Emma Dunne Reflects on Summer Elective Experience in Philadelphia
In the summer of 2012, I was the privileged recipient of a summer student elective award. I was selected for a rotation in Lankenau Medical Centre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Having completed electives in the developing world I relished the opportunity to experience the provision and delivery of healthcare in a country renowned for its high standards and state of the art technology.
In undergraduate medical education I think it is important to seize any opportunity to experience the practice of medicine outside of the country you train in as it can only serve to broaden your horizons. Lankenau Medical Centre delivered all of the above, and more. The hospital was extremely flexible and accommodating in allowing us to rotate through one or two specialties of our choice for the duration of our elective.
I rotated through neonatology for the first half and internal medicine for the second half. Although the two fields are worlds apart, my experience and the level of teaching I received in both was outstanding. In addition to this the welcome and subsequent hospitality we received were second to none.
In the Neonatal intensive care unit, I followed the attending closely. Following morning rounds, the attending would go through a patient case with me in detail. Given the complexity of the cases, this took up a considerable part of the morning. Following this I would have some spare time to read up on a topic of interest that may have arisen during rounds. This would later be discussed with the attending. At regular intervals throughout the day, the neonatal team would be called to the delivery room.
This was the most exciting and interesting part of my experience as I learned first hand how to deal with the immediate assessment and resuscitation of a sick neonate. A combination of the one-to-one teaching and the incredible complexity of each case made my experience in the NICU extremely stimulating and entirely enjoyable.
I spent the second half of my elective on the Internal Medicine team, specifically gastroenterology and nephrology This was a different experience entirely. In addition to observing procedures and attending rounds, there was an abundance of organized daily teaching.
I enjoyed being part of a consult team; apart from seeing the ‘bread and butter’ cases of the specialty I was rotating with, I was exposed to interesting and varied cases that incorporated numerous other teams. The most beneficial thing for me on the rotation was that I clerked my own patients as new consults and presented them to the attending to be signed off. I was taken aback at how much the medical students are included as active participants in the team. This is something that I feel is lacking in the Irish system.
The educational experience was first-rate and our life outside of the hospital was no different. With Philadelphia city only a short train ride from the hospital, we were never short of options. We were lucky enough to be accommodated with some very hospitable members of faculty who ensured that we always had something enjoyable to do in the evenings and at the weekends. This was undoubtedly my favorite part of the Lankenau experience as it represented an extension of the sense of hospitality and community spirit that is evident throughout the hospital.
I would like to finish by thanking UCD School of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Dublin and Lankenau Medical Center, Philadelphia for this fantastic opportunity that will no doubt stand to me throughout my career. In particular I would like to thank Dr. Bill Surkis, Dr. Janine Romanelli, Dr. Jim Burke, Dr. Mary Burke and Dr. Frank Bonar for the roles they played in making my elective an unforgettable experience.