Lydia, Final Thoughts

My experience shadowing at MGH this summer has been a thoroughly rewarding one. Throughout my time observing and doing research, I have gained an appreciation for the field of urogynecology and how it helps improve the quality of life for countless women. Since the midway point, Caylee and I completed our work on the perineal tears database. Our new project, case-control matching for a study involving women with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and urogynecological symptoms, involves going through many medical records. This differs from our last research project in which we went through fewer subjects but examined each in more detail. Both projects have allowed me to become more familiar with EPIC, one of the main goals I had for the summer.

I asked some of the fellows how they decided to go into urogynecology. My inquiries revealed that all of them had done OB GYN residencies and had then decided, based on their experiences, to subspecialize in urogynecology. I better understood the differences between the Urogynecology and Labor and Delivery workplace environments after observing a C-section. The atmosphere of the Labor and Delivery unit was much more frantic and fast-paced. The surgery itself was also more rushed and less meticulous than those I had observed in urogynecology.

In addition to my time in the OR and clinic, I have been attending didactic and journal club sessions roughly once a week. Similar to observing in the OR, a lot of the information goes over my head. It has still been beneficial to attend these sessions, however, and see how the different doctors process the information and ask questions.

I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to observe and do research at MGH this summer. It has been very educational, not just about urogynecology specifically, but also about the daily life of a doctor. Although I knew the importance of continuing education going in, I was surprised by how much the doctors were constantly reading about their field and incorporating it into their practices. This experience has affirmed for me that I wish to go into the medical field.

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Chase, Midway-Final

It has been an amazing experience so far at Thomas Jefferson Hospital. So far, I have gotten to witness cool procedures in the operating room, colonoscopies, and office hours. Observing Dr. Isenberg has been such a cool opportunity as he makes difficult procedures look so seamless. My first day I observed Dr. Isenberg perform 10 colonoscopies back to back as he spotted hidden polyps in the colon with such ease. At first it was hard for me to follow, but as he explained certain landmarks, he looks for in the colon I started to be able to kind of keep track of where he was. For example, he explained to me that the transverse colon has more of a triangular shape compared to the ascending and descending colon. I also got to observe a couple of other doctors perform endoscopies, which was also very exciting as I got to see the inside of the esophagus and stomach all the way down to the pyloric sphincter. 

In the operating room I have gotten to witness routine quick procedures like hemorrhoidectomies and also a longer surgery called an abdominoperineal resection, more commonly called an APR. The APR is often a last resort for patients who have rectal cancer or Crohn’s disease. It involves the complete resection of the patient’s anus and rectum and ultimately results in a colostomy. It was especially cool watching the surgeons interact during the surgery and decide which planes to dissect on the patient. Also, watching different type of surgeons collaborate during a single surgeon has been really amazing. Within a single surgeon I got to witness Dr. Isenberg, a colorectal surgeon, a plastic surgeon, and a urologist all discuss the best course of treatment for a single patient. In my remaining few weeks I hope to be able to witness more surgeries and try to learn as much about the hospital environment as possible. 

I would to thank Dr. Isenberg, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and the Brandeis Pre-health department especially Erika Tai for arranging this opportunity. Overall it was an amazing and eye-opening experience. My favorite and the most interesting part of the experience was definitely the opportunity to experience clinic with Dr. Isenberg just because of the number of different patients and cases I got to witness. Even though some of the cases I saw were extremely sad, watching Dr. Isenberg listen to the symptoms of the patients and then examine the affected area followed by a seemingly instant diagnosis of the problem was truly astounding. I also had the opportunity to hear a lot of personal stories from the Medical students and residents about their experiences in medical school and residency that were very informative and helped me decide my future in pursuing medicine. Although clinic was the most interesting part of my experience, watching surgeries and being in the operating room was definitely the coolest part of the experience. It was amazing watching the scrub nurses, anesthesiologist, and surgeons work in unison to accomplish a common goal. 

Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Isenberg again and also wish good luck to the fourth-year medical students who I shadowed with as they apply to their residency programs. This site was truly amazing experience and I will be returning to Thomas Jefferson University hospital over winter break to shadow Dr. Isenberg again. 

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Justin, Final Thoughts

The Brandeis Summer Shadowing Program was a great experience and I am so glad that I was able to participate in it. I made many lasting memories and learned even more valuable lessons about the medical field. Dr. Sher was an amazing mentor and I cannot thank him enough for all of his help and support.

One of my biggest takeaways is that medicine is really team oriented. Even though the surgeon will be the one making the cuts, it is the entire surgical team that must work together to ensure a successful operation. One example is I never realized how important surgical counts were until I observed an operation. The scrub nurses are responsible for keeping track of the surgical counts and if even one sponge is left unaccounted for the operation cannot be declared finished. They also make sure the surgeon has all of the equipment to perform the operation. I have learned this can be become very challenging in more complex operations. I really like the team atmosphere involved in surgery and it suits me well as I enjoy working with others towards a common goal.

The summer shadowing program has also shown me the high intensity of surgery. The very first day I shadowed Dr. Sher I asked him if he felt it was difficult to maintain a healthy work life and balance. He said that it was difficult, but definitely possible. The next thing he said really stuck with me, “In life if you want to be excellent at something you have to put a lot of time into it, surgery is no different.” Surgery itself is a balancing act where the patient’s life may lie in the balance. Excellence is a requirement not a goal, which is why being a surgeon is a difficult lifestyle. It is a definitely a lifestyle I would consider and my experiences during this program have offered great insight into being a surgeon.

Once again, I would like to thank Dr. Sher and his team for all of their help during this program. I would also like to thank the volunteer department for helping me through the tedious clearance process. This program has been unforgettable, and it has helped me learn many great lessons.

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Jared, Final Thoughts

As my summer internship at Mass General comes to an end, it comes time to look back  on my experiences throughout these past couple of months. Time is a precious commodity that  I have been guilty of taking for granted, as many people often realize once it’s too late.

Throughout my undergraduate experience at Brandeis, I prioritized my academic career almost  to a fault; in other words, I did not fully appreciate the extent of research available right at my  fingertips on campus. Perhaps that was because I was subconsciously avoiding the experience  outright due to its intimidating aura. In any regard, this aside is relevant to my current reflection  because it makes this past summer that much more meaningful in perspective. The immediate research setting and immediate team I worked with were inviting, thereby removing the anxiety
and foreboding stereotype I spoke about regarding research.

Another aspect of research that I found difficult to appreciate was the monotonous nature of counting colonies or the small scale of research over a specific protein in a mechanism. The purpose behind the study is relevant to a wide audience, which intrinsically made my contributing role feel meaningful. Unfortunately, extensive research on air pollution is
required, especially with problematic air quality that will only be worsening further in subsequent  generations. Still, I respect and understand the relevance of the research being conducted on  campus; I personally did not find it inherently fascinating enough to pursue.  I was able to work on public EPA data curation from home or at the hospital campus
itself, which made the process of studying for the MCAT exam a little easier throughout the  summer. However, on days designated for the research project, it was personally difficult to allocate time to both endeavors.

Handling large amounts of data was tedious but eventually  rhythmic and felt like clockwork by the end of that step, despite difficulties that arose with the website sporadically. I saw firsthand how busy a doctor truly is, and I will always respect their dedication and time spent improving the lives of patients. I look forward to being in this position one day,  allowing undergraduate students to shadow or assist in various research tasks to better others and themselves in the process. I am thankful that the Pre-Health advising team granted me this  opportunity and will be in touch with those involved in the program for years to come as I continue the motions through medical school into becoming a practicing physician.

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Jigme, Final Thoughts

I just completed my program at Long Island Jewish Medical center with Dr. Sher and I must say that it was one of my best experiences. This experience exceeded my expectations. Not only did I get to watch Dr. Sher but he allowed to me get hands on experience by teaching me to use the colonoscopy and making me watch minor operations.

Overall, this experience made me feel that medicine is the right career path for me. Watching Dr. Sher interact with patients and help them get better is what I want to see myself doing everyday in the future. From my workplace this summer, I have learned that I love interacting with people. When I was shadowing Dr. Sher, I enjoyed talking to staff, patients and other people I meet.

Lastly, advice I would give to a student interested in Brandeis shadowing program would be to not be shy and talk to your supervisor and staff. I have learned a lot about the medicine field and different career opportunities after connecting with different medical professionals at my workplace. Moreover, another advice for a student interested in medicine field is to never give up. Don’t worry about what others think. Focus on yourself and do what you want. The path may seem like a long run but if that is what you want, you should always be determined and you will get there. From this summer something that I am most proud of is taking on a case report project. Dr. Sher is guiding me and we are currently researching on a rare disease to write an article about it. I am very proud that I took on this research.

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Lev, Final Thoughts

Working for the surgical department at Massachusetts General Hospital has truly been an eye- opening opportunity, and it’s hard to believe that the summer is nearly coming to a close. This internship has made for a wonderful experience, and it has really helped me to move closer to
my academic and career goals. Although I am sad that the summer is almost over, I am nonetheless very excited to say that I will be continuing to work with Lieba Savitt N.P., Dr. Liliana Bordeianou, Dr. Rocco Ricciardi, and others conducting research during the fall semester.

I enjoyed this internship for a wide variety of reasons. As I’ve discussed in prior blog posts, this internship mainly involves conducting research and shadowing colorectal surgeries. Both aspects of the experience have been really fascinating, and I’ve been able to learn so much about medicine and become more passionate about the field as a result. With respect to the research component, I have been able to get more involved with exciting
projects conducted by the department. In addition to continuing to work on the patient quality of life assessments, I have begun a new project, working with Dr. Ricciardi to assess worldwide trends in mortality caused by inflammatory disease of the colon. I have been working to collect data for many countries in the study, and have already even begun to observe some fascinating trends. As I plan ahead for my involvement at MGH in the fall, I anticipate spending a significant portion of my time on this fascinating project.

Additionally, the time I have spent shadowing has continued to become even more enjoyable throughout the summer. This internship has really been my first exposure to working a clinical environment, and, as mentioned in prior posts, it has been truly inspiring. Observing the
physicians who perform such surgeries has been incredible, largely due to the high degree of interaction I have had with the doctors who I have shadowed. When in the operating room, we have been given the opportunity to ask questions or simply just talk with the physician about
what he/she is doing, and such interaction has made the experience so much more meaningful.

Many of these physicians have so many incredible things to say and lessons to teach, and it is really a privilege to be able to learn from them. Additionally, since my last blog post, I have also been given the opportunity to observe several operations I had not previously seen, gaining more exposure to this incredible and complex field of surgery.

Overall, this internship has turned out to be an enjoyable and enlightening opportunity. My excitement for medicine and research has increased exponentially since beginning the program, and as I look ahead to my career, I am sure this summer will serve as a very formative experience, guiding me in the transition from college to the beginning of my professional journey.

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Ruchir, Final Thoughts

As the summer is approaching its end, I am very glad I decided to go through with the opportunity to work in the Colorectal Surgery Department at Mass General. Over the past two months, I have seen many different types of surgeries right in front of my eyes, gone rounding with doctors visiting the patients they’ve operated on, and worked on multiple projects led by nurses and doctors in the office.

Seeing surgeries up close is a very unique opportunity. After seeing many, I have realized the attention to detail, level of expertise, teaching aspect, and amount of care that is present in each and every operating room. These components are seen in every surgery on every level, from surgeons to nurses and to residents. Even medical students are incredibly helpful to have in the operating room as they are also usually eager to answer questions that we undergrads have. After the surgeons finish operating on their patients, the patients typically have a recovery window in which the surgeon visits and speaks with the patient. I also found this to be an eye-opening experience because it highlights how at the end of the day, it is also necessary to show personal care. It is important for the surgeon to assure the patient that they are recovering on the right track, and in the case that a complication arose, their next responsibility is to decide the right course of action.

Furthermore, being in this hospital environment has allowed me to learn about many different roles, not just the one of a doctor. I have tried to make the most of my time by speaking with scrub nurses, residents, and
medical students and I have found this incredibly useful for better understanding the field. The research component of my time this summer has showed me some of the less obvious aspects of improving the quality of surgeries and treatment. By studying and compiling pre-operative surveys of patients with bowel-related problems, we hope to gain insight into the effectiveness and results of surgeries on these patients. Additionally, I am helping on the beginning of a project looking at data of people around the world who have died from diverticulitis. These two projects are very exciting since they incorporate two ends of the research spectrum; one end where patients have not undergone surgery for their problems yet and another end where people have unfortunately already passed from their condition.

Once again, this summer has proven to be a great learning experience for me and has given me a lot of exposure to the surgical field as well as the medical research field. I am excited to continue this into the school
year with the aid of healthcare professionals like Lieba Savitt N.P., Dr. Ricciardi, Dr. Kunitake, and Dr. Bordeianou, and other undergrads in the office.

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Leah, Final Thoughts

My experience was immediately started by greeting a very kind woman, Kim, who worked in a similar position as Maryann, whom I had been corresponding with prior to my arrival. After I was all set up with an ID and the matter of my OR clearance was figured out I waited to meet Dr. Denoya. Upon meeting her I found that she was a very warm and welcoming person that was open to the idea of providing me with knowledge that I did not have before. She also gave me a textbook that I could refer to for a deeper understanding of some of the terms, treatments and surgical procedures that she would use but made it clear that I could ask questions about anything.

We moved forward into two weeks filled with hospital rounds in the morning, clinical days at several locations, surgeries and other procedures that I had never seen before. I was able to witness an open surgery that involved the dissection of a part of the colon. I was also able to see Dr. Denoya treat her patients during her clinical days. This meant that I was able to see patients that were recovering from surgeries like the one that I had observed, some that only needed in office care and others that were considering or better understanding the surgical procedures that they would undergo. There was always so much to see and this meant that I was constantly learning about the human body in ways that I had never been able to before. 

In addition, I was at the hospital during their Research day. This day long event allows residents, attending physicians and a variety of other medical staff at Stony Brook to gather and discuss research taking place at the hospital. The residents had prepared posters on a variety of topics within medicine in which each were aimed at making improvements to current procedures and ways to access knowledge about what doctors need to know to effectively help patients. This was a very informative but also somewhat surprising experience. Many of the residents and doctors alike were discussing new treatment protocols but some were also discussing protocols that had never existed. My understanding of medicine prior to being part of the Brandeis Summer Shadowing Program was that doctors had all the knowledge they needed to treat patients when in fact, they do have the knowledge but they too are still learning and looking for ways to alter treatment plans to better serve their patients. This reminded me of one of the things that I love about science and medicine, it’s always going to be a growing field and there will be new things to learn as we continue to learn more. Research day in particular gave me insight on how medicine is continuing to develop and it exposed me to differing perspectives in medicine I had not known existed. 

Prior to arriving at Stony Brook I intended to also use this experience to explore how a medical school and a hospital work together as well as Stony Brook’s medical school. While I did not have a chance to tour the medical school or ask detailed questions about it, due to time, I was able to see how medical students, residents and doctors work together within the hospital to treat patients and communicate with each other. Through sharing ideas, asking questions and exchanging knowledge they were able to successfully treat patients in the colorectal unit. Being privy to these types of interactions allowed me a better understanding of the field that I plan to go into and caused me to consider a specialty that I had never previously considered. 

I was excited and intrigued prior to having this experience and my expectations were exceeded. Dr. Denoya was an absolute pleasure to work with and learn from along with all of the other members of the colorectal unit that I was able to meet. A special thanks to Maryann, she was very diligent about all of the paperwork involved in the process and for that I’m deeply grateful. Altogether, this experience helped me gain insight into a field that I am interested in and also exposed me to a truly amazing group of professionals. I look forward to the connections and experiences that will grow from this one and I thank Brandeis for providing me with access to this opportunity. 

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Cynthia, Final Thoughts

When I first started out shadowing Dr. Cataldo, I expected that I would follow him around and watch his interactions with patients and nurses, as I had done before when shadowing oncologists. This time, I was very excited, and a little nervous, to start off in the operating room. I had not done that before so I really did not know what would happen from that perspective. All of my ideas of what being in the operating room would be like came from watching television shows like Grey’s Anatomy. My experience in watching Dr. Cataldo in the operating room, however, far exceeded my expectations based on television. First off, I learned a lot about colorectal surgery and colon cancer from watching the surgeries. I watched multiple surgeries including ones that involve open, laparoscopic, and robotic surgeries. The surgeries seemed so high-pressured and complex, but the doctor and his team seemed to handle the surgeries effortlessly. I admired their confidence and experience in handling the surgeries and their dedication to helping the patients. I didn’t always see that confidence or dedication on television.

This experience has reaffirmed my goal of becoming a doctor. It has helped me determine which areas of medicine that I would like to explore the most: surgery, clinical, or a mixture of both. I have learned that I enjoy being where the situation is high pressure. I also like when everything is happening at a fast pace. Most of all, I learned that I really enjoy interacting with patients in the clinic, helping to answer their questions and address any concerns about their surgeries and medical condition. Before starting this program, I was a little nervous about the graphic detail and goriness of surgeries, but I found that it did not affect me much at all. Only one time did I feel a bit uncomfortable and lightheaded.

I highly recommend shadowing Dr. Thomas Cataldo at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I would tell a student interested in shadowing Dr. Cataldo to ask him any and all questions even if they believe it would make them look clueless. As Dr. Cataldo says “The only question that is stupid is one that is not asked.” After each surgery and each visit with a patient in the clinic, Dr. Cataldo would always asked me and my fellow student whether we had any questions. He was always happy to answer any questions that we had and he always had a response. He also would summarize and review any new concepts that we learned and he would tell us key points of information about each patient. Even if a fellow student does not have the opportunity to shadow Dr. Cataldo, I would highly recommend shadowing an oncologist, especially in the operating room. The experience of watching a skilled surgeon helping a patient cannot be overstated. It’s also a much more interesting experiencing to witness a surgery live than watching it on television because you can look around and see all of the doctors and nurses contributing to its success.

I am most proud of the chance to assist Dr. Cataldo in the fast-paced action of the operating room. Watching his superb skill in performing surgeries and the attention he pays to his patients is something that I will always remember. It really has increased my interest in being a doctor and working in the medical field helping patients first hand.

I would like to say thank you to Dr. Thomas Cataldo, Dr. Leslie Garret, Michelle Torres, Erika Tai, and the medical students at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Each of them contributed to a wonderful summer of learning. I am grateful for their advice and willingness to share their valuable time with me. I had an extraordinary experience shadowing and I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.

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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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