Spending spring break with my host Dr. John Gordon ’85 at Dominion Fertility was an incredibly eye-opening experience into a specialty field of medicine. My goal for this Princeternship was to solidify my interest in the medical field and to gain experience in a field that I was incredibly fascinated with but never really understood beyond textbooks and the Internet. Shadowing Dr. Gordon for three days allowed me to accomplish this goal.
On the first day, I experienced so much in such a short amount of time. Dr. Gordon kindly picked me up at 6:40 am from the nearby hotel where I was staying. We first headed over to INOVA Fairfax Hospital where he gave a lecture to the hospital’s resident students. Afterwards, we attended the OB/GYN unit’s business meeting at the hospital that focused on the importance of patient care. After the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Gordon and I made our way to the Dominion Fertility office in Arlington. There, I was introduced to the welcoming and friendly staff and saw what Dr. Gordon’s job as a reproductive endocrinologist and co-director of the clinic entailed. He performed vaginal ultrasounds on many patients at different stages of their treatment. Some patients, for example, were being checked for their follicle growth progression as well as their uterus lining thickening, and some were being checked for the growth of their baby. I even got to hear a baby’s heartbeat! Besides the ultrasounds, Dr. Gordon performed various procedures, including an intrauterine insemination (IUI), a form of infertility treatment in which sperm is directly placed into the uterus via a catheter, and an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) transfer in which an embryo (a fertilized egg cell) is placed into the uterus of the patient. Dr. Gordon also held many consults with new and returning patients. I was fascinated by the patients’ stories and the options available to them based on their specific circumstances. Dr. Gordon displayed the ideal way in which to interact with patients. I admired his supportive, yet honest, advice about the different types of fertility treatment that he believed would be most effective for the individual patients given their various physical, financial, psychological, and ethical circumstances.
Additionally, not only was I able to see the clinical side of the office, I was given the opportunity to observe the laboratory aspect of the infertility treatments. Dr. Gordon gave me an initial tour of the office, where I saw live sperm cells under a microscope. I later spent time with the lab coordinator, who also gave me a tour of the laboratory which stored frozen embryos, egg cells, sperm samples, etc. I was also allowed to view blastocysts under a microscope and was advised of the different procedures that the laboratory staff perform.
On the second day, we started at the Arlington office and Dr. Gordon performed more ultrasounds, checking on the follicle growth of many patients. We later left for the Dominion Fertility’s office at Fair Oaks Hospital where Dr. Gordon held several consults and performed ultrasounds. It was exciting to learn that just after one day I was able to recognize the images of the ultrasound, including the uterus and ovaries. After spending some time at the hospital branch, we returned to the Arlington office and attended an office meeting with the four doctors of the clinic, including Dr. Gordon, two of the head nurses, and the lab coordinator. They discussed the different infertility treatments and the progress of their patients. They also discussed ways to improve their patient care and run the clinic. It was interesting to see this business aspect of the clinic, as it is important even in a medical setting.
On the final day, I was able to view more ultrasounds and hear consults at both the Arlington and Fair Oaks offices. I also spent more time in the laboratory where I was able to watch an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a procedure in which a single sperm cell is injected into an egg cell. This was one of the most amazing things to see. It was a great way to conclude this Princeternship program.
During the time we commuted each day, Dr. Gordon and I had great talks in the car about our Princeton lives, his journey to becoming a reproductive endocrinologist, and our families in general. Moreover, he challenged me with many topics, including the understanding of statistics and ratings of medical clinics and how it affects patients. Dr. Gordon had sent me books that he wrote regarding his specialty, which we also discussed. He also presented me with tough hypothetical and ethical situations and asked me questions based on such situations. Dr. Gordon has proven to be great teacher and mentor. Each day was a new and rewarding experience. At the end of it all I could not help but think, “Wow, this is something I would really love to do.” This experience helped me understand how challenging a medical issue such as infertility can be from the physical and biological aspect to the psychological impact on patients. It left me with an overwhelming motivation to help others with infertility or any other kind of medical issue. I definitely encourage anyone who has any interest in the medical field to take this opportunity. I deeply appreciate Dr. Gordon’s commitment and the experience that I gained from this informative and inspiring Princeternship.