Walking down the shore of Lake Michigan right before I slipped on ice. Photo Credit: Shannon Bacheller, ‘16
I’m not one to travel. NYC had been my home for 18 years before I got accepted to Reed. Stasis breeds complacency and so I left my home. Moving to Portland would stir in me the sort of anxious energy that can be channeled productively. Even so, I wasn’t comfortable calling the place home until my last semester. I arrived with the dream of becoming a doctor. Having completed a synthetic chemistry thesis, I left more confused now than before as to what my true love was, be it medicine or chemistry. Being so infatuated with two things is a strange thing indeed.
Though I welcomed the short break, I was eager to ease my cognitive dissonance. My next destination was Chicago, IL, where I was to shadow Dr. Daniel Wynn (’77, Biology) at his private neurology practice in the suburbs. I left NYC once more in the hopes that a wiser soul than I, a clinical researcher and neurologist at a successful multiple sclerosis center, could aid my plight. Being in a foreign town would force me to explore.
Being a traveller grants one the comfort of knowing that, when overwhelmed by the novel, home is only a ways away. After my first visit at the clinic, it was obvious Dr. Wynn was a master of his craft. He charmed his patients, talked to them like they were old friends. His patients appreciated his wit (as did I), his genuine care, and above all, his patience; he treated his patients as equals. He took his time to explain all things in detail. He consulted with his patients on all matters and left all final decisions up to them. They worked as a team. They shared the ups and downs of their treatment, the good and bad stories, their wishes and worries.
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.
David Smirnow and his family are fabulous hosts. They let me stay in their home for five days while I shadowed different doctors including David at the city hospital. I was able to see the beautiful Montana landscape every morning on my way to "work" with David. I say "work" because I got to watch everything but did not actually have to do anything. After all I am not certified to cut someone open, not to mention it was too much fun to be called work. David was invaluable in setting up day for me to shadow in pathology, radiology, anesthesiology, and surgery. I had the opportunity to see cancerous cells under a microscope, bones and the womb through CT, MRI, and X-ray scans, brain surgery, and more. The doctors were friendly and full of information to help lead me along my path to medicine. I was also able to see an autopsy, which I admit was a little unnerving but very educational. It was like an anatomy class but more smelly. Overall, definitely an experience not to be forgotten!