For two weeks this winter, I shadowed Dr. Dan Michaels in the La Jolla Village Family Medical Group. As a student interested in pursuing medical school after Reed, I was thrilled for this opportunity. This experience exceeded my expectations and has left me more excited than ever for my future.
Every day of my shadow, I followed the day-to-day work of Dr. Michaels. This work included seeing patients, refilling prescriptions, following up with patients about test results, and dealing with pesky pharmaceutical representatives. As I had expected, the work life of a primary care physician was busy. In addition to annual exams, the patients we saw included people with sore throats, stomach pains, aching muscles, addiction concerns, and surgery follow ups. The variety was exciting and Dr. Michael’s grace leaping from case to case was impressive.
In each appointment, Dr. Michael’s would open the door and recite, “I have a student that would like to stand by. Is that alright with you?” With the exception of two patients, I was graciously welcomed as the patient appeared flattered to be considered an interesting case and eagerly allowed me to learn from their body. In these rooms, I was honored to be a part of these patients’ lives in even the smallest way, whether that meant offering a sympathetic glance as they shared their frustrations with weight loss, holding the hand of a brave patient going through a tough point in their health, or simply thanking the individual for trusting me with these details in their life.
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.
I have long believed that nature is the best remedy and that modern medicine needs to become a more holistic process that heals through natural plants and herbs. Despite this conviction, naturopathy was not a term I was familiar with until I came to Portland and came across multiple naturopathic health clinics. I soon learned that the philosophy behind naturopathy shared my beliefs about what was the best treatment for patients. My research into naturopathy left me with an intense desire to find out what attending a naturopathic healthcare clinic would be like.
Then, like fate, Reed posted its available externships for winter breaks and one of the opportunities was at a naturopathic clinic. Therefore, my first day back in Portland was spent fulfilling my wish of learning about working in a naturopathic doctor’s office.