Princeternship stories: Jennifer Bu ’17, Massachusetts General

This post was written by Jennifer Bu after her Princeternship. 

photographDay 1

On the first morning, I met Suzanne Morrison ’89 with my fellow Princetern Ryan at 8:30 a.m. sharp in the Massachusetts General Hospital Yawkey Center Orthopaedic Trauma Division. After conversing with Suzanne in her office, we went on a tour of the hospital. I couldn’t help but be impressed, not only by both the towering glass buildings and the original Ether Dome, but also by the ever-bustling activity.

With coffee shops always around the corner and people constantly on the move through brightly lit and airy hallways, the atmosphere was comfortable, yet busy and professional. Some particularly memorable moments were when we went inside the Ether Dome to see the site where anesthesia was first administered and when we were taken to Phillips House, the 22nd “VIP” floor to see a gorgeous panoramic of Boston and Cambridge through wide glass windows. Suzanne concluded our tour with lunch at the cafeteria, where we continued to converse and share stories, while enjoying delicious food. Suzanne had told us the cafeteria food was surprisingly good, but it was great experiencing it for ourselves!

We spent the rest of the day with Brady Evans, a second year resident in orthopaedic surgery at MGH. We learned about his life as a resident and his path to where he is today. I would have loved to talk more, but because the previous night and morning had been so wet and icy, it was expected that the orthopaedics residents would be busy. We followed Brady as he saw a number of patients, most from injuries due to falls. I was so shocked by some of the clinical facts that I learned. For example, one man had a broken clavicle; but even though the fracture was clearly visible and the bones were not aligned at all, I was amazed when Brady told me surgery would not be necessary because the bone would find its way back and heal itself. I also witnessed the process of popping a dislocated shoulder back into place; while I had heard stories that it could be fixed by simply pushing and pulling the arm the right way, it was strange to see that very process being done in a clinical setting. I never failed to be touched by how supportive families were and how patients, no matter what the injury, were always so good-humored. Despite the circumstances, seeing their optimism was always uplifting.

The hours of a resident, I found, were long. Brady is on call from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. But while we hear horror stories all the time about how time-consuming and tiring it is to be a doctor, it was so clear to me that each resident and each doctor is genuinely passionate about what they do. Moreover, they care about each and every one of their patients. They are busy, but it is the most rewarding kind of busy for them; and my experiences certainly reaffirmed my desire to eventually join them.

Day 2

My day started with meeting Bobby Lucas ’13, a recent graduate of Princeton who took us to rounds bright and early at 6:30 a.m. It was a conference room full of orthopaedic surgeons and residents, each resident presenting patients one at a time to discuss the best approaches and treatment options. As a patient and student, I had never realized how amazingly collaborative and intellectually stimulating the community between doctors can be. I also noticed the recurring trend that communication is key; every resident, surgeon, and doctor, when not seeing patients, is constantly finding other people, speaking on the phone or messaging through pagers in a complex yet streamlined system.

Brady, Ryan, meIn the morning, I shadowed nurse practitioner Ben Hollingsworth and first-year resident Hai Le, where I was able to gain even more patient exposure. Ben took me to nurse practitioner rounds and from room to room, communicating with patients and determining who was ready to be discharged. It was a pleasure to gain a glimpse of a career path in medicine that is not the traditional M.D. and doctor. Hai also took me along as he saw his patients; I particularly remember Hai letting me remove staples from a patient who had healed from his surgery. While the process was simple, I’ll always consider it to be my first-ever “operation” as an aspiring doctor.

After having lunch with Bobby and Ryan, who had come from the OR, we shadowed a surgery together – one of the most anticipated moments of my Princeternship. I had never shadowed a surgery before and was somewhat anxious – would I pass out at the sight of blood? Did I have what it takes to be a doctor? It was an operation on the lower femur, which would require opening up the knee to reorient the bones and keep it in place with a metal plate and screws. Yet the experience went even smoother than I could have imagined; the operating room was such a controlled and calm environment, the hands of the surgeon purposeful and moving with utmost dexterity. Instead of grossing me out or causing me to pass out, I was impressed and excited to move forward with my own medical education.

Day 3

My final day at MGH was spent shadowing in a pediatric orthopedic clinic. I spent the morning with Dr. Maurice Albright and nurse practitioner Erin Kart as they saw their patients: mostly routine meetings with children following up from their injuries and surgeries. I found the kids adorable and always loved to see an entire, supportive and cheery family always accompanying them.

I spent the afternoon with Dr. Gleeson Rebello and Joseph, another resident in orthopaedic surgery. This experience was a whole new dimension in orthopaedic surgery; many of the children that Dr. Rebello and Joe worked with had complications in addition to orthopaedics, such as trauma, cerebral palsy, or Down Syndrome. Both Dr. Rebello and Joseph offered me incredibly valuable perspectives and advice on medicine: for example, how the first priority in medicine is meeting basic needs. They once again reiterated how the path to becoming a doctor is long and one most love what they do; although, at this point at the end of my Princeternship, I knew it would not be a problem for me.

Dr. Rebello gave me a children’s book that he self-published at the end of the day, called Dare Bone’s Big Break – autographed and such a warm and pleasant read! Using humor and clever rhyme, it illustrates to families what actually happens when a child breaks a bone, and how both family and patient can become more comfortable with their situation and medical terminology. Dr. Rebello also told me much of his path to becoming a surgeon and where he is today, about his education in India and an instructor who changed his life. He told me that everybody can excel at what they enjoy; but you stand out when you excel at what you don’t enjoy. I will definitely remember his insight.

Overall, I wouldn’t have spent my spring break any other way, nor would I have chosen any other career path. I had just switched into medicine from engineering the past summer, and had some doubts about my decision; but now, I have never had greater clarity about what I want to do, and how and why I want to pursue my dreams and future career. This Princeternship is great for anyone interested in medicine or hospital administration, and I would highly recommend it. Whether you know exactly what you want – to become a surgeon, a nurse, etc. – or if you’ve just entered the field and are not sure, like I was, Suzanne will make the experience the best, smoothest, and most enlightening possible. I am glad that I was able to see how multi-faceted medicine is, yet how worthwhile at the same time. Thank you so much to Suzanne for this incredible opportunity, and to Bobby and all the amazing physicians and nurses I had the pleasure of meeting and shadowing at MGH!