August 2017

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t m c ยป p u l s e | a u g u s t 2 0 1 7 12 So You Want to Be a Surgeon College student Lauren Reppert made the most of the Michael E. DeBakey Summer Surgery Program B y C l a u d i a F e l d m a n A s the plastic surgeons bent over their patient, ready to begin the nasal reconstruction, Lauren Reppert leaned in, too. Occasionally, she whispered a ques- tion or answered the operating room phone. But mostly, she watched from her stool behind the doctors, no matter how many hours passed, no matter how much her recently repaired knee ached. "I like to see things all the way through," said the 20-year-old, wearing scrubs and a surgical mask. "I don't want to miss anything." Reppert and 15 other college students, lucky participants in the Michael E. DeBakey Summer Surgery Program, were testing their resolve to become doctors in the famed heart sur- geon's mold. For eight weeks, they had supervised access to Baylor College of Medicine surgeons, their operating rooms and their patients. Few other pro- grams offer college-age students such an intense look at the world of surgery, Baylor physicians say. "Dr. DeBakey thought teaching was very important," explained surgeon Charles McCollum, M.D., the depart- ment's unofficial historian. "He wanted the best and the brightest students, and he believed in recruiting young." Just back up On a sticky morning in early June, surgeons Shayan Izaddoost, M.D., Ph.D., and Bradford Scott, M.D., hustled into the conference room on Baylor's fourth floor. McCollum was there, too. Orientation day. The physicians hadn't met the assembled summer students yet, but Izaddoost read their applications and felt as if he knew them. Two hundred and forty-three students sought spots in the program, but these 16 were chosen for their grades, recom- mendations and personal statements. Izaddoost, program director, stood at the front of the room. "You all have what it takes," he said the ground rules, which are the same year after year: Starting time is 6 a.m., Monday through Friday. Average work- days last 12 hours. No, they are not paid. Yes, they do have to pay for parking. Students may leave for a few days if they have a personal issue or even a family vacation. Just tell us, said Scott, generously, "and we hope to inspire you to become surgeons. But if you decide, 'Oh my God, there's no way I want to do this,' that's OK, too. It's better to figure it out now." Many of the students would don scrubs and watch operations right after lunch. But first they heard the surgery department's vice chair of education. There was that one student way back when who disappeared after the first day and failed to return until the very end. The eight weeks are divided into two four-week rotations. Students are assigned a surgeon/mentor, a Baylor teaching hospital, and a specialty in early June. All of that changes in early July. "If you don't like your rotation, come talk to me," Scott said. "This should be fun. If it's not, we'll figure it out." Put your phones away, Izaddoost told the students. And, he added, no social media. Don't take pictures, don't gossip about patients, don't ever forget their privacy is of the utmost importance. Medical students, even residents have broken those rules at their own peril. Come to surgery prepared, Izaddoost instructed. That means stu- dents should bone up on gallbladders if they're about to see one removed. Which reminded him. "How much health care do you know?" he asked the students. "That's right. Zero. So help when the residents ask. But you're not delivering health care. You're here to observe." Which may be harder than it sounds, Scott said. "The first time you see someone cut open, the normal reaction is, 'Oh my God.' If you have warm saliva, just back up, back up against a wall, and some- one will find you a chair," Scott said. "I remember two summer students who hit the floor. Realize that's a possibility. Don't be embarrassed." The students let those images sink in as McCollum, who knew DeBakey for decades, took the floor. He showed a film about his old friend, the father of modern cardiovascular surgery, then took the group downstairs to the DeBakey museum and library. "Dr. D" died in 2008. But clearly, McCollum and the rest of the Baylor Reppert speaks with a Baylor College of Medicine physician before observing surgery for nasal reconstruction.

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