Shadowing: Week 1

The most important thing I had to do before observing surgical shifts at the UC Davis Medical center was to get good shoes.  The recommendation by former interns: Dansko clogs.  The dress code for arriving is business casual, usually followed by a quick change into scrubs.

My first morning I shadowed a resident from the burn service.

English: Stevens-johnson-syndrome
English: Stevens-johnson-syndrome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of his patients were children seen across the street at Shriner’s hospital.  In clinic he checked on three boys: one with a dog bite, the next had Steven-Johnson syndrome (see pic) where skin is lost due to a drug interaction, a finally a burn.  The worst burn was in an adult from electricity.  The treatments are similar since all affected the integument.

Morning rounds with the vascular team were impressive.  Starting at 5:15am they raced like a pit crew from patient to patient, not only checking for changes overnight but replacing wound dressings.  A large number of their patients are diabetics, feet having the worst circulation.  In the afternoon they began an angiogram/stent of a carotid artery.  The patient was distressed but didn’t seem to understand her movements lengthened the process greatly.  I stayed late and heard the attending checking to see if she had suffered any brain damage…fortunately not.

Shadowing: Getting Started

My internship at UC Davis Med Center began immediately following our HAPS conference in Vegas.  So, while others were touring the Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon, I had a daylong drive north.  For the three months I rented a room in walking distance, but it’s not a very good neighborhood for walking.

tahoepark-w2e (Photo credit: sc0ttbeardsley)

My first day was hospital orientation.  Fifty pre-meds needing badges for access to the medical center.  To pass inspection we needed a number of health documents.  I hadn’t seen proof of my own childhood immunizations so blood titers and boosters sufficed.  After paying $5 we were ready for a weekend long crash course in, of all things, human anatomy!

I must say I felt pretty comfortable hearing medical student summarize the systems.  The only new information was on taking patient histories and physical exams (neither of which we are allowed to do).  The fact that they stressed directional terms made me feel good about teaching it to my students.  And happy to say before my first shift in the med center I passed all of the quizzes at the required level of B or better.

I chose three shifts a week to start, the surgical specialties I’ll be shadowing are assigned.  The busiest shift during the week is 6am to 1pm, followed by the 1-7pm.  NIght shifts, 7pm to 2am usually only cover traumas or emergency medicine.  I’m sticking to weekdays for my first month.  Cross your phalanges for me!

Getting In

I decided to be a role model, so had to go through the motions of applying.  The easiest part was paying the $20 application fee.

Having been a professor of anatomy for over 15 years, I have done my share of recommendation writing.  However, I haven’t had to ask for letters since receiving tenure.  Fortunately, just for fun, I took microbiology from one of my colleagues just a year before.  So, my letters came from him, my orthopedic surgeon, and my boss.

The hardest part of the application wasn’t getting all my transcripts into a single pdf, it was the essay questions.  They were intended for undergraduates, but some still applied. “What do you do when not in school?”  Others were thought provoking.  “What moment in history would you like to have witnessed and why?”  When you know there are no right answers, it’s hard to decide when you are done.

I submitted everything on-line and on-time, and felt like I had gotten in touch with what my students go through.  I imagined that I might be so overqualified as to not receive an interview, so I started thinking about what hobbies I could take up for summer.  Then of course I was invited to interview.  By this time I was torn between my competitive nature and desire to be lazy all summer.UC Davis Medical Center

The interview was only thirty minutes, for which I had to spend money on round-trip air, hotel and rental car.  I even bought a new outfit.   When I arrived, it became obvious I was not only the oldest applicant, but I was close to double my interviewers ages.  These questions were more serious than the essays covering ethics and motivation.

When I was accepted, I secretly felt guilty for taking a spot away from some truly motivated premed.  But the truth is, I will learn whether or not I want to be a surgeon and everything I see will help in my teaching.  Now let’s hope I can keep up with the residents.


Last Fall I got roped into serving as an advisor to our “Caduceus Club” at Pasadena City College.    These students want to go into health-related careers…and even if I never did, I agreed to open a classroom once a week at lunch for their meetings.  During their meetings I heard the guest lectures and learned a lot about our campus blood drives, but mainly served to encourage them in their academic pursuits.  However, I also got e-mails of off campus opportunities to share with them, one of which really caught my eye.

elbow1Last November I tripped.  Really hard!  Caught myself by sticking out my left hand (my right hand was full and couldn’t get empty quickly enough).  The good news was I kept my face from hitting the ground.  The bad news was I locked my elbow and apparently the head of the radius shattered on impact with the capitulum of my humerus.  I am now the owner of a titanium radial head replacement.  I asked my surgeon if I could watch the operation, but he said no.

So, there is a program at UC Davis where premedical students can shadow surgeons.  I already have all the prerequisite courses, even if I never seriously thought about becoming a doctor.  I decided that to be a good advisor I should lead by example.  If nothing else, applying to the program would help me understand what my students who need letters of recommendation are going through, right?

Anatomy and physiology education at Experimental Biology 2013

I am writing this latest blog while on a plane, returning home to Indiana. Like many other HAPS members, I also am a member in several of our sister societies. This past week, many HAPS members put on their American Association of Anatomists (AAA) or American Physiological Society (APS) ‘hats’ as we participated in Experimental Biology (EB) 2013. Experimental Biology is composed of multiple associations, and their yearly meeting typically is in April each year. Over 12,000 scientists and educators converge on a city and share the latest bench and educational research.

This year, the meeting was in Boston, scheduled to open the Saturday morning after the horrific bombing at the Boston marathon. Many were scheduled to arrive on Friday, the day the city was locked down as the suspects were involved in a shoot out with police. Thankfully, people were able to safely arrive (although most were sequestered in their hotel for the day) and the police were able to capture the suspect.

One of the neat things about EB is that you may attend any of the sessions offered by your or other affiliated societies. Thus, a AAA member may attend an APS session, an APS member may attend a Society of Nutrition symposium, and so on. There simply are too many interesting concurrent sessions to attend!

My focus was on the anatomy education sessions, where I listened to talks about incorporating anatomy in an integrated medical curriculum, the use of team based learning in anatomy, the flipped classroom, and more. I tweeted about the specifics of these sessions throughout the conference. (If you are interested in following me, my twitter handle is @vdoloughlin). In addition, my graduate students and I each presented posters on our anatomical education research. I was able to connect with colleagues, share ideas, and see a truly wonderful city that did not let an act of terror get the best of them.

While EB2013 was energizing and exciting, I am looking forward to going home, seeing my family, and finishing up the semester. And in less than one month’s time, I can’t wait to reconnect with my HAPS family in Las Vegas for our annual meeting! Will you be at this year’s HAPS Annual meeting? Please comment below and let me know!

Building homes and partnerships with Medical Sciences and the community

Who let this person have a hammer?
Who let this person have a hammer?

Anatomy and physiology courses offer wonderful opportunities for service learning. Our students may volunteer at local health clinics and hospitals, they may organize health fairs for school children, and/or they may visit individuals in hospices and retirement homes. These service learning ventures often are organized by the professors and it is the students who are the primary volunteers, but this is not always the case. Our medical students at IU frequently initiate and organize their own community engagement ventures. And recently, one such venture solicited both student AND faculty volunteers to work together.

halfway done with the siding!
halfway done with the siding!

This venture was a Habitat for Humanity build. Our first year class representative (Bryce) was active with Habitat for Humanity in the past, and he arranged a Medical Sciences ‘build’ day where both medical students and faculty could participate. Bryce took it upon himself to solicit volunteers, prepare the work schedule, and liaison with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to set up a good date and site. I’ve always been impressed with Habitat’s work, and I jumped at the chance to participate in a build. In addition, I was looking forward to working with my students and colleagues in a non-classroom setting.

The morning started out chilly and many of us were a little sleepy, but we were excited to begin work.  We began the morning with learning a bit about our tasks (either putting up vinyl siding on two homes or doing the indoor painting) and we met the families who would live in these homes, as they worked beside us.  We learned about the ‘sweat equity’ these families had to earn (by working on other families’ homes first) before they could build a home of their own.  And we met the wonderful coordinators and leaders of the local Habitat chapter.

Many of us had never put up siding before, but we quickly learned, thanks to the guidance provided by Bryce.  Slowly but surely,

from none to done in a day!
from none to done in a day!

the back of one house (which had no siding in the morning) was completely covered with siding by the day’s end.  This was a remarkable feat for us, especially considering we made some mistakes and had to remove some of our work and start over again.  Students and faculty worked as a team towards a common goal.  So the team wasn’t in the hospital room or O.R. – but the team building was incredibly valuable.   And in a single day, we had a tangible product to show for our hard work.

I personally viewed this opportunity as a way that I could help some others in our community.   What I did not expect was how this opportunity helped strengthen the relationships I had with my students and colleagues, and how much *I* learned from this whole venture.

IU School of Medicine Habitat volunteers - a job well done!
IU School of Medicine Habitat volunteers – a job well done!

So I challenge all of you to think ‘outside the box’ when it comes to service learning ventures with your A&P students.  Don’t feel that the community engagement must occur in a health care setting, just because we teach anatomy and physiology.  Perhaps your local animal shelter needs some volunteers to help exercise the animals, or perhaps the local Boys and Girls club would like a group of students and faculty to simply play some board games with their kids.  In the end, we strengthen our relationships with the community and all of us learn to work as a team – and isn’t that what we want our future health care professionals to know?

Developing Partnerships between HAPS and sister societies

One of the many benefits of working on the HAPS Board of Directors (BOD) is the opportunity to develop partnerships among HAPS and other national organizations (aka ‘sister societies’). HAPS already has strong relationships with a variety of organizations involved in science education, such as the American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Physiological Society (APS), and National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). But we continue to be on the lookout for partnerships with other organizations that share our interests in anatomy and physiology education.

As President-Elect of HAPS, I recently was contacted by individuals in the Society of Ultrasound in Medical Education (SUSME). Long story short – they invited two HAPS officers to attend and present at their First Conference on Ultrasound in Anatomy and Physiology Education. This conference will explore the use of ultrasound in pre-medical, pre-allied health, nursing, and medical anatomy and physiology courses. There will be hands-on ultrasound demonstrations and information about how to incorporate ultrasound into your existing curriculum. This topic is near and dear to me, as I teach an upper level undergraduate course entitled “Human Anatomy for Medical Imaging Evaluation”.   The conference is this weekend in Columbia, SC – for further information about the conference, click on the image:confultrasound  I can’t wait to attend and learn something new!

This initial contact between SUSME and HAPS has developed into a formal partnership between our societies. Several SUSME members Ge-Vscan2will be attending the HAPS annual conference this May and will be presenting a workshop on the use of ultrasound in the A&P classroom.  We are excited about the exchange of ideas between our members and our societies.  In next week’s blog, I’ll let you know what I learned from the conference.  In the meantime, please let me know if you use ultrasound in your A&P classroom, or if you are interested in learning how you could use ultrasound in your classroom.  Let the exchange of ideas begin!