Matthew, Final Thoughts

The experience exceeded my expectations. Dr. Cataldo and his colleagues were exceptionally welcoming and informative. Dr. Cataldo would often check in to make sure we were getting as much as we could from the experience. He would often ask us if we had any questions, and always had an answer. He has also allowed us to stay the rest of the summer! I want to make clear that I am not sure if he will do this in future years, but this should demonstrate how kind he was and continues to be to us. He also connected us to other doctors we can shadow over the summer. Next week I am going to shadow a medical oncologist! Then I will return to him. This experience has helped clarify my career interests. I am now more sure than ever that I would like to pursue medicine. The experience has complicated my view of medicine. I have learned that I can rise to the challenge of a fast-paced work environment and learn quickly under pressure. This experience was not exactly easy, but it was highly rewarding. It will challenge your preconceptions about medicine. If you are quicky to sympathy (as I am) it will require you to develop mentally so that you can deal with the suffering you see around you. There are a lot of grim outlooks, and a lot of gory surgery. That being said, most patients have options at this point. Not all of them are destined to die, but the ones that are will touch you. You need to be the kind of person that can take that to heart and carry on. I highly recommend the experience. I recommend it specifically to those who have the capacity for rapid personal development, that will be your biggest asset. Part of what you have to learn is how to incorporate sympathy and laser-focus into your thinking. You always have to move on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge and smile at the patients (one specifically mentioned they appreciated it). I think this can be generalized to shadowing in the field. If you have a lot of questions, this is also a great opportunity for you. There were so many opportunities to ask questions! This is specific to the site. I am most proud of how I handled the difficulties of this job and how I integrated this experience into my view of medicine without being overwhelmed by its immense complexity.

I would like to thank Dr. Thomas Cataldo, Michelle Torres, Karen Lee, Erika Tai, and everyone at BIDMC and the Brandeis Pre-Health Team for this tremendous opportunity. I will be forever grateful. I would also like to thank the reader for following my posts. I highly recommend this site, so give it a shot! I was only a freshman when I applied, so don’t ever let your age fool you into thinking you don’t have a chance. You have a chance here to change your worldview, possibly to change your life, don’t let it pass you by.

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Jigme, Midway Point

I am halfway through my shadowing program and so far I have enjoyed everything I have experienced. I am very comfortable around my supervisor and all the staff members because they treat me nicely and help me learn new things everyday. 

In the past few weeks I have seen many patients interacting with Dr. Sher. Every time Dr. Sher sees a patient he would explain to me the history and the anatomy of the disease. This way I learn different medical terms everyday. On some days I would also watch Dr. Sher perform colonoscopy with his team. He would point out the different parts of the colon to me and sometimes he would ask me questions to make sure that I am learning well. 

So far I have realized that the medical field is different from university life in that there are more hands on experience opportunity. For instance, as a pre-med student in university, most of the time we are taking science classes like Bio, Chem etc and other times we are in the lab conducting research and experiments. On the other hand, in the medical field we get to help perform more practical things like using the colonoscopy machine and other medical devices. Moreover, instead of just learning and reading about different diseases, in medical field, we actually get to see it with our own eyes. 

Lastly, I would say that my brain has absorbed a lot of knowledge in the past few weeks. Some skills I am building as a result of this shadowing program is interacting with different people, working as a team and learning new information everyday about medical terms. I believe I can make use of these skills in college and when going to medical school.

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Caylee, Midway Point

This summer has flown by and I can’t believe I am already writing my mid-point post. I have had a truly incredible and eye-opening experience at Mass General and have immensely enjoyed the team of physicians I have been working with in the Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery program. Dr. Hudson has been our main liaison as we meet weekly to discuss and plan our schedule for clinic and the OR, and go over any questions that have come up during our shadowing or research. We have also been working closely with the other fellows and attendings of the department, and even sometimes the residents. 

During clinic every Tuesday we often shadow a resident or fellow as they do the initial patient meeting to obtain a history, after which they discuss the case with the attending, develop a plan and then perform an exam together. I have really enjoyed observing this teaching dynamic as it helps me to better understand everything and gives me an opportunity to ask questions during the discussions, but it also has given me a glimpse at my future in these various roles. One thing I have found very interesting by observing this process is how every doctor has their own way to get a patient’s history or perform an exam, but they all make it clear that they want to help the patient discover the best option for themselves. In many of my HSSP classes we have discussed informed consent and a patient’s right to information, but it has been really interesting to see these physicians put this into action as they lay out all the possible options for treatment, discussing the risks and benefits and ask the patient what they want rather than telling them what is best. This is a practice I hope to one day implement as a physician as a way to help each patient obtain their ideal outcome. 

Typically, one day a week we also observe in the operating room for a variety of procedures, vaginally, laparoscopically, and even with the Da Vinci robot. Every surgery is interesting and has its own hurdles and I have really enjoyed watching how the physicians discuss next steps and work together to make sure everything goes right. Additionally, many of the surgeries have been performed by fellows with attending instruction and supervision, which has allowed for great teaching moments for myself. One of my favorite things about the OR has been the combined cases I have been able to attend, one with GI and one with plastics. I have really found the entire idea of collaboration fascinating this summer throughout my experience and it has further driven my desire to pursue medicine. 

When not observing I have also been helping the department build their Obstetric and Anal Sphincter Injury database, by using patients’ medical records to input data about these particular episodes. I have really enjoyed this research because it has been interesting to find trends in the data, and see how this research could be used to potentially prevent or develop better and more standardized treatment for these lacerations. This research has also taught me the value of thorough charting as we often have to leave many fields of the entry blank simply because the information is not there. This lesson is something I plan to take with me into my future to ensure that my chart notes are top notch. 

Ultimately, so far this summer has been incredibly interesting and a very enjoyable experience. Going into this experience, I knew that medicine required collaboration but had no idea the extent to which it was necessary, but this element of collaboration is further driving my desire to pursue medicine. I really enjoy how the physicians bounce ideas off each other and how the attendings take to heart their role as a teacher. I have found that these aspects further enhance the medical field beyond just helping patients, and have peaked my interest in one day pursing academic medicine. I’m not sure exactly what my future holds but so far from my experience this summer I am fairly certain I’m on the right track and happy to be putting in the grueling effort to complete my medical school applications this summer.

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Lydia, Midway

I have learned a lot from the past few weeks at Mass General. So far, my time there has been divided up between research and observing in the clinic and OR. The research consists of going through the medical records of several women who suffered third or fourth degree perineal tears during childbirth and adding their information to a database. This project has allowed me to become much more familiar with EPIC, as well as learn more about perineal tears through answering the questions in the database. Although I don’t understand many of the things that happen during surgery, observing in the OR has also been incredibly informative and interesting. It was most exciting to see a case that I had observed in clinic, as I knew more about the patient’s background and could better understand the reasoning behind the procedure.

This experience reinforced the importance of continuity of care, as I saw how things the patient said during the appointment affected various decisions made during surgery. Prior to shadowing in this department, I knew almost nothing about urogynecology, in part because it is a relatively niche field, but largely because people do not talk about women’s health issues, particularly when the affected population is middle-aged or older. It has been extremely inspiring to observe the doctors in this department using their vast knowledge to treat patients non-judgmentally. Because of the embarrassing nature of many of the problems that people come in with, the doctors have to make them feel safe and understood, a difficult task in a society with so many taboos surrounding women’s health. By providing good care, the urogynecologists are able to greatly improve their patients emotional, as well as physical well-being.

During the coming weeks, I would like to ask the doctors in the clinic why they chose to specialize in urogynecology. I am curious at what point in their medical education they decided to go this route and what influenced them to do so. In the coming weeks, I am excited to continue working on the database and learning more about patient care through observation.

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Lev, Midway

So far, my experience in the summer shadowing program has already been incredible. It has been a great privilege to be able to work with Dr. Bordeianou, Nurse Practitioner Leiba Savitt, and the team of colorectal surgeons at MGH. As I mentioned in my pre-departure post, I have not yet worked in a hospital environment, so this internship serves a very important purpose as I begin to plan the future direction of my career. Thankfully, my experience has already been eye-opening and inspiring, and for that reason I can confidently say that my interest in medicine has increased enormously since starting the program.

Until now, when I am not shadowing in the operating room, I have been spending my time helping out with clinical research projects conducted by the department. Specifically, I have been working on studies to assess patients’ quality of life after surgery. For me, being able to contribute to these projects has been so interesting for a variety of reasons. First, I am really thrilled to be learning a great deal about the specific operations we are researching as well as the overall process of conducting clinical research. Additionally, it is incredible to contribute to work that has the potential to directly impact the lives of patients. Overall, this component of the internship has both been fascinating and meaningful.

In addition, I have been fortunate enough to shadow surgeons in the operating room and actually watch the procedures which we are helping to research. I have already observed multiple surgeries, and this has been truly eye-opening. These surgeons are incredibly skilled, and it is so inspiring to watch them work so hard to apply their seemingly endless knowledge and tremendous technique towards their passion for helping patients. It is the combination of my interest in medical science with the strong desire to directly help others that has led me to explore medicine, and watching doctors embody these qualities in their work has further peaked my excitement about such a career. Additionally, not only have I been lucky to observe the amazing work these physicians do, but I am also fortunate enough to interact with and learn directly from them. Of the surgeons which I have shadowed, nearly all of them have made an effort to teach me about what they are doing. I was originally surprised that these physicians are so willing to interact with and teach so much to an undergraduate such as myself, but I am so grateful for it. Their efforts have genuinely impacted my experience for the best. 

Overall, I would say that this combination of research and shadowing has really opened my eyes to the wonders of medicine, making me more and more excited about a prospect of such a career. For that reason, this internship is turning out to be such a valuable experience. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store!

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Jigme, Pre-Departure

I have just completed my first year at Brandeis University. It was a year filled with forming new relationships, adjusting myself to the campus and exploring different courses and career paths. I have always wanted to work in the medical field because of my interest in directly helping other people and studying science courses such as Biology, Chemistry etc. Therefore, I am currently on the pre-med track and I am considering to major in Biology. 

This summer I got the wonderful opportunity to shadow Dr. Marc Sher at Long Island Jewish Medical Center at Queens, NY. Dr. Sher is a colorectal surgeon and I really look forward to working with him because I myself have always wanted to focus on the colorectal medical track. Thus, I am most excited about watching Dr. Marc Sher interact with his patients and observing Dr. Sher perform minor surgeries in the operating room. I also look forwarding to meting new people and forming networks and relationship. 

Although I am filled with excitement to start my shadowing program, I am a little nervous about working in a new environment. I am interning at a hospital that I have never been before and I will also be working with people I have never met. I am worried how I will be able to adjust to the new surrounding. However, I know that I will be able to adapt soon. 

As I look forward to this wonderful opportunity, I expect myself to make the best out of this program by interacting well with the staff and observing and learning from Dr. Sher. Lastly, I hope that I will be able to get a better understanding of a colorectal surgeon’s daily routine. I want to know if I can see myself working in a hospital environment in the future and if medicine track is what I really want.

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Jared, Midway

Halfway through my session at Massachusetts General Hospital, I am excited to see the
research project shaping up nicely for the August deadline our group is working toward. At the beginning of the summer, I was not entirely sure of how my time would be utilized in order to meet the criteria of a peer-reviewed experimental study. I knew the basic timeline and scope of the study, but I did not know specific details and was a little nervous as a result. As mentioned before, not having much research experience in my undergraduate career made this start to the summer a highly-anticipated event. Now, a month into the experience, I feel much more comfortable in the role I have been assigned.

With the help of my research coordinator Dr. Kaitlyn Edelson, I have since been able to create a literature review on the relationship between ambient air pollution and adverse birth outcomes. From this, I have been working on creating a draft of the study’s introduction to provide a solid background on pollutants and how they are measured. In the past, courses like Intro Biology Lab helped me create my first ever introduction, but writing something that is soon to be published is quite surreal. Working at the hospital in Boston has also taught me less obvious lessons, like time awareness for commuting as well as working efficiently during the work day. Further, more recently I have been collaborating with another student to collect the relevant EPA data from a public database for future data analysis by statisticians at MGH.

As I enter the back nine of the summer research program, I expect to continue learning about data analysis while refining my written drafts for the literature before the August deadline. Dr. Edelson has been so understanding and accommodating throughout the process, answering questions about the biology and anatomy of everything associated with the study, as well as the logistical questions about the layout of MGH. Most of the other staff members in obstetrics and gynecology were quite welcoming when I entered the office. One individual was a little bit abrasive to me during my first week of the internship, but I understand that this is not indicative of the personnel at the hospital in general. Of course, this experience will introduce me to all different personalities. Moreover, not having a source of income right out of college has been something that has proven stressful for me, but I am thankful for this opportunity and know that it will lead to success in the future. At the end of the day, I am excited to see what the future truly holds.

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Cynthia, Midway

I am about halfway through my shadowing experience for this summer. It has been an enlightening experience so far. I have been able to view Dr. Cataldo during a mixture of surgeries and in the clinic. I have experienced firsthand patient-physician interactions and physician-physician interactions. I have felt the concerns and questions patients raised with their doctors and saw how the doctors tried to alleviate the concerns. On my first day of shadowing, I was able to sit in on the tumor board. The tumor board is where doctors and nurse practitioners come together to discuss patients that have cancer and how each patient should be treated. Afterwards there was a tumor clinic where the doctors saw the patients that they had discussed an hour before. The doctors who attend the clinic were a mixture of oncologists, radiation oncologists, and the two colorectal surgeons. There were also nurses and nurse practitioners. I have been to the tumor board and tumor clinic a couple times now. Each time I find it exciting but scary to hear the doctors discuss the patients and then be with Dr. Cataldo when he saw the patients discussed in the past hour because I can see how the doctors implement the treatment they have discussed.

I have been able to observe a few surgeries so far. I have seen a mixture of open surgeries, laparoscopic surgeries, and surgeries with a robot. I was worried that I would feel sick from watching the operations but that has only happened once. The operations have intrigued me. Operations involve many different types of equipment and medical personnel. I have learned that surgeries are a team effort. It is not just the surgeon performing the operation alone. There is a circulating nurse, a surgical technician, an anesthesiologist, either an anesthesiologist resident or a certified registered nurse anesthesiologist, the surgeon, and the surgical resident. Teamwork is an essential component of a successful surgery. No one works alone in the medical field. There is a lot of collaboration between doctors and other practitioners in the medical field. Also, you can always ask others for help when you need it. 

Based on my experiences to date, I have found that the medical field differs from university and academic life because practicing medicine is not just about knowledge but putting that knowledge to practice. While attending university, students learn all about the anatomy of the human body and about disease. Although that learning is necessary to becoming a doctor, caring for patients requires using knowledge to calm patients and treat them. Doctors need to have more than just book knowledge; they also need a certain amount of street smarts. I have learned the importance of sociology and psychology with respect to medicine. With each patient, there is a psychosocial examination performed. It is important to take into account the social and psychological background of each patient to better understand the patient’s life and how the disease that one has affects his or her life. I have enjoyed learning that sociology is important in medicine because I have very much enjoyed the sociology classes that I have taken at Brandeis. I now see that my concerns that they would not be very useful for medical school are unfounded. 

My shadowing experience so far has taught me to have a greater appreciation for teamwork and communication skills. My communication skills have improved as I have interacted with Dr. Cataldo, his colleagues, and his patients. I have learned that it is okay to work together in order to accomplish a goal. When Dr. Cataldo has clinic, the resident or nurse practitioner is the first to go in the room to see the patient. The resident or nurse practitioner then reports back to Dr. Cataldo and then he goes to see the patient. I also have learned the importance of thoroughly listening. A doctor must careful listen to a patient’s problems before giving a response or diagnosis. 

One thing that I have learned about myself from shadowing is that I love the clinical work. I like being able to interact with the patients. Not only learning from them about their conditions, but also hearing their fears, concerns, and hopes. My shadowing experience has reaffirmed my goal of helping people through the medical profession. 

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Ruchir, Midway

The past few weeks have been very exciting and very eye-opening for me at MGH. The amount that I have seen and the amount I have learned so far have surpassed some of the expectations I had going into this program and I hope to continue this going forward in the summer. More specifically, I have been fortunate enough to get involved with the research going on in the Colorectal Surgery Department as well as shadow some of the doctors from the department in the OR and watch their surgeries. 

The research I have been helping the department with is centered around data collection and analysis regarding mainly the lives of post-operation patients. While the actual operations that patients undergo are very important, it is arguably just as important to track their status days, weeks, months, and even years after their surgeries. Data like this can be collected from both patients as well as clinicians as a way to prioritize the most important post-operation issues so we can know which to tackle first. Under the guidance of Ms. Leiba Savitt, we are trying to put something forward in order to collect this data in the best way and this has encompassed various new and familiar platforms. Additionally, it has exposed me to the different ways in which clinical research can be dealt with. In doing this, I have also engaged myself with the literature in the field in hopes of identifying gaps or points worth pursuing in regard to post-operative patients and hospital readmission rates. 

The other component to my time in the department has been the opportunity to accompany doctors into the operating room. This was an especially new experience for me and I am continuously amazed with each surgery I watch. Moreover, being at a large and renowned hospital such as MGH, I know that I am seeing some of the best in the field doing their jobs. From watching the surgeons work along the digestive tract of patients, to seeing robotic surgeries, and getting an idea of the team effort that is needed between surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists, the experience has been truly inspiring and astonishing every week. Thanks to open arms from some of the surgeons in the department like Dr. Bordeianou, Dr. Ricciardi, and Dr. Kunitake, I have been successfully introduced to the field and have gained much exposure already. Every person in the room has a distinct role and I have been lucky enough to have all my questions answered throughout the surgeries with the help of medical students also observing in the OR. The great sense of community the doctors and nurses have at MGH has also allowed me to shadow some surgeries concerning other departments as well. I have enjoyed my time so far and hope to learn and contribute further to the work of the Colorectal Surgery Department.

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Danni, Midway

In the past month and a half, I had been working very closely with Dr. Edelson on some research projects. Because Dr. Edelson’s clinical shift doesn’t start until July, I haven’t had any clinical exposure yet. However, I have learned a lot about medical research and am currently helping Dr. Edelson with two very interesting and relevant projects focused on global health. 

The first project is focused on maternal anemia in low income country. Anemia is currently affecting 35 to 60% of pregnant women in low income countries. Being a part of this project, I was able to learn about the huge health inequality in countries like Uganda. I read over 40 papers and wrote an introduction for the paper that is going to be published in August. Then I helped organize data sets and sort out interesting information needed for our paper. I was able to meet with a professional statistician who works very closely with public health related datasets. Because of my interests in computer science and global health, spending time with the statistician really helped me to see the connection between computer science and medicine. What’s more, I was able to sit in meeting with Dr. Boatin who is an OB/GYN attending to discuss the project as well. So far, the project has had some interesting data and we are in the process of composing all the analyzed data and writing out an abstract for our paper!

The second project focuses on the relationship between income inequality and birth mortality in the United States. From a paper I read, the United States is the only country, out of 16 countries studied, that its population’s health outcome is related to income inequality. We began this project by looking at income inequality in the United States from the county level. The income inequality is measured through the Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient is 0 if there is no income inequality, where everyone earns the same amount. It is 1, if one person owns all the money. Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau publishes the Gini coefficient of each county. We are tracking the change in the Gini coefficient from 2003 to 2015. We also find the number of birth mortality every year in each county through the CDC data base. Therefore, we can find out if the changes in the Gini coefficient influence birth mortality. 

Although I have not actually shadowed Dr. Edelson yet, I am very lucky to be able to work on these two projects this summer. I am learning so much about global health. Working with a team of doctors who are desperately trying to make a difference and raise attention for global health, I am hopeful that changes will happen. What’s more, I realize that some doctors’ lifestyles are very different from what I imagined. I thought all doctors would work in clinics and constantly be dealing with patients. However, from the several doctors I have met, many of them only go on service for a certain time period of the years. For the rest of the year, they either conduct research or organize special maternal programs. That is great news to me because I am very interested in research and hoping to conduct clinical research in the future as well. Now I see that it is not only possible to do research and see patients at the same time but there are actually a lot of doctors who have that lifestyle. 

It has been a great time working with Dr. Edelson and I cannot wait for our research to continue and see what interesting results we get!

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