Rachel, Pre-Departure

When does summer finally feel like summer? As a kid, it officially felt like summer when my parents sent me to summer camp. We would all pack the night before and then in the blink of an eye I would be alone at camp. Since college, of course, I have grown used to the idea of being without my family. I have never, however, been fully alone. Today, it feels like summer. Last night I packed my bags, and today I am in Philadelphia, alone. In the blink of an eye, I am suddenly without friends or family in a city that I hardly know. For me, someone who has never done anything like this before, it is nerve-wracking to say the least.

I will be having all new experiences for these next four weeks, including shadowing Dr. Gerald Isenberg, a colorectal surgeon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. I find myself imagining what these next four weeks will be like, how amazing it will be to wake up every morning and spend the day watching and learning behind the scenes at a hospital. As a freshman, I haven’t done anything medicine-related other than my biology classes. This program will be my first. As the school year winded down, I began imagining myself walking down the halls of the hospital, watching Dr. Isenberg attend to his patients. In doing this, I discovered that perhaps my biggest fear is not the shadowing itself, but what I will take away from it. “Doctor” has always been my future title; “Doctor” has always been the path I was creating with every class and every test I took. When I imagine myself in medicine, however, it is all in theory. This summer is reality, and what if I leave thinking, “I don’t enjoy medicine as much as I thought I would?” What is my future then? I would not know.

Although that possible revelation scares me, it also calms me. This month, I get the opportunity to see if I really do enjoy medicine as much as I thought I would. If I can leave this program with just a little more or just a little less confidence in my future, I can begin to really form that future. My biggest fear this summer is my own doubts, but when I get past that, there is a world of opportunity at my fingertips. This summer will not be easy, I’m going to face challenges I have never faced before. I have found, however, that the experiences we struggle with the most, are the experiences most worth the struggle. I can’t wait to start shadowing and learning both about medicine, and about myself.

– Rachel Saunders, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

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