Princeternship Stories: Lila Abreu ’19, Cornea and Laser Eye Institute/Hersh Vision Group

I applied to this Princeternship because I wanted to get a glimpse at a day in the life of a doctor. Recently, I’ve been thinking that I ultimately want to do something related to mental health and counseling. I’ve been trying to decide whether I should fulfill pre-medical requirements with the goal of becoming a psychiatrist, or whether I should focus my attention towards my Psychology courses and research. As I am extremely indecisive (I’ve switched majors from Chemistry to Computer Science and now to Psychology, dabbling in Linguistics, Philosophy and Neuroscience along the way!), I wanted to make this decision about what to do with my remaining time at Princeton with as much information as possible. I thought shadowing a surgeon would provide me the extra information I needed to begin making an informed decision.

Over the course of the day, Dr. Hersh, Dr. Gelles and some of the technicians showed us around the office. They explained the process of preparing patients for surgery, performing the surgery and doing post-procedure follow-ups. For each surgery we observed, Dr. Hersh made sure to give us background information on the problems the patients were experiencing and on how the procedure helped correct it. He also made sure to give us many close-up views of patients’ eyes mid-procedure (very cool!) and explained what he was doing step by step. He took time to chat with us, answering all of our questions about his experiences at Princeton and about the path he took that lead him to ophthalmology.

One of my biggest takeaways of the day was that while planning is certainly useful, those plans tend to change along the way. Dr. Hersh explained that he had gone into medicine wanting to do orthopedics, and ended up doing ophthalmology mostly due to the quality of the ophthalmology program at his school. In hearing his med school and early work experiences, it was clear that he embraced change and was open to following the opportunities that were best for him at the time, opportunities which led him relatively far from where he initially saw himself. This strategy obviously worked out very well for him, and it’s comforting to see that letting plans go astray is not so bad after all.

At the end of the day, I was so happy that I had the opportunity to do this Princeternship. It was an incredible experience that helped push me towards deciding what I want to focus on in my next two-and-a-half years at Princeton.