The first morning of the Princeternship in the division of Pediatric Urology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the clinic wasn’t open yet so we got changed into scrubs right away and went down to the OR suite. We were just catching the end of a hypospadias repair, and one of the residents explained the procedure to us. The patient’s urethra did not exit at the usual location, so the surgery was done to construct a tube that terminates at the proper location for normal excretion, which would have consequences in fertility later if left untreated. I understood the premise of the operation and was feeling great about how the doctors were helping this patient! Even just understanding the purpose and basic premise of this complicated procedure made me feel good about surgery. Next, we went to another OR with an operation on a concealed phallus. The room was a bit smaller, and there were more people attending (nurses, doctors, and trainees). The other Princetern, Sandra Goldlust ’15, and I stood on a step to see over the operating table in order to get a good look at what was going on.
Twenty minutes into the surgery, it started getting difficult to breathe through the facemask, and I felt light-headed. My vision blurred and I felt a cold-sweat coming on. I whispered to one of the nurses that I wasn’t feeling so great and then I stepped out of the OR. I thought to myself, am I not cut out to be a surgeon? Am I allergic to the OR? How can I learn to breathe better through the facemask? The thoughts were overwhelming, but after stepping out of the room and drinking some milk I had gotten out of the vending machine in the lounge, I realized skipping breakfast was a horrible idea. With the excitement of the whole experience, I had overlooked having a good breakfast that first morning. Needless to say, I kept my eyes open for breakfast food on my way to the hospital the next two days. When we met Dr. Howard Snyder ’65 that afternoon, he assured me that fainting was a common occurrence in surgery — and told me about the time he fainted while watching a particularly intense orthopedic procedure as a resident.
We spent a lot of time shadowing Dr. Snyder in the clinic, where he saw patients that had been referred to him as a specialist through a primary care doctor. There was quite a range of symptoms, and each time, Dr. Snyder would carefully explain to the patient’s parents the medical issue behind the symptoms on a simplified anatomical diagram. Of course, at the end of the consultation, the child was offered a sugarless lollipop, and soon I had wanted one myself. The experience of being in a Children’s Hospital is best summarized in a quote by Tish, the nurse in the clinic: “It’s so difficult to learn in a children’s hospital because you’re always distracted by the cute kids!” Very true.
One of the highlights of the Princeternship was getting to see the exhibits in the Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. They had everything from antique instruments, to skeletons, to mould-castings of conjoined twins. Dr. Snyder led us through the artifacts, telling us of his experience dealing with similar cases in his practice. It was not only a showcase of the extremes in medicine, but also an inside look at the human body in a way that one does not get the chance to see very often. The Mutter Museum is now on my list of favorite things to do in Philadelphia, and I’m excited to visit again sometime in the future and spend more time in pure fascination of the artifacts.
This experience is my first time observing surgery, and through my interactions with the doctors, nurses, and staff at CHOP, I was able to get a lot of questions answered and advice about going into the medical field. This experience has only strengthened my desire to go into medicine — it will give me an added umph that will hopefully be expressed in my medical school applications, and we will see what the future holds for me from there on. My sincerest gratitude goes to Dr. Howard Snyder, his receptionist Sharon Brown, and all of the residents, nurses, and staff in the department. Thank you all for such a great experience!