Works and Days

La Jolla Village Family Medical Group: Sydney Lewis, Winter Shadow 2016

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.

Toward the end of my time in the office, Dr. Michaels asked me if I wanted to interact with patients on my own before their appointment began. In this new task, I would introduce myself to the patient and ask them to explain and elaborate on what they had reported on their office visit forms. While a little nervous for this new task, I was excited for this new chance to develop my interaction with the patients. I loved talking with these people and hearing their stories. After discussing their symptoms, the patients would often launch into other stories about their life. One woman told me about her dog who had caused her to fall to the ground and another hinted at her interest in gardening after discovering that I go to school in the City of Roses. While these people may have been going to the office for their body, these moments were beautiful reminders that humans are far more than what can measured in a blood test.

In addition to learning an immense amount about the diagnosis process and the noteworthy symptoms of common (or uncommon) illnesses, I learned an incredible amount about the compassion required of a doctor. Dr. Michaels had been seeing many of these patients for over a decade and the close relationship they had built together was invaluable to the success of their treatment.

From this experience, I can say with more confidence than ever that I would be delighted to pursue medicine in my life beyond Reed. It would be an honor to work alongside such intelligent professionals who are enthusiastic about improving their community and the health of those in it.  

Tags: winter shadow, externship, medicine, health, primary care