Katherine Final Thoughts

I have just finished my 6 week shadowing program at CHA. It has been an incredible opportunity to learn more about the medical profession. I would like to start off by thanking everyone who has made this experience possible, especially the Brandeis pre-health department, Dr. Sheth, and all of the staff at CHA.  I am grateful that so many people have been willing to help me out and teach me about their lives.

During my experience, I have been able to observe surgeries up close, shadow diverse specialties such as podiatry and vascular, observe patient care in the clinic and emergency room setting, and interact with surgeons, nurses, PAs, surgical techs, medical students, residents, and patients.

My main goal for this experience was to help decide my future career goals. Although I still do not know for certain which career I want to pursue, I think that I have definitely made progress in making a decision. While I’m still interested in being a doctor, I’ve learned about other paths that I could pursue, and have gained a better view of the different healthcare actors and how they contribute to providing care. For example, I had previously had very little knowledge about PAs, but now have a much better understanding of how PAs and doctors interact to provide patient care. In addition, going into the experience, I was most interested in general surgery. However, by shadowing other specialties such as opthamology, I realized that there are other fields that interest me, even those which I had previously dismissed. This experience has helped me to discover new possibilities in terms of fields that I could pursue, and helped me gain a more realistic understanding of the medical profession.

This experience has helped me to gain confidence in the hospital setting, understand the organization of the OR and clinic settings, and learn the difference between various types of hospitals. All of this will help me if I work in the hospital setting in the future. While I still have more time to decide on my future career goals, I am now much more equipped to ask the right questions and make an informed decision.


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Jen – Pre Departure

When I was a first year student at Brandeis University, I had slight idea that I wanted to go into the medical field. After three full years filled with its own hardships and rewards, I began to solidify my desire to have a career working with patients in a hospital setting. I am still unsure if I want to attend medical school or physician assistant school. I enjoy the social aspect of interacting with patients and I would like to incorporate my academic knowledge in my future career. Since I have never shadowed a physician before, I only have a vague idea of what their day to day life is like.

While volunteering at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Emergency Department, I have overheard many physician-patient, PA-patient, as well as nurse-patient interactions. I noticed a familiar trend with most physicians and other medical professionals. Physicians know how to interact with a wide variety of people, while being able to apply their medical knowledge and skills to treat their patients. I view physicians as being excellent leaders and care-givers. Perhaps my view of what a physician is may not yet be entirely reflective of the entire profession. However, after my shadowing experience with Dr. Denoya, I hope to have developed a clearer idea of what being a physician means.

For three weeks in the month of July, I will be shadowing Dr. Paula Denoya, a colorectal surgeon at Stony Brook Medicine. When considering possible medical specialties, I have contemplated fields such as dermatology, neurology, surgery, and emergency medicine. I am not entirely sure what the profession of a colorectal surgeon specifically entails; however, I am excited to begin my shadowing experience. I hope to observe how physicians interact with other medical professions and their patients. I aim to learn key communication skills from observing Dr. Denoya consult her patients. I believe this shadowing experience is a wonderful opportunity to learn and meet new people that can mold my mindset on the medical field.

I believe it would be extremely rewarding and fascinating to observe Dr. Denoya in the operating room and her interactions with her patients. Since I am still unsure if medical school and being a physician is the right path for me, I hope to leave Stony Brook Medicine with a sense of clarity. The shadowing experience will either confirm my desire in attending medical school or reveal an unexpected thought – that a physician’s career is not the right fit for me. Either way, I hope to end up with a solid decision to attend medical school or PA school.

The first couple of days shadowing Dr. Denoya was truly inspiration. On the first day I arrived at Stony Brook Medicine, I was able to go into the OR and observe a laparotomy performed by Dr. Denoya and a fellow. Not only was I able to see Dr. Denoya perform her duty as a colorectal surgeon, but I was also able to see how she interacts with the anesthesiologist, and nurses. The second day of shadowing Dr. Denoya consisted of something a little different. We were in a clinical setting and I observed Dr. Denoya’s interactions with patients in an outpatient environment. I have learned a copious amount in these two days and Dr. Denoya plays a key role role in expanding my knowledge of colorectal surgery. I never really knew what a colorectal surgeon was until I began my shadowing; hopefully, I will develop a more complete understanding for the profession by the end of my stay at Stony Brook Medicine with Dr. Denoya. I am excited to see what the remaining few weeks will entail.

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Itay – Pre Departure

Words cannot explain my excitement to begin my internship at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Pelvic Floor Disorders. In this world renowned hospital, I will have the opportunity to learn from the co-director of the department, Dr. Liliana Bordeianou, and be guided by Nurse Practitioner Lieba Savitt. This is a very unique opportunity that the Brandeis Summer Shadowing program offers in that it threads together shadowing and research regarding a fascinating subdivision of medicine. However, I think that the true meaning of this experience will lie behind the interaction invoked between the observation and research that I will be exposed to.

These two cornerstones of medical practice will season each other, maximizing the value each other yields for me as a participant. Knowledge about what I am observing, and the understanding of its place towards slowly furthering the medical world through retrospective research, will enrich the taste I take away from my presence observing surgeries. Likewise, shadowing will create a more emotional and picturesque connection to the investigations I will be doing. Medical terms will paint images, charts will tell stories, and publications will be written memoirs of what will hopefully roll out to be motivational and impactful summer internship.

I look forward to being in the high-paced, intense hospital setting and to being an involved, difference-making member of the department. With that in mind, as the start date gets closer, I realize that I must make a point to prepare myself for this experience mentally and academically so that I am truly ready to begin. I made sure to be sent plentiful material to read about past and current research going that Dr. Liliana Bordeianou and the department has published and have further fulfilled this with materials I have found online. I believe that understanding and mastering what you do does a lot more than to teach you what you are doing, it teaches you why you are doing it. As the looming start day creeps up I can proudly say I now know what needs to be done and why, and am excited to take on the responsibility of doing it.

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Cameron – Midway Point

In my earlier post I noted my uncertainty and tentative excitement for the summer ahead, and while waiting for my badge to be printed on my first day, I found myself again filled with these feelings — and with a couple questions too: Who will I work most closely with? What projects will I get to work on?

Looking back at my time here at MGH, my first few weeks have been filled with so many new experiences and people — and together they’ve more than answered my initial questions. MGH is the largest hospital I’ve worked in, and I’m continually impressed by the seemingly endless labyrinth of hallways and staircases. Still, I hope sharing my experiences can lend some insight beyond the hallways: From clinical research in the office to surgeries in the OR.

I spent my first days entering patient surveys and charts into databases for the Center for Pelvic Floor Disorders and the Department of General and Gastrointestinal Surgery. Once I was comfortable with data entry, I was tasked with updating and designing some new database surveys for MGH and collaborating surgery centers. From there, I worked through journal articles to collect ranges of recommended ages for colorectal cancer screening. While working through databases and articles I started asking: Why is it important for clinicians to collaborate on clinical journal articles? Physicians and Nurse Practitioners are often the first ones in the office after rounds, and the last ones to leave after finishing up patient notes — so how do they prioritize publishing and discussing articles?

During my second week, I shadowed surgeons in the OR. While explaining the procedures, surgeons didn’t hesitate to reference recent clinical research discoveries as support for performing a specific type of surgery. Throughout my weeks at MGH, surgeons and research residents have frequently discussed how studies guide decisions in the clinic (for example, risk factors for cancer), during surgeries, and during post-operative care (to reduce readmission). From this, I can see how essential it is for surgeons to continually review recent screening, surgical, and post-surgical statistics.

Above, I asked how clinicians prioritize being immersed in the scientific literature. When something a nurse practitioner reads today can affect the patient of tomorrow, and when a surgeon collaborates on an article for next month that could in turn help multitudes more patients — the benefits can be powerful and far reaching. For these reasons, I’m continually inspired to work through even repetitive tasks like data entry, because I admire the potential that data could one day have. Still, I have yet to turn down an invitation to escape patient files for a trip to shadow in the OR.

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Monica – Pre Departure

This summer I have been given the opportunity to shadow at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania through the Brandeis program! I am looking forward to shadowing Dr. Gerald Isenberg, professor of surgery and program director for the Colorectal Surgery Residency.  I intend to shadow him as he meets, interacts with, and examines patients. I am truly excited about the opportunity to be able to witness him and his colleagues performing surgery in the OR.

Since young I have always wanted to become a doctor. In high school I attended a summer camp for students interested in pursuing a career in medicine, and also volunteered in a university hospital recovery room where I assisted nurses by attending to patients’ needs.  I witnessed firsthand how stressful the environment can be and how those nurses handled the patients with care. These experiences reaffirmed my goal to work in the medical field and help others.

This being my first shadowing experience, I hope to learn as much as I can from a doctor’s perspective by observing what goes on behind the scenes during pre-and post surgery activities in a hospital environment, and the teamwork that it takes to fully treat patients. I have watched a few medical shows on TV, but I’m guessing that in reality, hospitals may not be as dramatic at all times!

I would really like to learn how Dr. Isenberg communicates with his patients about their condition- the approach he takes to relate to the patients, the types of questions he asks them, the medical terminology he uses to articulate his thoughts, the steps to diagnosis, and the decision-making that goes into providing treatment options. I look forward to hearing about his experiences over the years, and how he got to where he is today. It would be nice to also witness doctors collaborating with other specialists to understand how they come to conclusive diagnoses. In addition, I’m excited to meet and network with others who work there, such as fellow doctors, nurses, and interns, so I can gather as much information as I can about what it takes to be a doctor and work in a hospital environment.

The knowledge I gain this summer will hopefully transfer to the research I am involved in on campus during the school year. Furthermore, this summer will provide experiences that I’ll carry with me for a lifetime. I can’t wait to start!

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Jasmine Pre-Departure

My name is Jasmine Lee and I am currently a rising junior and am double majoring in Biology and HSSP, while minoring in Music. After graduating from Brandeis, I hope to go to medical school and pursue pediatrics. 

In the Brandeis Shadowing Program, I have been partnered with Massachusetts General Hospital as both an observer and a research assistant. I am very excited to experience this internship at MassGen because it is one of America’s top hospitals by the U.S News and World Report.

We will be shadowing several different persons in the hospital setting to learn more about the workings of a hospital and the responsibilities of a doctor. Although we do not yet know what specific departments we will be shadowing in, I expect to learn a lot about the respective fields and how they work. I also expect to witness physician to patient transparency which I have learned is extremely important to the development of a meaningful relationship between the doctor and the patient and forming trust. As I would like to become a physician in the future, I hope to learn skills and observe passionate doctors in action.

In the research aspect, we will be working with the MGH’s Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Program. In practice, this program provides “evaluations and treatment for female pelvic floor problems to help women to return to a normal lifestyle,” according to the program’s informational website. Furthermore, it uses several different methods for treatment including targeted physical therapy, pessary use, biofeedback, and mind/body medicine, aside from surgeries. The main goal of this research program is to empower women to come forward about medical issues that they may be too embarrassed to talk about and find them the most efficient forms of treatment for them. According to MGH website, patients start in the program with possible non-surgical methods of treatment before discussing more intensive forms of treatment, such as surgery.

Going into the internship, I do not have any previous research experience. Therefore, I look forward to being able to contribute to such a great program and learning about the workings of a clinical research project. Although I will have to start from the very beginning in learning how to be a research assistant, I hope to learn skills that I will use in any future research assistant position, whatever that program or project may be.

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Tracy – Pre Departure

This summer I will be working with Dr. Weinstein and Dr. Hudson at the MGH OB/GYN clinic. I’ll be helping out with research while also having shadowing opportunities.

To be completely honest, I’m not really sure what to expect yet. I know that my research will be related to compiling a database for patients, but I’m not sure what my role in that research will be. I think once things start rolling though, I’ll have a clearer idea of what my purpose is and how I can best support everyone else in their work.

I definitely think this is a great opportunity to learn more! Currently, I don’t have a great amount of healthcare experience, nor have I shadowed before. I do volunteer regularly for hospice, which has helped me learn so much about how a patient’s relationship with their own health and livelihood is unique and deserving of respect. Hospice volunteering has also helped me to understand what different parts of a team work together for the better of a patient – from the doctors and nurses, to the chaplains and social workers – but I have always witnessed these things from the “patient’s side.”

I hope that through working with Dr. Weinstein and Dr. Hudson, I can gain a better understanding of each healthcare professional’s role in a hospital setting, while witnessing the teamwork and diagnostic process from the “other side.” Especially in such a high-pressure setting that has such potential for burn-out, I would like to learn how professionals care for themselves, what drives them, who they are, and what’s important to them that helps them stay strong in this environment and care for others. I hope that through this experience and hearing stories from the “professional’s side,” I can apply what I’ve learned to myself and work hard to achieve my goals, both career-related and self-care wise.

I am also excited to improve my research skills, since research is something that I’ll be doing this upcoming year at school (hopefully!!). I’ve never done research before, mostly due to my jobs and schedule, but I’ve always been super into making Excel sheets and formulas, math, lab courses, super nerdy stuff like that (yeah, exciting stuff, right?). I do regret not reaching out to professors at Brandeis for research opportunities earlier in my undergraduate years, but I feel so lucky that I will have this MGH opportunity to learn research skills, while also being a part of a project that can also help others. I think this will also be a good way to increase my (currently very limited!) skill set, so that I can be of use to my PI this upcoming school year, while also making good use of my time and effort!

I’m super fortunate that everyone has been so nice and supportive during the internship setup process – the faculty and doctors at MGH, the Brandeis pre-health department and my fellow internship student. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and learning as much as I can from them!

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Penh – Midway Point

It has been four weeks since I first started shadowing Dr. Cataldo. I had initially felt nervous and unsure going into my first day but all that has changed. Dr. Cataldo along with the other doctors, nurses and residents have been extremely welcoming. It was comforting to know that rather than expecting me to grasp an understanding of the medical procedures and jargons, the primary focus was simply for me to get a glimpse into the life of a doctor. Dr. Cataldo stresses this and encourages me to ask questions. He also does his best to point out any details that I may have not noticed in my observations such as details regarding the responsibilities of residents. While most of my time is spent in the OR, I have also had the opportunity to follow Dr. Cataldo in the clinic and observed a couple of tumor boards where doctors of different specialties present cases of cancer and discuss. Throughout each setting, the staff remained composed and retained their easygoing personalities. I have grown to feel quite comfortable around the hospital.

Shadowing at this site allows me to come and go as I please depending on my schedule and of course, the doctor’s schedule. This has allowed me to take it easy while having a nice balance of clinical exposure, work and time for myself and friends this summer. The medical field is different from university life. It is very fast paced and much busier. Doctors work constantly even outside the hospital. Much to my surprise, paperwork take up a huge chunk of time and it is normal for doctors wake up early on their days off to complete them. In a sense, it is like a constant state of studying and preparing for college exams.

Throughout all medical decisions, communication is key. It is important to communicate effectively with patients, their families and the healthcare team. I was informed of this key feature going in but I was only aware about communicating the actions taken. For example, it is not uncommon for residents to admit that they do not know how to go about a procedure and ask for assistance or a doctor to ask for advice on how to treat a patient during tumor board. There is nothing wrong with uncertainty but what is wrong is not communicating these uncertainties especially when a patient’s health/life is at risk. Knowing this, I will try not hesitate to ask questions whether it be during shadowing, in the classroom or my future career.

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Myles – Final Thoughts

Reflecting on my shadowing experience with Dr. Denoya at Stony Brook University Hospital, I genuinely believe that I will not have another experience quite like this one. Shadowing Dr. Denoya gave me the opportunity to witness what I am interested in being part of as a future Pediatric Surgeon. Going into my experience at Stony Brook, I had three main goals:

  • To better understand the medical jargon specific to colorectal surgery.
  • To gain a better understanding of what it looks like to be a surgeon.
  • To challenge myself to apply what I already know and expand my knowledge.

I am happy to say that I have met each of these goals through asking Dr. Denoya and her colleague, Dr. Smithy, questions. I also reached these goals through shadowing in several surgeries from hemorrhoidectomies to colon resections, all of which helped me to better visualize the true anatomy and planes of dissection in relation to the diagrams of the body we see in textbooks.

Ultimately, there were two things that stood out to me during my shadowing experience:

The first thing being my attendance at the Department of Surgery’s Research Day. At Research Day, I listened to residents and an undergraduate student present their findings on different projects they worked on throughout the year. My favorite part of Research Day 2018 was listening to Dr. Jeffrey Matthews on “Truth and Truthiness of Surgery”. He spoke about the flaws of Evidence Based Medicine and the importance of how medical education equips you with the decision making skills and experience to rely on your individual clinical judgment. This one-day conference exposed me to the benefits of partaking in different fields of research from sociological research to clinical research. In addition to the amazing presentations, I was also able to network with current medical students at SBU and other physicians in the SBUH network.

The second thing that stood out to me was the accurate representation of an Inter-Professional Model for delivering patient care. An Inter-Professional Model shows that all health care professionals/providers must work together in order to deliver the best care to a patient. At SBUH, you could see how everyone from nurses to anesthesiologists worked very closely together to ensure they could deliver care to the best of each of their abilities.

Because of my experience at Stony Brook, I feel that I have more of an accurate perception as to what the life of a surgeon is like. Dr. Denoya was extremely helpful in explaining to me that there is not one path to medicine because everyone’s journey is special. She spoke with me about her experience from being a medical student to becoming an attending and how those experiences have shaped who she is as a physician today.

Thank you to Brandeis Pre-Health Advising, Maryann Reiss, and Dr. Paula Denoya for making this opportunity possible and for allowing me to further engage with my passion for medicine. This experience has been so integral for me in figuring out my next steps before medical school, and words cannot explain how grateful I am.

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Katherine – Pre Departure

This summer I have the privilege of shadowing at Cambridge Health Alliance, in both their Cambridge and Everett locations. This opportunity will allow me to shadow multiple doctors in various specialties, which will allow me to gain a broad view of the profession. While I have had exposure to the medical field through my work as an EMT, I have had little experience in the hospital setting. I am excited to get an understanding of different medical career paths, and what being a doctor truly entails.

I am most looking forward to seeing the day-to-day routines of the doctors and the inner workings of hospital operations. I do not have a good sense of what to expect: what is the ratio of paperwork hours to patient contact hours? What is the diversity of cases seen each day? What are some important procedures and terminology used? How does everyone work effectively as a team in providing healthcare service? I hope that by speaking to and following the healthcare providers I will be able to answer these questions, as well as others that I have not even thought of.

My first goal for this shadowing experience is to network as much as possible. I would like to interact with not only doctors, but also nurses, PAs, and other medical staff to gain a broader understanding of the various career paths available. Second, I want to expand my practical medical knowledge, which I can then apply to my EMT work, as well as my future studies. Lastly, I hope that this program will enable me to clarify my post-graduation career goals by giving me a better understanding of my options and dispelling some of the myths surrounding the profession.

I look forward to beginning!


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