Dream school: UC San Diego

After interning in a urology practice for five months, I decided to join a local non-profit group known as the Flying Samaritans. Being a member of this group allowed me to apply for a urological surgery clinic held in San Quintin, Mexico. This clinic is held biannually by volunteer doctors, nurses, medical students and translators. They get first priority in the planes because there is limited space. Despite being the youngest person to apply, I was notified one week prior to departure that there was room on a plane for me. Originally, five planes were scheduled to fly, but three aviators canceled due to bad weather. Dozens of patients were anticipating medical treatment and it was imperative that the clinic go on despite the limited staff.

My intentions were to observe surgeries and gain knowledge about urological Operations, but little did I know I was going to be scrubbing in for the first time! I had to quickly learn the proper way to scrub in for surgery, which became routine for me after working diligently from 9 am to 9 pm. The lack of helping hands required me to adopt skills which were foreign to me. All of a sudden I was tasked with angling retractors, suturing internal organs such as the bladder and testicles, and closing an incision with staples. This was done under the close guidance of the surgeon, who delegated to me the tasks usually performed by medical students and nurses.

Any anxiety that I once had was quickly relieved by the adrenaline rush. Being so heavily involved in surgery was breathtaking and fueled my desire to become a doctor. Seeing the health benefit this clinic supplies for patients in need inspires me to want to continue participating when I am older. Ultimately, my skill level went from watching urethral catheterization during my internship to putting in a catheter by myself in San Quintin. The fact that I could master hands-on tasks in high-pressure situations helped me realize that I will have what it takes to keep calm and professional while having someone’s life in my hands.

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