MGH has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. While my experience is focused on the clinical research aspect in colorectal surgery and pelvic floor disorders, I was lucky enough to have my first day be spent shadowing in the OR with Dr. Bordeianou. I was worried that I would feel lightheaded like I did the last time I had shadowed. I felt that I knew what I had to do – put scrubs on, enter the OR, don’t touch the blue sterile area, try not to faint, don’t be a bother – but I was pleasantly surprised when the circulating nurse gave a brief orientation and everyone in the room quickly introduced themselves before returning to the patient. I felt comfortable and was happy to have another undergraduate student shadowing with me in the same room. While the patient was prioritized first, everyone made an effort to make sure that this shadowing experience was a positive learning one too. At one point, an attending radiologist and her team of residents came in to set the equipment up for intraoperative radiation therapy for the patient. The operating room was filled with about 15 people, and every single one of them was doing something, whether it was positioning the patient, clearing the area off, or closing the doors. It was amazing to see this teamwork in action, and it goes to show that healthcare is not a one person job.
Shadowing was a great start to my experience at MGH, but the real duties were focused on the clinical research. Lieba would explain the gist of the project and tell me what exactly had to be done – enter the past 2 years of patient survey responses into the RedCap databases, confirm procedures and diagnoses were done using patient chart records, or prepare and mail out surveys and letters. I was involved in every aspect of the data collection, and while it was mostly grunt work, it showed research at its finest. Research – laboratory or clinical – takes time, and it’s not always time interestingly spent. Because Lieba was always seeing patients, I was fortunate to be able to ask Linda, Lieba’s secretary, or Caitlin, the clinical research manager who sits next to me for help or clarification. There is a lot of independent work, but there is plenty of guidance to ensure that I’m doing things correctly. I’m amazed by how involved the surgeons are in clinical research – they are able to manage and prioritize their work, so that no day is ever really the same and what needs to get done is done. There is no room for procrastination or even time to waste. Every second makes a difference. So far, this experience has been positive and rewarding, and it has reaffirmed that the healthcare field is where I want to be after graduation.
Sherry Chen – Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)