The past two summers, I participated in a fellowship at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. The fellowship, which is in the departments of primary care and surgery, aims to get young women excited about medicine in hopes of increasing the numbers of female medical doctors.
In the primary care department, my days involved shadowing physicians as they saw patients for annual physicals, health complaints, pre-operative visits, and more. I learned about taking vitals, drawing blood, and performing EKGs. I discovered how personal health care was, and I learned about the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. Though medicine is, on the surface, about knowing human biology, medicine is also about humanity. The doctors I shadowed put in tremendous effort to establish lasting relationships with each of their patients.
My days in the surgery department involved observing surgery, attending morbidity and mortality conferences and team meetings, and shadowing surgeons in the clinic. With my varying schedule, I was able to get a strong sense of the day-to-day life of a surgeon, and I often followed patients through their whole surgical journey: from the clinic, to the O.R. and back to the clinic. I observed many different procedures, such as hernia repairs, kidney transplants, bariatric surgery, and more. I also connected with an anesthesiologist who introduced me to the cardiac surgery department at one branch of Mt. Sinai Hospital. Though not originally part of the fellowship, I was able to spend many days watching cardiothoracic surgery. Since I was young, I have dreamed of being able to do this. I would go on YouTube not to watch music videos, but to watch open heart surgery. When, at the age of 16, I was able to stand right by the surgical team as they exposed the heart, I was in awe.
Over the course of my time at Mt. Sinai, I learned how to be both invisible and ultra-visible at the same time. In operating rooms, an extra body can be an inconvenience so I was on constant alert in regards to whether I was blocking the way. I had to learn not to touch anything sterile, where to stand to not block the monitors during laparoscopic procedures, and how to recognize when a surgeon was about to switch sides and needed a clear path. In these ways, I was invisible. At the same time, though, I was ultra-visible. I had to make it known that I was there and ready and eager to learn and help out by engaging in discussions, coming prepared with my own research, and eventually, by “aiding” in the surgeries: picking up the surgeon’s phone calls, unwrapping surgical foam, moving monitors, and tying surgical robes. I quickly realized that to make the most out of the fellowship, I would have to learn how to make myself seen. This is a skill that has helped me outside of the operating room, enabling me to assert myself politely and to take advantage of every opportunity.
Learning about medicine by being in the clinic and the operating room was an incredible experience. The fellowship taught me how important mentorship experiences are for young women aspiring to go into science, and I hope that if I become a physician in the future, I will be able to provide similar experiences for other young women.