It’s been a few weeks since I left Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and said goodbye to Colorectal surgeon Dr. Cataldo. I am still reeling over how incredible this experience has been and how much personal growth I have achieved throughout the eight weeks of the program. This experience has far exceeded any expectations I had going into shadowing. Before starting the program, I had set a few goals for myself to, including: to develop good relations with Dr. Cataldo and all of the hospital staff, and apply skills and knowledge from my college courses to my observations in the clinic and OR, etc.
Now that this program has ended, I can safely say that I have achieved all of these goals and so much more. The most surprising discovery I’ve made in my experience has been the contrast between the cold, formal atmosphere I expected in the hospital and the actual warmth and relaxed environment of the hospital. Everyone I met, from the OR nurses and nurse practitioners to the surgeons, was very gracious and had a genuine heart for their patients.
This shadowing experience has without a doubt been the apex of my pre-med career, and has only solidified my passion to pursue my own career in health care as a physician. Seeing Dr. Cataldo in practice has given me invaluable insight into the real life of a doctor; and after spending so much time with him, I can confidently say that I have a clear understanding of the life of a doctor and therefore the confidence to pursue this path.
If another pre-med student were to ask me for advice about shadowing at Beth Israel, I would advise him/her to look on the BIDMC website to look up the contact information of the physicians/specialties they would like to shadow. After collecting this information, they should draft a (short!) polite and formal email (personalized, would be best) to send to each of the doctors asking for a shadowing opportunity (be sure to specify dates, times of availability). I would say that most doctors are more willing than one would assume to allow a pre-med student to shadow them because they have been there themselves and therefore understand the importance of shadowing. This advice would apply to any position in healthcare that a student is interesting in shadowing.
I would say that my proudest accomplishment this summer has been putting myself out there and making the most of this incredible opportunity to shadow Dr. Cataldo. I must admit that early in the experience, I was very nervous and shy and worried that I would ask a dumb question or draw unwanted attention from the hospital staff. But as the weeks wore on, I was truly able to come out of my shell and ask relevant questions to learn as much as possible from Dr. Cataldo. I also began to feel a lot more comfortable around the hospital staff and (often intimidating) surgeons. I even met a few Harvard medical students who surprised me by how humble and willing to offer advice they were. By the end of the eight weeks, I truly felt like a member of the Colorectal family and was sad to say goodbye.
I would like to say a huge thank you to the Brandeis pre-med advisors for setting up this program for Brandeis pre-med students and for placing their trust in me to represent Brandeis at BIDMC this summer. It truly means so much to all of us and will be an unforgettable experience for the rest of my life. I would also like to thank Dr. Cataldo and the rest of the BIDMC staff I had the pleasure of meeting this summer for welcoming me with open arms and giving me the best experience I could ask for!
Ariel Lee – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center