A couple months ago, Dr. Rohde, professor of Chemistry and my research advisor, asked me to talk a little bit about my research experience with his Organic Chemistry I class. While I definitely shared a bit about what I have done under his watch while at FUS, I also shared a couple things that I wish I would have heard a couple years ago. I encouraged the students in his class, which consists of predominantly pre-health students, to spend time with the profession they would like to go into. My thought process was and is simple: the only way you’re going to know if you love something (or someone) is by spending time with it (or them). It’s one thing to hear and read about it, and it’s another to see it with your own eyes. The choice to enter the profession of medicine is a hefty decision, and it mustn’t be taken lightly or rushed. I really encouraged them to spend time with medicine to see if what they find what being a doctor means coincides with what they’ve thought it to be all along. For some people, it’s the same; for others, it’s not.
I decided to take my own advice. Today, I had the privilege of “shadowing” a neurosurgeon in the clinic. By shadowing, I mean just that: I was able to literally be his shadow, and that means I was with him everywhere he went. I was in the room in every patient visit, and I stood next to him as he did paperwork before and after seeing the patient. He was kind enough to talk through his reasoning for the decisions he was making on the fly. I asked questions as he tackled the more challenging cases, and felt I learned a great deal. It was awesome, it was extremely interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time observing the doctor-patient interaction and relationship.
The question that students sometimes grudgingly ask in the classroom is, “When am I ever going to use this?” Well, when the doctor started talking about teratomas, or something that I just learned heavily about this past semester, I was able to understand and follow him without him having to explain anything. (Teratomas are tumors that have uncontrolled expression of the three major tissue types of the body: endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm) The doctor and I talked extensively about genetics and how that ties in with brain abnormalities. We discussed several drugs and their specific mechanisms of action within the body and the impact they have on the brain and cancer. My classes at Franciscan helped me be able to understand the situation and topics at hand fairly well (granted, this is literally brain surgery we’re talking about, so go easy) but more importantly, my professors have helped me learn how to think in a scientific way on my feet, and effectively. The neurosurgeon I shadowed was impressed by some of my questions, and I’ve got Franciscan to thank for that. Depending on how you look at it, the experience was pretty similar but also completely different from what I’ve been used to. Before, I was observing microorganisms and running chemical reactions to help synthesize a small organic molecule. Now, I was observing a human being and a “small organic molecule” (i.e. a drug) was actually being administered to promote healing. This dynamic changed things, and I will say that seeing someone bald from chemotherapy with a scratchy voice from smoking for years on end who knows they will likely die from brain cancer in the near future was challenging. All in all, it was a very positive experience of real medicine, and I know I need to spend more time with it before I make any big decisions.
So how’s break? Well, I’m writing this blog post with Christmas music playing in the background, it’s snowing outside, I’m sipping my coffee and I’m sitting next to a fireplace. My dog is also laying next to me. How picture perfect! But really, it is pretty relaxing and nice. I’ve worked out everyday the past five days and feel great. However, there’s more to this picture. Next to me is also a book that has a title that includes “MCAT” and “Physics” … so maybe not so picture perfect (let’s just put that book over there for now). I am taking the MCAT (medical college admissions test) in April and it is a big deal. The results of this test weigh very heavily on a prospective medical student’s application. So, I’m continuing to study hard over break. I’ve been to the library multiple times and while many of my other friends aren’t doing similar things, that’s okay! I want to be a doctor, and to have that dream be realized will continue to require sacrifice.