Princeternship Stories: Carla Dias ’21, Swedish Neuroscience Center

My Princeternship at the Swedish Neuroscience Center in Seattle was such an amazing experience that I left wishing I could do it again. Over the course of a week with Dr. Cobbs, I was exposed to so many new aspects of medicine. I came into the internship knowing that I was interested in medicine, but unsure of what direction I wanted to take within this career field. After shadowing Dr. Cobbs, I now believe I want to pursue a career in neurosurgery, especially with some work in research. The experience allowed me to see the reality of what a surgeon does on a daily basis. I am very thankful to have been able to have this opportunity early on in my time at Princeton, a reminder of what I will be working towards over the next few years.

The first day began with a debriefing meeting in which all the doctors of the department collectively reviewed their recent surgeries. We even got to see a case of an amoeba infection that Dr. Cobbs said had only been reported around 100 times in the country. The day was one of his “surgery days” so we got to observe craniotomy to remove a brain tumor. We then got to follow a biopsy of the tumor to the path lab, where the pathologist processed the tissue and viewed it under a microscope to confirm that it contained what was expected to be metastatic breast cancer cells.

The next day was one of his “clinic days.” We followed Dr. Cobbs from room to room as he consulted with new patients and follow-ups. Not only did we learn about patient interaction, but we also learned about different diagnostic techniques, a preview of the kind of things I will be learning in a few years. In addition, we were able to see his research lab that has been making some big strides in the field of cancer research, something that has always been of interest to me. Seeing how someone have a job in both surgery and research has really made me consider it as a possibility.

The final day was my favorite and definitely the most exciting. We arrived at the hospital early and got to sit in on grand rounds. The two presenters were visiting from the Allen Institute (one of the top neuro research centers in the country). After the presentation, we observed a spinal surgery. I even was able to pick the music for the OR. I was so surprised at how much the human body can withstand, especially in an area that I assumed would be so delicate.

The entire week was an overall amazing experience. I would absolutely encourage anyone remotely interested in surgery to apply, I am definitely glad that I did.

There was a second surgery that day, a craniotomy to remove a recurring tumor and tissue that would be sent to the Allen Institute for study. Dr. Cobbs generously got the Allen Institute to agree to allow us to visit and tour the facility. After the tissue reached the institute, we got to see them studying the neurons using some of the best technology available. It is cool to think that we might be some of the few people to ever see the entire process from tissue extraction in an OR to neuron study in a laboratory. The entire week was an overall amazing experience. I would absolutely encourage anyone remotely interested in surgery to apply, I am definitely glad that I did.

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