No amount of research could have prepared me to shadow the most acclaimed cardiologists in the world at Boston Children’s hospital. In these two weeks, I learned more about medicine and patient care than years of online investigations of the role of a physician. Nervous yet excited, I explored the inner workings of a hospital and the dynamic nature of the medical field.
A highlight of my internship was witnessing thousands of patients from across the world arrive daily at the hospital seeking expert care, many of which required interpreters to effectively communicate with the health care team. I love languages, so it was especially exciting to see how language and communication intersected with the medical field and how it brought a rich diversity to the hospital setting. My proficiency in Spanish was put to the test when a Spanish interpreter translated for a patient from Ecuador with pulmonary hypertension, a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in your lungs and the right side of your heart. I also attentively listened to an Arabic interpreter relay a doctor’s treatment plans to a patient from Sudan. The little girl had a programming malfunction in her pacemaker, which was further complicated by her family’s desire to fly back to Sudan the following day. There were uncertainties as to whether they would be able to return due to ongoing political and military crisis. Yet despite these conflicts, the medical staff was still able to collectively come up with a plan of how she could still receive the necessary care.
During rounds in the cardiac inpatient unit, I walked alongside the medical staff as they sketched blood flow diagrams to better understand the patients’ conditions. By the end of each day, my own pockets were filled with scrap pieces of paper and napkins that the doctors had used to draw makeshift models of the heart to explain a patient’s condition in the simplest form possible. And though I often confused the mitral and tricuspid valve, I was eventually able to visualize many of these complex conditions being described to me. These models helped me understand anomalies such as tetralogy of fallot, a rare heart condition comprised of four congenital defects. I was also able to visualize pulmonary valve stenosis, a narrowing of the pulmonary valve which reduces blood flow to the lungs. Remarkably, the task of reading echoes began to seem less daunting to me as the internship progressed. I was somewhat able to keep up with morning report as the medical teams discussed the patients during rounds in the Cardiac ICU.
Over the course of my internship, I developed a great respect for the emotional strength and the shared deep commitment of the medical staff to provide the most comprehensive care possible. Their passion was palpable and I could feel their drive to persist past any setbacks they encountered. This invaluable experience has inspired me to pursue my passion for medicine more than ever.
My experience also exposed me to advanced medical technology and how it has enhanced communication between the medical staff and allowed the medical field to evolve. In the Catheterization Lab, I witnessed doctors perform an important non-invasive treatment procedure on three-day old infant with a congenital heart condition known as Patent Ductus Arteriosus. I was in awe of the 3D models in the electrophysiology lab that doctors utilized to assess the heart's electrical system. I also particularly enjoyed watching clinical simulations, which amplified training by replicating real-life medical scenarios. I observed new fellows worked to identify hypotension and risk for progression to cardiac arrest in an 8 year old boy with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a condition in which heart functioning is decreased. I am continually amazed at the progress the medical field has made using advanced technology to resolve even the most complicated conditions.
Over the course of my internship, I developed a great respect for the emotional strength and the shared deep commitment of the medical staff to provide the most comprehensive care possible. Their passion was palpable and I could feel their drive to persist past any setbacks they encountered. This invaluable experience has inspired me to pursue my passion for medicine more than ever. While I did not transform into an expert cardiologist after these two weeks, I grew tremendously. I would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Allan and all the other attendings, nurses, and fellows at Boston Children’s Hospital who made this experience certainly unforgettable. I would also like to extend sincere gratitude to the Sacco family for making this awesome opportunity possible for me and all the Portsmouth Abbey students before and after. I believe that this internship is without a doubt, a befitting way to continue Ali’s special spirit of curiosity to live on in all of our hearts.