Adventures in College Park

Posted: July 14, 2017 in Articles

As I mentioned the last time I wrote, I recently went on a little trip for two weeks. Well, technically, it was supposed to be two back-to-back little trips that lasted two weeks together, but I got sick and had to miss the first, so it was actually just one little trip that lasted nine days.

You might be wondering what the trip actually was. I was attending the National Youth Leadership Forum: Medicine in College Park. This program was essentially a 9-day intro to the field of medicine and some of the career paths one could take. It also provided hands-on experience for common techniques like phlebotomy, taking someone’s pulse, and taking someone’s blood pressure. Since talking about the entire trip would take quite some time, I’ll try only to go over the most notable parts.

First of all, the living accommodations. They were, in a word, bad. There was adequate space for two people, but the mattresses were some odd type of plastic that wasn’t soft at all. The first two nights I didn’t sleep a lot, and it wasn’t until the 5th night that I actually slept well. Even then, my back ached when I got up in the morning. Still, it was bearable for 9 days.

On good days, the food was bad. We ate at the college campus’s diner for breakfast and dinner, and for lunch we had to walk somewhere else or get food delivered. The diner served many gourmet foods such as fake eggs from a carton, pineapple with flies on it, cold peas, and rock-hard pancakes. There was a joke among the students that the best thing to get at the diner was water… and even that wasn’t great.

Regardless, we weren’t there for the food. We were there for the education, which was, thank goodness, of much higher quality than the lodging and the food combined. The first few days were mostly introduction, but we did do their 4 “workshops” which were phlebotomy, suturing, taking blood pressure, and improvising. We also did outdoor medicine simulations, which included making splints, how to move people with neck injuries, how to stop hemorrhaging, and a list of basic things that are good to keep with you when you go on outdoor trips.

In the days after those experiences, we learned about medical ethics and had the opportunity to learn about 2 of 4 more things: the MCAT, nursing, bio-engineering, and the difference between an MD and a DO. I chose to learn about the MCAT, which is basically the SAT for med school, and MD vs. DO. An MD is a doctor of Allopathic medicine and a DO is a doctor of Osteopathic medicine. Both are doctors and can do the exact same things, but they have different approaches to medicine. DO is a more recent form of medicine and because of the way medicine evolved, MD has been around for much longer. Neither is really better than the other as they both have their strengths and their weaknesses.

Over the next two days we had the opportunity to visit two medical colleges, the George Washington University School of Nursing and Johns Hopkins medical school. At the GWU SON we were able to tour their simulation center and see what it would be like to be a nurse, as well as learn things like an easy way to distinguish between metabolic acidosis, metabolic alkalosis, respiratory acidosis, and respiratory alkalosis.

As was stressed all during the Johns Hopkins, visit, it is actually Johns with the s. Apparently, a lot of people simply call it John Hopkins, which bothers many staff members and students there at Johns Hopkins. That’s not all we learned, though. We learned about what it takes to get into med school, specifically Johns Hopkins, and a little bit about the history of the school/hospital. We also got to learn about what one actually learns in med school, and we were able to tour research labs. The one I went to was experimenting on mice and a particular genetic disease ending in the aorta rupturing. I thought it was especially interesting to hear about the genetic modification process and how they use GFP, green florescent protein, as a marker in experiments.

Perhaps my favorite activity was watching a total knee replacement. Unfortunately, it wasn’t live, but it was the next best thing: a recording of a doctor performing a total knee replacement and explaining what he was doing as he went. You’d think that a surgeon would be gentle with his patients, but this guy really wasn’t. He went to town with a drill and took out the guy’s entire knee. He also shaved off parts of the tibia and femur. He was fond of hammering the metal implants in. And when I say hammering, I really mean hammering. There was nothing gentle about it. He did get the job done, though, and the patient had full range of mobility at the end. I liked hearing about how they use bone grafts, bone cement, and bone wax to make sure that the body doesn’t reject the metal implants.  Watching the surgery also made me consider more strongly pursuing a career in orthopedic surgery, which I was already thinking about.

Overall, it was indeed the experience of a lifetime. In addition to all the learning, hands-on experience, and opportunities that would be very hard to come by regularly, what really made it special were the people I got to work with. I didn’t go into the program thinking that I’d make a lot or really any friends, but now that I’m gone I find that I do, in fact, miss a couple of them. It’s odd to go from spending nearly all day, every day, with a few people to not seeing them at all. And while I probably won’t see any of them again, it was nice while it lasted.

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