Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Perelman Students at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in San Fran

For medical students interested in surgery and surgical subspecialties, the annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) is a great opportunity to see current trends in surgery and network with program directors and big names in the field. This year, ACS was held in beautiful San Francisco, CA.
There's a conference on the West coast when a
Nor'easter is scheduled to hit Philly? Sign me up!

Perelman students at the Penn Surgery reception 
The Perelman School of Medicine was well represented with 4 medical students presenting their research at various sessions in the conference. Surgical education was a dominant theme for Penn Surgery at the conference with 3 students and a Penn surgery resident (also a former Penn medical student) presenting projects in education. Ted Gomez and I presented our work on intraoperative education for robotic surgery. Agnew Surgical Society Vice-President Rachel Yang spoke about her trial using simulation training to decrease infections related to improper placement of urinary catheters. Agnew Surgical Society President Jarrod Predina spoke about his translational research investigating the role of immune therapy in esophageal cancer.

It's not SF without the Golden Gate Bridge
The Department of Surgery holds its annual Penn Surgery reception for faculty members, residents, and Penn Surgery alumni during the week of the ACS conference. The event was a great opportunity for students as it allowed us to meet and greet not only with current Penn surgeons but also with former Penn trainees who are now chairs and chiefs at other famed institutions across the US.

Every year, Dr. Rosser of Morehouse Medical College holds a competition at the American College of Surgeons called the "Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills Challenge." I first saw the competition as a senior in college, when the minimally invasive surgery fellow in my lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center won the contest. Since then, I have wanted to learn how to perform the laparoscopic surgery tasks tested in the challenge. Thanks to the mentorship of Drs. Noel Williams, Kristoffel Dumon, and Kenric Murayama, as well as the support of residents and fellows in the Department of Surgery, I was able to practice for the contest at the Penn Clinical Simulation Center using high tech virtual reality laparoscopic surgery trainers. The contest was held over the first 3 days of the conference, and Penn Surgery made it to the finals ahead of ~30 medical students, residents, fellows, and attending surgeons who competed. In the final round of competition, I was fortunate to have performed well enough to win 1st place, beating out a chief resident and a 3rd year surgical resident from a different institution. I'm certainly grateful to Penn for providing me with the training environment to be the first medical student to win the Top Gun contest since its introduction to ACS in 1996.
With Dr. James Rosser, creator of the
Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills Challenge
The trip to ACS wasn't all work though. When in a city like San Francisco, one has to take advantage of all the great sights and food available in the city. We certainly took full advantage of our free time to explore San Francisco and all of the great food it had to offer.

Agnew Surgical Society: Vice President Rachel Yang,
President Jarrod Predina, former president
(current 3rd year Penn resident) Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya

Monkeying around in SF Chinatown

There was an abundance of delicious
Japanese food in Nihonmachi (Japantown)
Perelman students getting dinner with a Penn Surgery resident and
Dr. Murayama, chief of surgery at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy 10th Anniversary to the Botswana-UPenn Partnership!

As I mentioned in my first post, I spent this summer in Botswana working on a study looking at viral contributors to vulvar cancer. The head of the study is Dr. Carrie Kovarik, a Penn dermatologist and all-around superstar at life. I won’t blather on too much about my incredible summer (my other blog: hayleyinbotswana.blogspot.com has enough blathering to last a lifetime) but I will say that it was amazing and that it furthered my determination to make global health a part of my medical career.
Dr. Kovarik speaking about
telemedicine in Botswana

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Botswana-UPenn partnership: a collaboration between the government of Botswana and the university that has allowed students like me to spend time learning about research and health care in a developing country. In order to celebrate the past 10 years, Penn hosted a Ten Year Anniversary Symposium.

Needless to say, I was incredibly excited for this week’s events. I attended a grand rounds on viral contributors to cervical cancer, a presentation on research in Botswana, a seminar on ICT4D (Information and Communication technologies for development... this is actually an ongoing seminar series) and also a general symposium. While it was cool to hear more about what is going on in Bots, I was even more excited to see some familiar faces: doctors and friends who had flown all the way from Botswana to attend the events!

I also got to attend a meeting about telementoring which is something that I am very interested in. My mentor, the aforementioned Dr. Kovarik, is head of telemedicine for Botswana. While I was in Botswana I got involved with some amazing projects that fall under this umbrella:
  • There is a robotic microscope that we would load our dermatology tissue slides into and, via the internet, Dr. Kovarik could control its movements and read the slides from Philadelphia!
  • We celebrated Cynthia's first
    trip to the US with some Philly
  • Many speciality services like dermatology, dentistry (and oral pathology in general) and radiology are using mobile phones to take pictures of lesions or X-rays and get expert opinions from all over the world.
  • Smartphones are also starting to be used for telementoring: letting residents and doctors have access to medical “apps” that connect them to medical information and to each other.
I am currently helping with a study that deals with the last project and it was amazing to have the opportunity to meet with our Botswana-based constituents: Ryan Littman Quinn (photojournalist extrordinaire/Mobile Telemedicine Programs Manager in Botswana as well as a friend) and the newest member- Cynthia Antwi. The work that they are doing for telemedicine in Botswana is really exciting and I hope to be able to continue my involvement.

Given that we are currently in our renal block (fabled to be one of the hardest parts of the pre-clinical curriculum)... my brain is currently full of ions. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to be able to stop thinking about potassium transporters and think about how to improve access to healthcare!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Trip to Chi-town for Science!

Dr. Christos Coutifaris, me, Dr. Clarisa Gracia
This past week I traveled to Chicago for the Oncofertility consortium, an annual conference held at Northwestern to discuss advances in the field of fertility preservation for cancer patients. As mentioned in my previous post, I am currently taking a year out from medical school to conduct clinical research in infertility, my field of interest. Oncofertility is an area in which my mentor, Dr. Clarisa Gracia, specializes.

The field looks at cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation that are toxic to the reproductive organs. For a long time these effects have been a medical afterthought, as the focus on survival after cancer diagnosis took precedent over other health concerns. But as improved cancer therapies result in better prognoses, it is necessary to consider the side effects associated with treatment. Specifically it is important to think about fertility preservation before cancer treatment begins so that patients may have options down the road for building families. While relatively easy for men to accomplish via sperm banking, for the women that Dr. Gracia sees the options are significantly more challenging and invasive. If there is adequate time before a cancer treatment begins she will work with the patient to bank embryos or eggs. And if there is not time to undergo a stimulation cycle, she offers patients the option of a small surgical procedure in which a piece of tissue from the ovary is removed and stored so that it may be used in the future to obtain eggs. This technology is not yet fully developed, however, and it must be explained to the patient that the procedure does not guarantee that they will be able to have biological children- we hope that by the time they are finished with their cancer treatments the science will have advanced.

I could go on and on about this topic, and being at the conference this week has gotten me more fired up, as I heard directly from all of the people working tirelessly to address some of the concerns of this new field. Basic scientists spoke about the advances in preserving the tissue samples and maturing eggs from them, lawyers and patient advocates spoke about the difficulties financing these procedures for patients, ethicists spoke about important moral considerations as the field advances, and cancer patients spoke about how grateful they were that these options were available. All of the members of the consortium come together each year (and at teleconferences throughout the year) with the idea that if they wait to read each others' papers when published in medical journals then the pace of advancement in the field will suffer. Thus, there was an incredible spirit of open collaboration, group problem-solving, and the sharing of everything from lab techniques and tips to cohorts of clinical research data. As this was my first real academic conference I can't yet say if this level of openness is unique, but it made me proud and in awe of those working in my chosen field.

Now that I have returned from Chi town I'm looking forward to starting a new epidemiology and study design class, beginning journal club for the Doris Duke students, and also working as a student preceptor in Doctoring class. Doctoring is a class for all first year medical students that focuses on the doctor-patient relationship and helps prepare students for life on the wards by addressing topics like cultural awareness and communication skills. Importantly, it is also a place where students can talk openly about the challenges they're facing, both academically and personally, and discuss difficult issues that may arise throughout medical school. My job as an older student is just to listen and occasionally chime in when asked a question about how things work in the wards. My group is incredibly insightful and I was blown away by some of their comments last session. This week's topic is cultural competency and I am excited for the discussion on Thursday!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hello From The Clerkships

Hello to everyone in the Perelman-verse:

My name is Sarah Ginsburg and I am a third year in the midst of my clinical rotations. Incredibly, I am almost 75% done with my clerkship year. As a quick primer on the curriculum here, pre-clinical classes run from the fall of first year to December of the second year. After that, the clerkship rotations run from January of second year (staring 4-6 months earlier than other medical schools) to December of third year. The remaining time before graduation (15+ months) is really want you want it to be - some combination of electives in the hospital, a research project (Scholarly Pursuit), residency applications/interviews, and whatever else you can think of. I'm quite excited to be nearing the "whatever I can think of" stage. It really is great to have the extra time for electives to aid in the process of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up.

2+ years of med school learning. With empty space
because there is so much more to go. And shelves
trying valiantly to hold up so much knowledge.
Metaphor, anyone?
I've been trying to think about the best way to describe "Life in the Clinics". The honest answer is that I really don't have an answer. Each week - each day even - is a different adventure. Your patients change, your team changes, your location changes. And even when all of those things stay the same for a few weeks, each day brings a new set of questions and challenges. You come into the hospital each day trying to find the best way to help your team, whether it be performing the initial history and physical on a new patient, calling a consult or tracking down old records. The clerkship year is about figuring out how to integrate yourself into the clinical team on the fly just as much as it is about learning the facts of medicine and developing rapport with patients. Each team has its own vibe and expectations for medical students. It is a whirlwind, exhausting, sometimes baffling, but ultimately incredible ride. Which is probably med school - and medicine - in a nutshell.

I will now sign off for the night after spending two paragraphs on clerkships without actually talking about the clerkships. Tomorrow, ridiculously adorable children await at my outpatient pediatrics site. As a student, I work one on one with a preceptor, first seeing patients on my own then presenting to the physician. We then formulate a plan (on a good day, the final plan hopefully resembles whatever I suggested in my initial presentation) and go see the family together. Which gives me double the opportunity to interact with said adorable children. After one week (with two more to go) my favorite age is 9-12 months.

More updates to come as the fall rolls along.
Sarah Ginsburg

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Earthquakes, and Hurricanes, and Cardio... oh my!

So it’s back to school for the MS2s and it seems that our arrival doesn’t sit well with Philadelphia: since our return there has been an earthquake and a hurricane. The earthquake happened while we were in a doctoring lecture and I didn’t feel a thing. Very disappointing for a born-and-bred east coaster who has never experienced an earthquake... darn the sturdy construction of John Morgan!

In slightly more exciting news... Hurricane Irene came and went this weekend. The media had us convinced we’d look out our windows to see the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding down Walnut Street so I dutifully stocked up on necessities: batteries for my flashlight and some mini Snickers. But despite doomsday predictions of power outages/dangerous winds/flash floods, everyone I talked to reported much the same thing: it rained for a bit and then it was pretty windy.

Après storm my roommate and I decided to head down toward the Schuylkill river trail: a popular running/biking path that winds along the river (whenever I jog there normally I am guaranteed to run into at least 5 other med students). When we got there it was almost completely flooded and an hour later we were up to our waists in water! I hope that my MS3/4 friends are studying up because my little adventure may have left me with a case of Schuylkill-itis.

Above is a picture of the path pre-hurricaine (courtesy of Google images).
Below is me frolicking in the exact same section of the path on Sunday:

Other than that it’s been business as usual for the MS2s: we’ve dived into cardiology and are working our way through understanding EKGs. Before the hurricane we also had our annual big/little sister matching event for the Elizabeth Blackwell Society (for female medical students). We paired each MS1 with an MS2 “sister” that is supposed to give them advice about school and just be a friendly face in the hall. I adore my big sister and I’m also one of the heads of EBS so I was worried about how it would go but I think a good time was had by all and I’m excited to get to know my (2!) little sisters this year!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Welcome to the Perelman School of Medicine blog!

Gail Morrison, MD, Senior Vice Dean for Education
and Director of Academic Programs

We hope that you’ll come back often to read candid reflections from our students about their journeys through medical school at Penn. It’s been a busy summer, and we already have a lot to share with you. Our goal is to give parents, partners, friends and family an opportunity to see what the students are up to, and to give our alumni a sense of what it’s like to go through medical school at Penn in the 21st century.

Penn is an amazing place, where medical students can pursue joint degrees, interact with faculty and students from Penn’s 11 other schools and centers, and make a difference right here in the West Philadelphia community and all around the world.

We are very proud of our students and delighted to share their stories with you. Enjoy! Please bookmark the page and come back again soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Message from the Medical Student Government (MSG)

To the Incoming First-Years -

Congratulations on your decision to come to the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania! On behalf of the Medical Student Government (MSG) and the rest of the student body, I’d like to welcome you to the Penn Med family.

The next four years (or more for half of you) will be some of the most formative of your life. I’m excited for all of you because medical school here at Penn is something you will truly experience as a community. You will spend hours on end with each other dissecting in the anatomy labs, studying with groups in the library, and learning the intricacies of medicine. You will be given access not just to the human body, but also to patients’ lives. It is a hallowed experience that will bind your class together always.

I urge you to get to know as many of your classmates as possible. They are some of the most amazing, interesting and accomplished people in the world. In fact they may be so impressive that you feel you don’t belong, and for that I would like to commend you on your humility. You absolutely belong and the people you find here will become your best friends and resources for years to come. They, along with an incredibly supportive administration, will spur you forward to accomplishing your goals.

The Medical Student Government’s role is not only to help you through this period academically, but also to develop the Penn Med community through events and support of student groups. You can look forward to Field Day (think BBQ, faculty Dunk Tank and Slip ‘n’ Slide), Formal, a Spelling Bee and Medical Quizzo. We’ll be inviting you to welcome events in the fall where you can meet the MS2-MS4 students who will help guide you through the years. If you'd like to be part of the MSG team, class representative and co-chair elections will take place this September.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have. We’re so excited for your arrival!

Again, congratulations!

Grant W. Mitchell
MSG President

Monday, August 8, 2011

Welcome to Perelman! (You Now Have One of the Longest Email Addresses in the World)

As an MS4, I’d like to congratulate all you new rock star MS1s on working hard to get to medical school. You’re about to embark on an incredible journey of learning, love, laughter, and other words not in my vocabulary that start with the letter “L.”

Medical Student Government-organized
basketball at the Wells Fargo Center
after a 76ers Game
Time flies in medical school. To be cliché, I feel as though it was yesterday that I sat in my own White Coat Ceremony feeling nervous yet excited about the experience that was to come. I remember putting on my white coat and thinking to myself, “Wow, I’m going to be a doctor one day…”  Now, I see my classmates applying for residency and finishing their clinical electives. That “one day” of being a doctor is now only 9 months away for the MS4s. Yep, time flies; but that’s because you have a lot of fun in medical school.

Penn Medicine does a Ninetendo Halloween
Since I’m having so much fun in medical school, I decided to take a year out to pursue a Master’s in Translational Research (MTR), one of the many dual-degree programs available to you at the Perelman School of Medicine. What is “translational research”? Most people define it as research that can easily be applied “bench-to-bedside,” i.e. you make some therapy or gene discovery in the lab and then take it to a patient. You’ll definitely hear about the program throughout your time at Penn though, and if you think you may be interested in taking a year out to do some research and adding more letters behind your name after you graduate, please consider it.

My specific translational focus is on surgical education and simulation. I want to better understand how surgeons acquire expertise and to apply educational interventions in the simulation center to improve patient outcomes by reducing morbidity and mortality related to technical errors. Or, in English, “Can we use video games to train better surgeons and prevent mistakes in the operating room?” Penn let me turn my love of video games into a research career.
Medical students assisting the former Chief of Surgery at the
VA in simulated aortic aneurysm surgery at the

Penn gives you the opportunity to pursue your passion -- research, community service, world travel, consulting, or working in the TV business. The best advice I can give you is to take advantage of the many resources that will be available to you. Talk to fellow classmates, upper classmen, faculty, and Suite 100; everyone is more than happy to help you make the most of your medical education and your time here at Penn. To borrow an advertising slogan from an Italian chain restaurant, “When you’re here, you’re family.”

Oh, and about that email address, just write “yourpennkey@mail.med…” on any school event form and you’ll avoid writer’s cramp. Trust me, I’m almost a doctor.

To the Perelman Class of 2015

My name is Katie Dillon, and I am an MS 3/4. I am so excited to meet all of you MS1s and welcome you to an amazing next four years. I want to reassure all of you that finally, after the months on the interview trail, agonizing over options, and weighing finances, you have made the right choice. I chose Penn three years ago because I was looking for a school that would give me rigorous training (obviously!), but would also allow me to have interests outside of medicine. I was an anthropology major in college and I wasn’t ready to completely give up the reading, writing, and discussions I enjoyed so much. Penn is an incredible place that wants you to pursue your passions and will often pay for you to do so. In the past three years I have traveled to Thailand for research, taken classes for a Masters in Bioethics, played a ton of golf and tennis, hung out at the Jersey Shore, and eaten at many of Philadelphia’s fabulous BYOBs.

Since I’ve been at Penn, and especially after my time on the wards, I’ve come to realize that I am most passionate about women’s health, and I want to be an Ob/Gyn. Right now I’m especially interested in infertility-I think the medicine is fascinating, there is a ton of great research in the field, and there are even some questions that benefit from a little ethics training. This year I am taking a ‘year-out’ and conducting research through the Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship. Twelve medical schools in the country offer the fellowship, and I have been lucky enough to get to stay here at Penn and work in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility on a number of exciting research projects with terrific faculty.

I am eager to keep you updated on the progress of all of my activities this year, from my research to my ethics classes (Zeke Emanuel, Rahm Emanuel’s brother, just joined the department!) to use of my newly-found free time now that I’m taking a break from the hospital and no longer working ‘rotation hours’. I hope that you’ll enjoy following along, and I wish all of you a fun-filled orientation week!

Back to School

Hello all!

I would like to take this first post to quickly introduce myself but also to wish the new first-years a warm welcome. I couldn’t be happier that you are all here-now we are no longer the lowest on the totem pole. Kidding, of course. I hope and trust that you’ll like Penn as much as I have. I think that you start orientation soon which is actually awesome (and believe me, I went into it with a lot of eye rolling) so have fun and we can’t wait to meet you!

And of course welcome back to my fellow 2014ers, I hope all of your summers have been amazing. From the Facebook posts and emails I’ve been getting I think that’s the case: surfing in Nicaragua, planning a wedding, volunteering at a clinic, learning acupuncture in China, working with refugees in Philly, working with an oncologist in NYC-and that’s just my learning team. To the 2013/2012ers, I don’t need to welcome you back as you’ve been working your butts off whilst we young-uns have been gallivanting around enjoying the last bits of freedom before we delve into the abyss that is cardio/renal etc.

Using VisualDx Mobile with some pediatric residents in derm clinic
OK! Now on to more important things-me :) Who am I? My name is Hayley and I am just starting my second year at the Perelman School of Medicine. I am originally from Boston, went to Brown, graduated on 2009, took a year off and worked in Malawi before heading to Philly for med school. I will be blogging my way through the year in order to give everyone a glimpse of what life is like for one PSOM-er.

I am currently writing this post from Botswana where I spent the summer (you can check out my adventures at hayleyinbotswana.blogspot.com) doing dermatology work at Princess Marina Hospital. Penn has a fantastic partnership with Botswana and I have had the most amazing summer. As I wrap up my time in Bots and prepare to head back to school I thought I’d end my first post by letting you know what I am looking forward to this year and what I am dreading:

  • Absolutely dreading heading back to my apartment because I know that in my haste to leave, I dumped all my (clean) laundry on my bed without folding it. What a welcome home present for myself. Ugh.
  • Can’t wait to get some Yogorino on Rittenhouse Square and watch all the cute puppies.
  • Not excited about trading this perfect Botswana weather for the heat wave I’ve heard about in Philly.
  • Pumped about planning some events for the Elizabeth Blackwell Society (for female medical students) as well as visiting Covenant House (teenage homeless shelter in Germantown, PA where I volunteer with a few other med students).
  • Very very scared to begin our cardiology block: it has a reputation of being extremely tough. I know that I will be fine once I start but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous.
  • Happy to re-start Pilates classes. Africa and exercise didn’t mix as much as I’d hoped.
  • Mainly I am so excited about seeing all of my friends and hearing about their summers. As I mentioned above, I have been blown away with the updates I’ve been getting via the interwebs so I’m eager to hear about it in person.
Signing off for now!