Monica – Final Thoughts

Sadly, my shadowing has come to an end. These past weeks have been amazing- I have gained tons of knowledge, experience, and insight into the medical field and made life-long memories along the way. Observing Dr. Isenberg and his colleagues was a dream and I’m very grateful I received the opportunity to do so.

I watched him interact with his patients in the clinical environment, right before surgery, and his follow-up consultation with the patient about a few days or a week later. I was able to learn, in this particular profession, how he builds the doctor-patient relationship in its entirety throughout the different stages from their initial visitation, to surgery, to their follow-up visits. It shows the continuity in his practice and how he can get to know his patients, not just their case.

During the second half of the shadowing program, I finally was able to mostly distinguish the different parts of the colon on the screen when watching a colonoscopy. I even had an opportunity to try doing one on my own! Through a simulation screen, of course. I was elated to give it a go after weeks of watching, and I managed to reach the cecum, but I found out that it’s not nearly as easy as Dr. Isenberg makes it to be.  It was shockingly intense and saddening to watch a surgery on some patients that were around my age. I couldn’t imagine being in their situation, especially when some were suffering from  excruciating pain. On the flip side I also observed him helping elderly patients who were suffering from multiple issues. It made me realize that anyone can be exposed to unwanted ailments no matter the age, gender, or race, so being able to help people in their time of need is very rewarding.

I very much enjoyed the environment at Thomas Jefferson. Due to it being a university hospital, I was able to spend a good amount of time with Dr. Isenberg’s team, which consisted of a fellow, residents, and medical students. Everyone there was really amicable and explained cases to me and answered my questions. One of the medical students taught me how to tie square knots, and I was able to practice suturing. The fellow doctors in Dr. Isenberg’s department were also very friendly and I shadowed them as well, in clinic and in the OR. Before any surgery, the doctors always say “safety is a team effort so speak up” or something similar, which is nice because everyone in the room plays a role and needs to be working together to produce the desired outcome. It was good to learn that teamwork is very valuable in this profession as well.

Some new types of cases I observed were creating an ileostomy, reversing a colostomy, removing multiple metastasized tumors, and a perianeal proctectomy. It was still surreal seeing organs outside of the body, especially if they were damaged. Some of the surgeries were performed laparoscopically, some open which was my favorite, and some robotically which was also very cool since I was able to sit on the robot and see the 3-dimensional view from the eyes of the robot. I was fortunate to witness a rare situation where they needed to brainstorm the diagnosis in the operating room for various reasons and make decisions on the spot. I also observed that they were stressed at times, which I actually appreciated because it showed how much they cared about their patients and wanted to give them the best possible treatment.

I couldn’t have asked for a better shadowing experience! I would like to thank the Brandeis pre-health department for matching me with this program, and my sincere thanks to the colorectal team at Thomas Jefferson, especially Dr. Isenberg, for allowing me to shadow him and providing such a valuable life experience. I could only hope that one day I can be as good of a surgeon as he is. I’m excited for what the future holds!

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