James “don’t call me Jim” Cassuto is setting a fine precedent for what a UR student should be. Hailing from Somers, NY, this pre-med junior is actively involved in a plethora of activities and programs, all while keeping his nose to the grindstone in an effort toward his goal of becoming a surgeon.
A chemistry major, Cassuto has been involved in Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) since his freshman year, where he was the assistant director of training and is now a crew-chief. In addition, he is a founding member of the UR Handball Club, which recently traveled to Los Angeles to compete in the NCAA Division I national tournament.
Cassuto has also been playing saxophone for over 13 years and currently takes lessons at the Eastman School. In April, his saxophone quartet will perform in a concert.
You’re pre-med, but majoring in chemistry as opposed to biology. Why do you prefer chemistry?
To me, chemistry is more difficult than biology; it’s extremely challenging and I like being challenged. You have to study and analyze compounds and reactions that you can’t see involving atoms and molecules, which is a close resemblance to medicine where you can’t see a particular disease but you can test and treat for it.
Talk about your involvement in MERT.
There’s the medical aspect of it; I think it’s great training and it deals with people. I enjoy the rush of emergency medicine, and MERT provides some of that, especially on the more serious calls. I guess it’s pretty obvious I enjoy helping people and giving back to the community.
Handball seems like an odd choice of sport to play. How did you get involved and why do you enjoy it?
I started playing in high school after I picked it up from my dad. I always wanted to box, but my mom wouldn’t let me and this is the closest I could get – punching a ball against the wall for an extended period of time. Now we have practices twice a week and last month we competed in the NCAA national tournament. That was an incredible experience.
What is your dream job?
I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. In high school, I was planning on applying to the Air Force Academy, but I lost my enthusiasm after the shuttle explosion. That and my vision sucked.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Gummy bears from the Common Market. I eat about two pounds a week.
What’s the last good book you read?
Puzzle People. It’s the memoirs of a transplant surgeon, Thomas Starzl, who was the first to successfully transplant a liver in 1963.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Rochester?
In my spare time, I go to the hospital and watch transplant surgeries.
Fountaine is a member of the class of 2008.