UC Berkeley Premed student, Lizbeth Nunez, gives up her summer to take part in the Endometriosis Fellowship & Course
“I decided to stay in school for the summer this year and wanted to be more productive than just taking summer courses. I began to look up internships and programs near the UC Berkeley campus, and fortunately, I came across an announcement from a club on campus called the American Medical Women’s Association, with the description of this program.
“Endometriosis”, I read. Hmmm. I was intrigued by the disease, as I was not familiar with it, and decided to look it up. I immediately was interested. The best part of the description was that there was both a fellowship and a course, which I found to be amazing since I would get to learn something new this summer, but also be able to see first hand how it is treated or handled surgically.
The courses not only gave us insight on how this disease came to be, or what factors to consider when trying to solve issues involving treatment and prevention, but it also provided us a first-person point of view of the disease with testimonies with women who were suffering from it. Seeing the pain and troubles it has caused others -and I speak for myself when I say this but am sure similar feelings resonated with my fellow peers- motivated me to try to gain the most knowledge on this topic in the short span of 8 weeks, and see how my involvement could help further EndoMarch’s mission.
As for the clinic and OR rotations, I am lost for words when I try to describe my experiences. Now, I have never shadowed a doctor, but I have volunteered at several hospitals before, and I have friends that have been given the chance to shadow doctors before, and I can say that the exposure I receive with this program is so much more than what is offered in other hospitals.
I commute from Berkeley, CA. to the surgery center located in San Jose, Ca. The commute is very long, and my mornings begin very early to assure that I get to the center on time, since surgeries start as early as 6:30 a.m. I remember waking up on my first day of rotation and wondering what I was getting myself into.
I was very excited and nervous (as most “first days” are). I arrived to the center and explained that I would be an observer for the day. I was escorted to a locker room where I was told to pick out my scrubs, which I was already in awe about, since my thought of an OR observer was pretty much what you see in movies: people in street clothes with tiny notebooks taking notes behind a big glass window that overlooks the operating room.
On the contrary, that is when I found out I would be INSIDE the OR WITH THE PATIENT just a few feet away from me, and that was why we had to wear the scrubs, scrub caps, and procedure face masks. I remember changing and walking into a room where my fellow peers were, who were also eagerly waiting. I tried to seem collected, but internally I was geeking out at the fact that I was in scrubs and was about to see my first live operation.
But with all of this excitement, there was also fear. I was terrified of the thought of seeing someone being operated in vivo. I had seen tons of operations on video, but I knew that was nothing close to the real deal. Fun fact: I also history of fainting with little triggers every time I get my blood drawn, or once when a nurse was taking my blood pressure, or like my most recent being at the optometrist’s office when they dilated my pupils, so I had been told various times that I would not be able to handle seeing, and eventually, performing a surgery.
This was the ultimate test. I remember walking into the OR taking deep breaths and trying to process what I was just about to see. I saw the patient lying there and could see her breathing. Soon after arriving, the operation began. The laparoscopy procedure began, and I stood there in awe. Once I saw the first incisions, I didn’t even think of the possibility of me fainting since I was too astounded at how amazing the human body is and at the precision of the talented surgeons at the center.
There was a big monitor in the room, that projects the video from the camera at the end of a laparoscopic tool. On this monitor, you can see the inside of the patient, including her pelvic cavity, the interior of the uterus, and I was even able to see the interior of the bladder at one point! It was magnificent. Waking up early was definitely worth it.
And the best part is that not only are the surgeons performing the procedure but they explain as they go, announcing important features or pointing out the endometriosis on the screen. This allows us to have an understanding of what the surgical goals and procedures are, but if we have any questions we are also able to ask nearby doctors, who enthusiastically answer our questions.
And, so far, I have been able to see 3 laparoscopies, a salpingectomy, cystectomies, an abdominal myomectomy, and far more procedures that I don’t remember the names off, but know will be soon etched in my memory. I can genuinely say that this has been one of the best opportunities I have ever come across, and the staff I have met are some of the most intelligent and caring people I’ve ever met, finding every possible opportunity to teach us and reminding us consistently that they are encouraging and supportive of us. ”