Old memories, new experiences

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It’s hard to believe that freshman year has already flown by. I finished last semester with a much better handle on Organic Chemistry, a subject I once considered to be nightmarish, but has actually turned out to be enjoyable and surprisingly interesting. It’s fascinating how taking the time to preview chapters before class and working review problems really do help with learning new material. And along with acquiring drastically improved time management skills, wonderful memories shared with other students and faculty, a deeper understanding of my capabilities and weaknesses, I’ve also gained a better idea of how I want to spend the remaining three years of my CBS experience.

Summer is now in full swing and the new school year is fast approaching. However, I’ve already had a few fun experiences that have turned out to be quite meaningful. A few weeks ago, I got the chance to visit Shanghai, China for a couple of weeks to visit family and travel. Besides gorging myself on a variety of delicious foods at a near hourly rate, spending way too much time shopping and sightseeing, and visiting some cool historical sights, I also spent a day at the main thoracic hospital in Shanghai. My uncle, the director of the thoracic surgery department there, was willing to let me shadow him as he spent the day performing lung surgeries and observing his residents. The learning experience that followed provided me with a valuable glimpse into medicine performed under a health care system very different from the one here.

Upon entering the hospital, the first thing I noticed was the sheer number of people -everywhere. Practically all the seats in the waiting areas were occupied, and on every floor, I could see dozens of smokers. This seemed very ironic to me, since it is a pulmonary hospital that specializes in thoracic cases and lung cancers. I was very tempted to explain to these individuals the error in their ways, but my uncle cautioned that in China, smoking is so ingrained in the cultural identity of a large portion of the public that it will likely take years before the behavior can be lessened to any extent. As my uncle and his residents checked up on their patients during morning rounds, I was free to wander the halls a bit and take in the sights of the hospital. Nurses were dressed in crisp and spotless white gowns (the kind seen in old movies), and doctors wore their signature white coats over formal business attire at all times. What struck me as very odd was the virtual nonexistence of doctor-patient confidentiality. No dividers were present within patient rooms, and I often saw doctors discussing matters with patients and their families or performing brief examinations while other patients were still in the room. But, I guess that’s about as private as it can get in a hospital that serves so many people.

However, the twelve operating rooms in the hospital, I found, were very similar in setup to ones I have been in before, boasting the newest technology and the most advanced surgical techniques like laparoscopy. Sterile instruments were set up neatly by the carefully draped patient. Even the same brand of scrub-in soap was used for each procedure. I watched in awe as my uncle performed lung biopsies to identify suspicious masses in the lung, and perform pneumonectomies and lobectomies. I even got to see his “patented? method of removing lung tissue. Using laparoscopy, he inserted a sterile glove through a tiny incision into the thoracic cavity, placed the lung tissue into the glove by viewing the monitor, and dragged the glove out of the incision. After a day of observation of both my uncle’s procedures and those of his peers, I realized that no matter the culture or the health system, attention to detail and to quality patient care remain the most critical components of effective medical care. Returning to the United States, I brought back with me an appreciation for the rich cultural history and traditions of China, and amazement at the remarkable pace of advancement of a China that is continuing to develop and prosper.

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Sounds like you had an amazing trip and what a cool experience to shadow your uncle. Organization and time management are very important, but I would imagine it matters even more in a hospital.

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This page contains a single entry by Xiaoying Lou published on July 12, 2008 11:00 PM.

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