Our students avail of highly-prized elective opportunities at home and abroad. These electives allow students to explore in further depth topics of relevance to their degree programme. As part of our summer elective series, medicine student Andrea Bowe reflects on her time at the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York.
My elective experience took place in the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) located in Manhattan, New York. HSS is a specialty hospital devoted to orthopaedics and rheumatology. I spent my elective with Dr Stephen O’Brien, a specialist in orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine. Sports medicine and surgery is an area in which I have always had a keen interest. During our undergraduate training we do not get much exposure to this specialist area, which is why I chose to use this elective opportunity to pursue my interest in this field.One of the first striking differences I noted on my first day in HSS was that Dr O’Brien worked solely with a physician’s assistant and not the full team which I was accustomed to from my experience in Ireland. This greatly facilitated my learning as I was able to work directly with Dr O’Brien. Dr O’Brien’s patients are seen by either himself or his physician’s assistant, with whom he works very closely. This enables the formation of a close doctor-patient relationship, something that is very helpful when forming management plans for patients.
During my elective my time was spent between outpatients clinics that took place in the main hospital in Manhattan, and a satellite office in Long Island, with the rest of my time spent in the operating theatre. During these clinics I had the opportunity to see a vast array of orthopaedic conditions and sports injuries. Patients ranged from elderly patients with long standing osteoarthritis to young athletes with torn anterior cruciate ligaments. One of my favourite things about orthopaedics as a specialty is the variety of patients you encounter. In clinic I saw, at the same appointment, a grandfather, his son and his grandson all with different orthopaedic conditions. This is something which I find quite unique to this specialty.
During outpatient clinics, I encountered many conditions of which I had no previous experience. When I came across conditions I knew nothing about Dr. O’Brien encouraged me to go home and research the conditions. The following day he would discuss them with me and answer any questions I had.
One of Dr. O’Brien’s areas of research has been the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the biceps labrum complex, a subject he lectures on internationally. During these clinics Dr. O’Brien instructed me in the use of this novel examination technique. I was also able to apply examination skills I had previously acquired in my undergraduate training.
Every Tuesday was spent in the operating theatre, which I absolutely loved. During these days I saw ACL reconstruction, meniscectomy, knee arthroscopy, shoulder arthroscopy and Dr. O’Brien’s innovative biceps tendon transfer, which he devised for the treatment of biceps tendonitis.
Every Thursday morning a sports medicine conference took place. These were invaluable to my learning experience. The format of the conference consisted of presentations by doctors undertaking fellowships at HSS followed by an open discussion and often heated debate by the leading experts in these areas. It was an amazing experience to hear world experts discuss their views and opinions on their specialty subjects. Topics covered during my time there included ‘Meniscal Tears, ‘Sideline Management’ and ‘Cervical Spine’.
My elective experience at HSS has fuelled my interest in the area of orthopaedics and sports medicine. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to gain experience in any field of medicine, especially areas which we would not usually work in during our undergraduate training. This scholarship enabled me to work in one of the top orthopaedic hospitals in the world and to experience one of the world’s top sports medicine institutions. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that would not have been possible without the Muiris X FitzGerald scholarship and the kind help of Mr. Brian Hurson. I would also like to sincerely thank Dr Stephen O'Brien for the wonderful experience that I had at the Hospital for Special Surgery.