Hearing Tests, Ear Wax, and Tonsils, Oh My! Thoughts from West Suburban ENT Center and Hinsdale Hospital
First arriving in Chicago, I was very nervous. Being in a cold and foreign city, I wondered what the winter externship would be like. It turned out that externing for Dr. Mahoney, an otolaryngologist at the West Suburban Ear Nose and Throat Center and Adventist Hospitals was an amazing and eye opening experience worth above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Dr. Mahoney and her family were welcoming and wonderful. They opened up their doors and provided me with an opportunity to share in their daily life for the week of the externship. On the very first day, we arrived at the Hinsdale Hospital around 7:30 am to meet her pediatric patients for surgery. On days that she does surgery, she’ll impressively and safely complete a number of tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies, and tympanostomies (ear tube surgery) in only a few hours! It was amazing how she so skillfully blended efficiency with patient and parent relations, making sure that everyone was well informed and provided the best care possible. In all surgeries, especially pediatrics, and even the non-invasive ones, safety is key. Having the opportunity to observe a team of skilled health professionals at work, whether performing surgery or checking up on a patient, reminded me of the rehearsal and production process for theatrical performances. Success in even the smallest things was impossible without the dedication and skill of everyone working together. It’s amazing the effect that one small surgery can have on someone’s life.Though the surgeries and checkups that she tends to perform are more for improving quality of life, in the long run, something as simple as removing your adenoids to lessen middle ear infections and fluid, snoring, or even sleep apnea, for example, pays back tenfold, especially during the developmental stages of a child. For many children, excessive ear infections can prevent proper hearing of stimuli in one’s environment, inhibiting or stunting a variety of developmental functions, most importantly included among these being successful language acquisition.
After a few routine surgeries, Dr. Mahoney and I traveled to other hospitals that she is affiliated with to check up on other patients, whose ages ranged from recently born to middle aged, and perform tracheostomy tube changes. Then we went to Grand Rounds and listened as the keynote speaker discussed their research and current developments on the use of Gabapentin for radiation induced oral mucositis, a common complication of radiation therapy, to reduce the need for high total doses of narcotics and unplanned treatment interruptions during chemotherapy. Following this, we went to the clinic to meet with patients, where I also met and observed the work of wonderful medical assistants, secretarial staff, an allergist, a pediatric endocrinologist, and two audiologists, who very kindly let me shadow them during hearing tests and discuss experiences and educational opportunities pertaining to the field of audiology, which is a career I’m interested in pursuing. Over the course of the week, the above schedule outlined was somewhat routine, but the number of opportunities to meet and learn from professionals was endless, and there was even time to visit the Oriental Institute and Art Institute of Chicago! While my original learning objectives were to gain a better understanding of the field of otolaryngology and audiology and to gain contacts and references. The opportunities available went above and beyond what I could have hoped, and my personal and professional objectives for this experience helped me to explore not only these fields, but also the health care field at large.I gained a better understanding of what being a doctor in both a clinic and hospital setting Rachel Ellinger Winter Break Externship Blog Post West Suburban ENT Center is like and found out more about various other careers both that I have considered and that I never even knew existed in hospital settings, such as nursing, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, social work, psychiatry, and theological counseling. I also learned more about what medical employment in the military and navy is like, which is another path that I’ve been interested in.
Working with Dr. Mahoney and meeting with various other professionals, I realized that every profession requires dedication and love for what you do, because success in any career whether it be a baker or a doctor, requires hard work and devotion. And, it's very difficult to do anything that becomes such a big part of your life unless you love it, so it's very important to follow what you're passionate about and what makes you happy.
It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, and I’m sitting with my chair swiveled to the center of a room in “Silicon Alley”, New York City, in a recap-of-the-week meeting. Very quickly, lists of tasks completed and accounts secured turn into talk of what the next steps are, who the next clients are, and eventually, what the next ideas are. How should we design this particular feature of our app? How will we deal with the millions of people that lack addresses in the traditional sense? What kinds of services will our app be facilitating? Once our product is streamlined, how will the information seekers interact with the information finders? Should we buy up this domain name too, in case we expand the franchise in this direction?
I don’t know much about the business world, but it’s my understanding that CEOs don’t usually hash out ideas about the fundamental next steps of their company with low-level employees, let alone interns. And yet, here I am, on the last day of my two-week stint as an intern at Frontier Data Corp, not only listening, but actually being asked to participate in a company brainstorm alongside the CEO, CTO, CFO, and other employees who don’t yet have titles with acronyms. Of course, seeing as the company is 6 members strong (myself included) a meeting with only senior staff members might be somewhat lonely—but still, I can’t help but think how rare, how adrenalizing it is to get to play an active role in coloring what is now only the outline of an application with aspirations of becoming as big as TaskRabbit, Uber, maybe even Facebook. I remember reading an article in The New Yorker this summer about the infectiously optimistic attitude that is pervasive in Silicon Valley tech startups, and at the time, I rolled my eyes; it seemed to me unbelievably naïve and arrogant to think that the world’s problems could be solved by a bunch of programmers working in a bubble perhaps thicker than Reed’s.
Yet here I am, a more-cynical-than-average college student, in a city that is distinctly not warm and fuzzy, unable to shake this feeling of excitement, even hope, at the possibilities for the future. I can feel my future-self cringing.
I participated in my externships to explore career options. I chose one mentor, alumnus Lucas Carlson, class of ’05. He works at CenturyLink in the private sector. My other mentor, Jim Quinn, ’83, works at Metro in the public sector. I enjoyed both of the externships. Based on my experience, I’ve observed the private sector moves faster, for businessmen have less bureaucratic regulations. The public sector, however, seems to have a more multifaceted agenda: while the government works hard on the economy, the environment, and the public's health, a private corporation works almost only on profits. This externship helped me experience the differences between the sectors, though still remain unsure as to which sector to join for my career.
Luckily, my externship offered other insights. My IT executive mentor had me shadow him in order to learn how to communicate with people. It seems like executives spend most of their time communicating with people. He also gave me great advice. He clarified that one should communicate information through stories, as human brains are wired for listening to stories. This mentor also gave me food for thought about how important being present-minded is. He told me not to let my thoughts run my life. This externship was a great way to reflect on the current trajectory of my life, and where I would like to see it go.
At the governmental externship, I had two mentors. One of my governmental mentors, Sabrina Gogol, ’05, had a list of several of her colleagues for me to talk to. During these meeting, I learned a lot about how governmental projects work. I also made contacts in both the clean energy and the agriculture industries. Hopefully I will be able to utilize these contacts for summer work!
In the electronics lab, five guys huddle around an oscilloscope, a breadboard, and a computer. Writing code down to the metal, our circuit on the breadboard submitted to all of our orders, as servants to a benevolent king or to a ruthless dictator.
For a week I was an extern at Sigenics, a company that designs and supplies application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Sigenics has two facilities. The main headquarters is located in Chicago and an additional branch is in Irwindale, California. I worked at the California branch with Douglas Kerns* (parent of Lydia Kerns, '16) one of the founders of Sigenics, Marcus, the senior technician, and fellow externs like me.
ASIC chips have many uses. For example, there are special ASIC chips in bitcoin miners, cellular phones, electronic sensors and timers. Companies and researchers contact Sigenics to make ASICs, or custom electronic parts for them.