you love to do, fight for it, and don’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries to prevent burnout from the rigors of your studies as a student or practicing medicine as a physician.”

A board certified family medicine physician and life-long Georgian, Dr. Zarandy attended the University of Georgia where she graduated Magna Cum Laude and earned a Bachelor of Science degree with double majors in biology and psychology and a minor in Spanish. While a student at PCOM Georgia, she was a member of the Sigma Sigma Phi national osteopathic medicine honors fraternity. She completed her family medicine residency in 2016 at AnMed Health in Anderson, South Carolina.

A graduate of Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, Dr. Himmelbaum earned a Bachelor of Science degree in management from Georgia Tech. After graduating from PCOM Georgia, she completed a pediatric residency at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and is board certified in pediatrics.