Friday, September 26, 2014

Movin’ On Up to the East Side

Last spring, I was trying to decide between Perelman and several other top medical schools. Like a typical type-A, wannabe medical student, I searched for any differentiating factor between the schools. Which city was more fun? Whose students were happier? Who had the funnier student YouTube spoof videos? As someone interested in orthopaedic surgery, I resorted to looking at the websites of top ortho hospitals, trying to gauge how many Penn students had gone to such places in the past. My dear friend Google helped me find an institution called The Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Manhattan, New York City that seemed to be perennially ranked #1 or #2 for ortho. On a promising note, I found that several Perelman students had matched there over the years. Indeed, it seemed that Penn was perhaps the perfect place to help me get to the next step. 

Less than one year after first putting on my white coat in the Annenberg Center, I found myself staring at a large white and blue HSS sign in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I had been selected to the hospital’s Medical Student Summer Research Fellowship program and was set to spend about 9 weeks working with some of the most renowned orthopaedic surgeons in the US. With only one year of medical training under my belt, one of my top priorities was to not look too dumb around the great minds at HSS. It was evident from the first meeting that the hospital was a special place. When the first day finally slowed down, I almost had to laugh at my own serendipitous path to, first Philadelphia, and then New York City. A year earlier, I had stared at my computer screen thinking, “Wow. Manhattan. HSS. That’d be a great place to train.” Now I was scrubbed into surgery at the hospital and assisting a surgeon that (literally) wrote the textbook on hand surgery.

I spent July and August working on projects with the attending surgeons, residents, and other researchers, learning their work habits, schedules, and personalities. I rose before the sun and ran for exercise around the city, getting to know the East River Esplanade, Central Park, the Upper West Side, Midtown, Yorkville, and of course my home, the Upper East Side. Afterwards, my morning at the hospital would start with the residents’ conference. Topics here ranged from in-depth anatomy reviews to avoiding bias in research to diagnostic radiology for orthopaedics. After this meeting (and the all-important free bagels), I would trail to the operating room or head to the motion analysis lab, where my background in engineering and data analysis helped me contribute to projects. This blog doesn’t have enough lines for me to adequately describe how much I learned, so suffice it to say that it was an amazing academic training experience that I was blessed to have.

Sunrise from the East River Esplanade at 77th Street
Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, NYC

The academic rigor of the weekdays was rivaled only by the fun of the weekends. My girlfriend, a fellow student at Perelman, typically arrived via the $1 bus on Friday night, leaving two whole days for us to explore the city before she had to return to her own research in Philadelphia. We ran, we ate, we saw shows on- and off-Broadway. We navigated the city on foot and via train, walked the High Line, toured the Brooklyn Brewery, gawked at animals in the Bronx Zoo, watched “Frozen” in the park, and spent way too many hours debating which Upper East Side dogs were the cutest (the English and French bulldogs get my vote). Each weekend went too quickly, and each weekday brought new awe-inspiring lessons in medicine. 

Morning View Looking South over the Central Park Reservoir
For the person out there considering the Perelman School of Medicine, I won’t tell you that this is the perfect place for you. To be perfectly honest, the idea that a perfect place for you exists is a myth. Each school excels in many things while lagging a bit behind with regards to other things. But, in Philadelphia, I have found a school – No, I have a found a home, where I know the administrators and professors look out for the students, and the curriculum gets us ready  to excel at actually being doctors, not merely at passing tests.  It is at Perelman that I have met some of the most amazing people, had some of the most humbling experiences, cried, laughed, held up intramural champion shirts, learned great lessons in medicine, and never regretted my decision on where to attend medical school.
Sunset from the Entrance to HSS