Tag Archives: medicine
So, this was pretty much my final presentation for my internship. Yeah, I drew comic panels as slides :)
1. Being a doctor can mean many different things
Throughout the summer, I shadowed many different doctors in different specialties and settings. And I realized that even though they all have the title of MD, what they do every day can be vastly different.
2. Surgery is really awesome
During my internship I observed 2 kidney transplant surgeries, a laparoscopic nephrectomy, and a coronary artery bypass surgery, and all of them were so cool to watch! I still find it amazing that we have the ability to do all these things to fix our bodies.
3. And so is tissue recovery
I had the opportunity to go on a tissue recovery case and I was so glad that I got to see it. I was completely eye opening! They recovered the heart, the aortic bifuracation vessels, the bones in the arms, the bones and tendons in the legs, and the costal cartilages. Awesome anatomy lesson!
4. Kids make everything more fun
I also shadowed 2 pediatricians at a private practice and a pediatric nephrologist at the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and let me tell you, it’s a totally different environment. Much more relaxed and fun!
5. The human mind is fascinating
As a Neuroscience and Behavior major, 2 of the medical specialties I was interested in were Neurology and Psychiatry. And as I expected, I saw a lot of interesting cases. For example, I saw a lady who had conversion disorder, which means that she has neurological symptoms (slurred speech, paralysis) without any neurological cause – super interesting.
6. Dentistry is actually really cool
So as I’ve mentioned before, I spent quite a lot of time shadowing a dentist during my internship. Before now, I’d never really considered dentistry as a career option for me, but as I was browsing through the VUMC directory looking for things I was interested in, I came across dentistry and thought, hey, why not? Dr. Rezk, the dentist I shadowed, and the rest of her team, turned out to be so wonderful and informative that now I’m actually starting to look into possibly becoming a dentist!
7. I’m really lucky to be healthy
After seeing so many patients who have to take 12 different medicines day, come into the hospital because of a rejection, etc, I’m starting to appreciate what a gift it really is just to be healthy. This experience has really shown me how health really is the most fundamentally important thing in your quality of life and this has inspired me to really take care of my body.
8. There is a real sense of community in medicine
I was so happy to see that everyone I met was so nice and helpful, even though I’m just an undergrad. All of the doctors, residents, fellows, and medical students I met really welcomed me with open arms and genuinely wanted to make this a good experience for me.
9. I have a lot of options than I had thought
So before this summer, I’ve been feeling kind of bleh and constricted about a career in anything science-y. Since I’ve decided that I didn’t want to do research, I felt like my only other option was to be a doctor. But this internship exposed me to many other options that I never even considered – or knew existed. I think it was the most valuable thing I got out of the internship – the feeling that I do have choices and the renewed confidence in a career in healthcare!
Finished the third week of my internship at Vanderbilt Medical Center and it’s been awesome so far! This has been such a huge change from doing research for the past 2 summers, mostly because there has been very little real work, since I’ve been just doing shadowing. But it’s been very valuable experience and I’ve gotten to see a lot of cool stuff!
So I continued shadowing in Nephrology at the Vanderbilt Hospital, and also at the Veteran Affairs Hospital next door. I watched a kidney biopsy, shadowed some more in Neurology consult, and sat in on a bunch of meetings. I also started shadowing in psychiatry consults, where you see a lot of angry people, depressed people, crazy people, etc. So that’s been fun.
then this past Wednesday, I shadowed Dr. Susan Langone, the wife of the Dr. Langone at Vanderbilt. She works as a pediatrician in private practice, it was a very different experience. I was there for the clinic visits of a 2-month-old, a 6-month-old, a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 10-year old – a good range! Overall the environment is just a lot happier and relaxed and fun, and there aren’t any really serious illnesses since it’s an outpatient clinic. And Dr. Langone was hopping around and being pretty active in trying to assess the kids’ physical development and such. And the kids were all so cute!
In more exciting news, I observed a couple of kidney transplants in the OR! The first one was such a strange and surreal experience. First of all, I was shocked at myself for being so totally okay and non-reactive during the surgery (especially considering my fellow intern Ian chickened out on it that morning). Maybe I’ve got what it takes to be a surgeon, ha. Secondly, it’s still so incredible to me that modern medicine has advanced to the point where we can take an organ from one human being (dead or alive) and put it into another. As I stared at the kidney sitting in a bucket of ice, it was odd to imagine it being inside someone’s body just minutes ago, someone who was probably still on an operating table just next door. And it was even stranger to see the surgeon staple the wound close on the recipient’s abdomen, and seeing her lying there, with her blood already flowing through a new kidney. And what made it even more surreal was that I saw the patient in person in her pre-op clinic visit, as well as after her transplant in the hospital. And on top of everything else, it was actually the much publicized kidney-found-via-celebrity-Tweet transplant… Anyway… yes, I’m still in awe at the whole thing.
The second one I observed was this week, and I got to see some of the nephrectomy surgery (it was all laparoscopic) for removing the kidney from the donor as well. And I actually got to scrub in for the transplant, so I was right up there at the operating table with the surgeon and his assistants! It was so cool seeing everything up close, and I even got to touch the kidney and feel the pulse in the iliac artery and hold stuff for the surgeon. Hoping to see more different surgeries soon!
I also began shadowing a dentist, Dr. Rezk, at the dental clinic at Vanderbilt last week. It has been going super over there as well; Dr. Rezk and her team are some of the friendliest people ever. She told me that she was reluctant at first to take me on, since she’s had some not so great experiences with students shadowing her before (how do you even be bad at shadowing someone? You don’t even do anything!). But then she said that since I was a girl and I was Asian (she’s Asian too, it’s just that her husband’s Egyptian) she thought she’d give me a chance, and she tole me after the first day that I was a great shadower (again, how can you possibly be bad?). Anyway, so I’ve been really enjoying shadowing her, she’s great at what she does, and she’s so, so friendly to her patients, and she genuinely seems to enjoy her job. And she’s been great about telling me what it’s like to work as a dentist and actually really recommended it for me. I’m really glad that I found her and that she let me shadow her, and it’s been making me consider dentistry more and more seriously. We’ll see how that goes for the rest of the summer!
After orientation, camp, and moving in, it was finally time to get serious. On Monday I got all my paperwork approved and got my ID badge, and on Tuesday I began my official internship at VUMC!
Basically what I’ve been doing is just shadowing my host doctor, Dr. Langone, a transplant nephrologist, and sometimes other doctors, residents, and fellows. I get to the Vanderbilt Hospital at 8 am every day and go on rounds with Dr. Langone’s team as they check on patients in both nephrology and the surgical ICU. After that, I go to clinic with a doctor or fellow and observe outpatient clinic visits for various reasons such as post-transplant follow-up, pre-operation check-up, kidney donation, etc. Then at around noon almost every day there is some sort of meeting of conference going on so I go to that, which usually includes free lunch (yay).
On the first day I realized that I’d be free after about 1 pm every day, and I wanted to make the most of this internship so I asked one of the fellows to help me make some connections in the neurology department since I’m a neuroscience major and I’m really interested inneurology. This was successful and for the last 2 afternoons I’ve been shadowing on the neurology consult team, which gets called to check on in-patients in various departments who need to be checked for neurological issues. This has been really interesting and I’ve met some current medical students on rotation who have been great to talk to.
I’ve also tried to contact some more doctors in neurology and psychiatry, and hopefully next week I will be able to branch out even more. I think it’d be so cool to go on psych consults. Also I tried to contact a dentist (since I’m also considering dentistry) here but she’s away until next Monday so I’ll have to wait to see if she’ll let me shadow. And I’m in the process of being approved for the OR so I’m hoping to see a surgery soon!
Everyone I’ve met here – doctors, residents, fellows, medical students – have been really nice and receptive so far, and it’s great. I was a little nervous at the beginning that since I’m only an undergrad, people wouldn’t even bother with me or would be too busy to make time for me; after all, they’ve all got very important jobs to do. But everybody have been amazing at taking my questions, explaining things to me, and just being generally supportive. I was pleasantly surprised and this has definitely been a big part of me enjoying this experience.
In other exciting news, I got my lab coat today! Now I will feel much more legit walking around the hospital :D
Can’t wait for week 2!
That’s Philadelphia, in case you didn’t know. Yufei and I took a short weekend trip there last week! It was a very successful trip and I really liked the city a lot, very different from NYC in many ways. Here are some photos!
Being a total nerd about all things biology/medicine, I was super excited to find out about the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
They have a completely fascinating collection of medical oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. No photos were allowed inside but trust me – it was amazing! And Yufei bought me this awesome pen from the gift store:
Then we walked all the way across town to visit the US Mint – where your coins come from! – and then went to see the Dream Garden, a beautiful 15 × 49-foot mosaic in the lobby of the Curtis Center. So beautiful.
By that time it was getting late and things were starting to close up, so we just wandered around for a bit (and dropped by an interesting exhibit at the American Philosophical Society Museum). We then headed for dinner at Buddakan. We’d been to the Baddakan in Atlantic City a year and a half ago and really liked it, so we thought we’d try the one in Philly.
We shared the crispy duck salad to start:
We both thought it was really good, generous serving (it was meant to be shared) and a good amount of duck too! For main course, I got the miso black cod and Yufei had the wok cashew chicken. Again, both were great! My cod:
Then for dessert, we shared the dim sum doughnuts:
They came in a cute little take-out box, were warm and fresh, with three dipping sauces: chocolate sauce, jam, and a cream cheese sauce. It was so good! The meal certainly didn’t disappoint, and I think I might have to go to the Buddakan in NYC sometime!
The next day, we walked around a bit more (there are so many little parks, squares, and other public spaces in Philly! I love that).
Then we took a bus down to South Street to have lunch. Of course, we had to get some Philly cheese steak! Went to Ishkabibble based on Yelp reviews, and had a pretty good experience there. The place was tiny so we had to wait a bit for a table, but the people there were really friendly and the food was great too!
Elfreth’s Alley (starting to get some beautiful afternoon sunshine!):
And then the area around City Hall (which is a gorgeous building by the way), and finally, the LOVE sculpture, which appropriately sums up how I felt about our trip and this beautiful city:
I want to go back! Not necessarily for the museums and historical sites, but Philadelphia just feels like a nice place to walk around in and just relax for a day, sit in a square, look at public sculptures and murals, things like that. In a way it almost reminds me a bit of Vancouver. I wish it weren’t so far away, otherwise I would totally go there once in a while to escape the craziness of NYC.
Questions like these abound, and answers were not easy to find. But a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon something that quite possibly changed everything.
While searching for something loosely relevant, I came across the website for the Association of Medical Illustrators. This was only slightly intriguing, since I knew that the profession’s existence since high school. In fact, my art teacher even suggested that I look into it, him being one of the few people who supported me having a career in art. I never followed his advice, probably because I was too wrapped up in preparing for my then-supposed illustrious scientific career. But this time, out of sheer curiosity and convenience, I decided to look around the site.
When I click on the Education page, my heart stopped and I sat in awed silence for at least a full minute. I have heard of the profession alright, but I knew next to nothing about what it takes to actually become a medical illustrator. As it turns out, it actually requires training that is way more specialized than I thought. Currently, there are only 5 institutions in North America that offer an accredited graduate program in the field. And the coursework includes not only classes in illustration, design, etc, but also biomedical science classes such as anatomy and and pathology alongside medical students.
Could it be? It’s possible to have a graduate education, and a career, in both art and science? This sounded like something I wanted, and needed. And since the prerequisites include a slew of science classes, my coursework for the last 2 years have not been a total waste. But on the art side, I was sorely lacking. I have not taken a single art class since high school, and I have no respectable portfolio to speak of. But that’s ok. It’s not too late yet. I still had 3 semesters left, and if I still don’t feel like I have enough skill and a good enough portfolio before graduation, I’ll take a year off and work on it and apply the next year. Because for the first time in my life, I felt like I’ve found something I can do for the rest of my life. Something that would make me feel happy and fulfilled and… excited. I was actually excited about the possibilities that this future hold. For the first time in my life, I felt like I’ve found my calling.
What a refreshing sensation. This is what it should feel like when you’ve found the right path for you. Not dread or despair or constant doubt. Almost miraculously, the fog that had been obscuring my future suddenly lifted. Now, not only do I clearly see what my past had been, I also see concrete, realistic, steps I can take in order to achieve a goal that I actually care about. Of course there are still questions and uncertainties, but these fill me with not fear or apprehension, but excitement and passion. Of course this is a departure from what I had originally planned for my life, but isn’t it finally time to take a leap? To take a step for the sake of my own dreams that I’ve neglected for so long?
Some people might think me foolish for abandoning such a noble, prestigious, and lucrative career opportunity as medicine. My parents would probably fall into this category. When I had expressed the slightest interest in art therapy 2 summers ago, their reaction was that of extreme discouragement and disappointment. Anything less ambitious than medicine would seem to them as me not fulfilling my potential. I’m so brilliant and talented, they tell me, and if I give up now and choose to do anything else, I would be wasting what’s been given to me. But you know what? Sometimes giving up is the bravest decision.
So I fully recognize that I may not get the support that I would like from my parents, emotional, financial, or otherwise. But that’s ok. I can turn to other people for support. I can get a loan to pay for school. It’s not their life. It’s mine. And I need to do this for me. Even if I fail, even if I find out that maybe after all, I want to change my mind again and do something else, I need to do it so that I won’t be regretting it for the rest of my life.
I don’t need anyone else’s permission to do what I feel is right for me. Sure, my new goal my not be nearly as ambitious in the conventional sense as my previous one, but that’s not what matters. I may have been ambitious before, but that ambition lacked the passion to drive it. My heart was not in it, and the resulting misery is something that I would rather not experience ever again.
What is ambition without passion? Nothing but an empty chase after a dream that’s not your own.
This time, it’s going to be different. On the verge of turning 21, and with that, of growing up, I think I’ve finally found a good answer to the question we’ve all been asked so frequently as children. This time, the answer fills me with both ambition and passion. And that’s the way it should be.
(Continued from Part I)
Sometimes, it would be painful. The classes were tough, the stress of getting research experience gave me headaches, the MCAT was always looming on the horizon, application process itself, the insane competition, and even after all that, medical school and actually being a doctor… it would all make me incredibly upset. But I still believed that it was part of the process, that really, it would all pay off in the end. So what if I had to slave away to get perfect grades, be stuck in a lab every summer, put my life on hold to be in school for another 8 or 10 years? I was ambitious like that.
It wasn’t until this summer that I began to honestly question my decision. I was working in a lab, as any good pre-med student should be. And I was miserable. I was so miserable one weekend that I left as soon as I arrived at the lab and went home crying. I began to question everything. Why was I doing this? Why was I working in another lab when I didn’t even like last summer’s lab experience? Because I needed to do it for med school. Why did I want to go to med school? Because… I didn’t know. I didn’t know why I had been working on a goal for the past 2 years. I did not like many of the pre-med classes I had taken, doing research in a lab all day is not appealing to me, the idea of taking the MCAT and the whole application process sickens me, and I definitely do not want to stay in school until I’m nearly 30. Besides, as an international student, the chances of getting into a top American medical school is pretty much nil. And at the end of it all, to be a doctor? A noble dream; but it was not my dream.
My life felt so wrong. This was not what I was meant to do. This was not what I wanted to be when I grew up. Finally, I was seeing my life more clearly than ever before, but it was not a pretty picture. I had been carried away from my center for too long. I had lost sight of what I truly wanted in life. I really had believed that becoming a doctor was what I wanted, and everything that came along with it, I had to endure. But I was wrong. Now I understood why I never felt as enthusiastic as the other hopeful future doctors, why my voice grew weaker each time I told someone that I was pre-med, why I did not look forward to the life ahead of me for the next 10 or 20 years. This was not what I was meant to do.
I took a wrong turn somewhere along the road, and now I was lost. I didn’t know where to go, what step to take next, who to turn to. I’ve long lamented the fact that I probably should have gone to art school, but it’s too late now. And to be honest, I do feel incredibly luck to be at Columbia; I just haven’t been doing the right things here. But what now? I’ve already come this far down a path I knew was wrong, is it too late to start over? And if not, how and where? And has everything I’ve done so far in college just been a waste?
(Continue to Part III)