While I anticipated that I would feel somewhat nervous on my first day of shadowing, I had thought that my previous shadowing experience would help ease me into this new shadowing position. That was not the case because though it has been only three years since the last time I did this, it feels like a lifetime away. As a senior in high school, shadowing on the surgical floor at the Whidden, I was sheltered and guided in everything that I did. Our instructor who arranged the shadowing experience for us gave us strict instructions on what to do. This shadowing experience turned out to be different in that I was given more freedom to do what I wanted to do. I had thought that I would be only shadowing Dr. Sheth during the summer, but I actually had the opportunity to shadow many surgeons in various specialties. While I have mostly shadowed general surgeons, I have also had exposure to urology, vascular surgery, podiatry, ENT (ear, nose and throat), gynecology, and even orthopedics. Furthermore, because of my interest in neuroscience, I also had the opportunity to shadow a neurologist.
As I progressed further into this shadowing program, I continued to compare it to my experience three years ago. As I mentioned before, my previous shadowing experience was very sheltered since it was a high school program. I did not have the liberty to decide which specialty I wanted to see and I was not able to observe the surgeons directly in the operating room. This summer, I not only was able to meet many patients and observe various unique cases, I was also able to observe many surgeries, some of which were routine surgeries, others were more complicated and interesting. The first surgery that I saw was two weeks after I started, during my OR orientation when one of the PA’s was teaching the do’s and don’ts when I am in the OR. While she was showing me around the operating rooms, one of the surgeons that I have shadowed before during clinic allowed me to stay and watch a laparoscopic appendectomy. Although this was a very routine procedure for everyone else, it was the first surgery that I had observed and the experience greatly strengthened my resolve to go into the surgical field in the future. The most interesting surgery that I watched during my shadowing experience this summer was a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication, a surgery done to treat GERD. It was performed by Dr. Fellinger in the CHA Everett Hospital. The way the surgery works is by repairing the mechanical dysfunctions around the lower esophageal sphincter that cause GERD symptoms. First, she closed a hole between the diaphragm and the stomach, then she did what she explained as a “hotdog in a bun” procedure in which she essentially wrapped the stomach around the esophagus. It was a relatively long surgery but it was very interesting to watch. I have already learned much from this experience and as I continue to shadow surgeons of different specialties, I am becoming not only more interested in medicine, but I am also realizing that there are many specialties that I would love to do besides neurology which had been my first choice going in.
-Taisha Joseph – Cambridge Health Alliance