Princeternship Stories: Keeley Walsh ’19, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital

Over intersession, I spent three days shadowing Dr. Shah ’96, a neonatologist at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Westchester Country, New York. Dr. Shah went to Cornell Medical School after graduating from Princeton. He later completed his residency at Duke University Children’s Hospital followed by a fellowship at NYU Children’s Hospital. Not only is he a practicing neonatologist but he also is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as a co-chairman for the Society of Pediatric Research. I was very lucky to spend three days shadowing Dr. Shah because I was able to see the daily life of a neonatologist, a researcher, and an advocate for Children’s health policy.

Day one began with Dr. Shah showing me around the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He spent time explaining the functions of all the different apparatuses used in the unit. I was amazed that not one baby had the same combination of treatments. Each patient was carefully assessed and given a unique treatment to help improve their health. After touring the unit with Dr. Shah, I completed the daily rounds with the residents and the on-call neonatologist.

During rounds we went through all 48 patients in the NICU, discussing the babies’ measurements and specific treatments. Measurements included everything from the baby’s weight to vitamin intake. The doctors, fellows, and residents would all converse on what they believed would be the best way to treat each’s unique condition and then decide from there. This ensured that every baby received the best possible care. After completing rounds, I could not wait to come back on day two to see the progress that some babies had made. I only interacted with the patients for a short time, maybe five minutes each, but I already felt connected to them and wanted each and every one to get better.

On day two I began with daily rounds with the on-call team. Similar to the day before, we saw each patient assessing their specific needs. This day was by far my favorite because I was able to see the positive progress that many of the babies had made. When some of these babies first came into the unit, they were smaller than three soda cans and had serious respiratory problems. I imagine treating babies with some of the most life-threatening problems is the hardest part of the job. But as the days pass and the team continues to adjust the treatments and medications, the patients get better, which I believe to be the most rewarding part of the job. On this day, many of the babies’ parents were in the unit as we were completing the daily rounds. I particularly enjoyed seeing the happiness on the parents’ faces when the doctor would comfort the parents and let them know that their child’s condition was improving. Day two concluded with me watching Dr. Shah conduct stem cell research at New York Medical College.

Day three was very different than the first two. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Shah is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is very passionate about children’s healthcare and wants to ensure that every child has access to necessary treatments. We traveled to several Congress members’ offices and discussed the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and how they benefited children in particular. It was interesting to see another side of medicine that I never thought of, but is just as important.

Before this experience, I was on the fence about continuing on the pre-medicine track. My goal to pursue pediatrics was solidified after completing rounds with the team and seeing what a neonatologist’s daily life in the hospital is like. I specifically enjoyed the second day of rounds because I was able to see some of the babies’ conditions improve. Dr. Shah was very welcoming and willing to discuss things that I did not understand. I enjoyed all our talks because I not only gained knowledge about neonatology but also about life in general. I am so grateful to have completed this Princeternship because I now have a better understanding of what I hope to be my future career path.