Student Reflections on Selectives

Career Exploration

In my opinion one of the best attributes of Mayo Clinic School of Medicine is the selectives. For a period of two weeks several times throughout the year we have the opportunity to explore different areas of medicine. I have been using my selective periods for career exploration. I have completed selectives in surgery, primary care, and different specialties. By spending time in different departments, I have gained exposure to the nature of the work, lifestyle, and academic career opportunities available in that specialty. This in turn has helped me narrow down what areas of medicine I'm interested in even before third year rotations! Being able to determine what appeals to you early on in your medical school career also has the added benefit of pursuing research in that department.
— Safia Ahmed

I had the great experience of being a participant in (as a 1st year) and then co-organizing and running (as a 2nd year) the Surgical Skills Selective. This selective was started several years ago by a couple of medical students who wanted some exposure to basic surgical skills early in their medical school training. This selective still continues to be organized and run by Mayo medical students and has continued to grow each year. It is now one of the most popular selective experiences. As part of this week, we learn basic suturing and knot tying skills, basic laparoscopic skills, and proper scrubbing and gowning/gloving techniques. We also get to shadow a surgeon in the operating room, research and present a specific surgical procedure and then perform those procedures on live pigs under general anesthesia in the Animal Sciences building here at Mayo. This selective is not only meant to expose students to surgery early in their studies so that they can learn about it as a possible career choice, but the main focus is to allow the students to feel more comfortable being in the operating room so that their experiences in their surgical rotations are great ones. My experience in both participating and teaching this selective has allowed me to realize that I really like surgery and want to pursue a career within the field of surgery.
— Brant Nikolaus

Experiences on Other Campuses

"During one of my first year selectives, I had the opportunity to rotate with the solid organ transplant team in Mayo Clinic Arizona. During my two week rotation, I observed and assisted in kidney, pancreas, and liver transplant surgeries. Furthermore, I was able to travel with the transplant team during organ procurements at various hospitals across the state of Arizona. At that time, I was the only medical student on the team and with very few residents present, I was allowed to scrub in on all cases and assist in a variety of capacities. The team also allowed me to round on patients and gave me the same responsibilities as a 3rd year student. The entire experience was extremely beneficial in that it gave me a chance to apply my recently acquired anatomy knowledge, helped me understand the role of a medical student very early in my education, and sparked my interest in surgery. Most importantly, it exposed me to the profound and life-changing impact that physicians could have on their patients and helped me truly understand what it meant to be a compassionate doctor. The transplant surgeons were some of the kindest and devoted physicians I have ever encountered and someday I hope to be the same!"
—TK Pandian

"As I entered medical school one of the things I didn't really think about is the fact that medicine is one of the most regulated industries in the country. This means that it would be helpful for me to understand some of the laws that will govern the industry I'm training to enter. One of the unique opportunities that Mayo has is the ability to work with the legal department to learn about the connections between law and medicine. The medical school does this via the Mayo Clinic Arizona campus and Arizona State University. As a student, I worked with the Mayo legal team to learn about issues such as malpractice, health care reform, policy, patent law and employment law. These fields are vital for me to have basic knowledge in since physicians will encounter issues in one or a few of these fields every day. The legal team takes you under their wings and goes through cases, seminars and involves you in the daily work of Mayo legal. Overall, it was one of the most elucidating experiences I have had."
—Ankaj Khosla

Self-designed Selective

Photo for Hannah Fields on Selectives
Photo for Rachel Hammer's reflection on Selectives

"While out on a hike on a beautiful fall day in Minnesota, three Mayo medical students come across an unconscious man on the side of the trail. With no cell phone reception and nobody else around, what can be done for this patient?

While Mayo Medical students receive world-class training in patient care and medical science, students in the first and second year do not often get the chance to apply these skills to patients outside of the clinical setting. This fall, a Selective in Wilderness and Limited Resource Medicine provided students with the opportunity to earn a certification as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and to practice the skills learned in the course in a wilderness setting. 13 first- and second-year students travelled Boulder, Colorado and completed a WFR course taught by 4th year medical students from the University of Utah and Wilderness Medicine of Utah. The course covered a variety of wilderness medical topics, including patient evaluation, splinting, toxins and poisons, and management of medical problems in the backcountry. For the second week of the selective, six students continued on to Escalante, Utah, for 5 days of backpacking and further practice of WFR skills such as hazard evaluation, evacuation planning, patient assessment, and wound management."
—Hannah Fields

"Through contacts introduced to me by physicians at Mayo Clinic, I was able to travel down to Houston, TX and spend two weeks at the NASA Johnson Space Center. While there, I was given access to the campus and facilities which provided the opportunity to gain exposure to numerous medically-related areas involved with the space program. I spent time with flight surgeons, physician-researchers, and physician-astronauts and toured numerous places including the Neutral Buoyancy Facility, the hyperbaric and altitude chambers, the vacuum chambers, space suit and biomedical research laboratories, shuttle simulators, Ellington Air Base and the Zero-G microgravity planes, and mission control centers. Students at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine are truly fortunate, not only to make connections and have virtually unlimited access to the resources at Mayo Clinic, but also at numerous other organizations throughout the world."
—David Zacharias

"With the Department of Humanities at Mayo and the Guthrie Theater, I was able to design a selective for myself and classmates we called, "Telling the Patient's Story." The purpose was to combat the lurking assumption that art and science are diametrically opposed, and after watching videos of students and residents interacting with patients, we saw clearly the poignant value of styled communication in the medical field. Mayo physicians came to teach interview skills, patient presentation techniques, we practiced improvisational techniques, body work, and narrative oration with Guthrie theater artists, and then practiced oral presentation for hours in multiple settings (a campfire was my favorite). Through all of the self-consciousness cleansing work we did, growing secure in ourselves and getting comfortable with attention, I feel more enabled to concentrate all of my energies on the patient. Overall, I now understand that my proficiency to communicate is figuratively and literally vital."
—Rachel Hammer

"My most recent selective was in Art and Medicine. I have always had a passion for the arts, so I proposed this selective to explore how I can pursue this interest in my future career as a physician. I shadowed artists with the Art at the Bedside program, visiting patient rooms in the Department of Hematology and bringing supplies for watercolor, drawing, and sculpture. I spent time volunteering with the Free Arts program in Minneapolis, which brings visual art activities to children with behavioral and emotional problems, and the PossAbilities art program, which gives adults with developmental disorders an opportunity to produce fine art. Throughout the selective, I also worked on an individual art project reflecting on my experience as both an artist and medical student to be presented to the Humanities in Medicine Committee."
—Conrad Capili

World Travel

Photo for Christopher Boswell's reflection on Selectives
Photo for Vanessa Dimayuga's reflection on Selectives
Photo for Serena Del Mundo's reflection on Selectives
Photo for Serena Del Mundo's reflection on Selectives

"I had the unique and wonderful opportunity to travel to rural Taiwan to shadow in cardiology. I was at the town of Chiayi, working in Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. For the two weeks while I was there, I shadowed in the coronary catheterization laboratory and in the echocardiogram laboratory. Through these, I was able to put into context a lot of what I learned in lecture into the 'real world'. I reviewed a lot of the cardiac and vascular anatomy, became reacquainted with cardiac drugs and toxicities, and even got to perform several echocardiograms on my own!"
—Tina Wong

"In February 2010, I traveled to Honduras with a group of Mayo Clinic School of Medicine students and a Family Medicine consultant. We spent our nights at Sociedad Amigos de los Niños, an orphanage where Global Brigades maintains headquarters. Each day, we had the privilege of playing basketball or soccer with the older boys, and on our last evening we visited with and brought toys and supplies to the younger children who live in a different part of the orphanage. Working with a program called Global Brigades, we set up health care and dental clinics in rural villages. On our last clinic day, we traveled to the police headquarters in Tegucigalpa, the capital, to care for police officers and their families. Over the week, we cared for and provided medications for over 800 families and individuals. With each member rotating roles in the clinic between intake, patient care, education, pharmacy, and dental care under the direction of a Honduran dentist, the group formed quite a cohesive patient care system. Working so closely with a team of colleagues was an invaluable experience as we prepare to embark on a career in which teamwork is so important. My week in Honduras left me with a renewed respect for the medical profession and the opportunities it affords."
—Christopher Boswell

"For one of my selectives, I had the opportunity to travel with some of my classmates to Durban and Capetown, South Africa and work at local hospitals within different surgery departments. During the mornings we would round with the medical team on the post-operative inpatients. We also volunteered throughout the day in the ophthalmology, urology and reconstructive plastic surgery outpatient clinics and scrubbed in on cases in the OR. I was able to observe and participate in a wide breadth of cases that would not typically be encountered in Minnesota: reconstructive surgery for a crocodile bite, a very rare case of a mesothelioma of the peritonitis and reconstruction for a traumatic human bite. I was also exposed to very unique and different approaches to medicine — for example, due to the prohibitive cost of typical anti-septic dressings, the hospital we worked at used irradiated honey instead of the traditional, expensive dressings used at Mayo. I also received the opportunity to learn and perform a spinal nerve block on patient prior to surgery. This selective was a great way to see how medicine is practiced outside of the Mayo Clinic and was an excellent example of the unparalleled breadth of opportunities available to us as Mayo medical students."
—Vanessa Dimayuga

"I had the unique opportunity to travel to Ecuador with a group of my classmates. We were exposed to a wide variety of healthcare settings in a third world nation. Some of our time was spent in the national pediatric hospital in Quito, where we saw everything from children with runny noses to pediatric neural tumors. Our involvement in the care team was dependent not necessarily on our knowledge, but on the ability of the hospital to manage the illness. In the city of Azama, a tiny surgical clinic exists to serve the constantly increasing needs of the local population. The number of surgeries done each day is dependent not on how many physicians are present or on the number of patients who present, but on how many supplies the hospital can afford to use each day. Fundamental tools such as scalpels, bed sheets, and light bulbs limit the amount of care the physicians can provide, and our donations were all used over the one week we spent at the hospital. Primary care exists as an emergency room, and patients present here with everything from debilitating migraines to loss of limb from farming accident. Our one week here allowed us to see cases from every field of medicine, and gave us insight into how common illnesses are managed in non-optimal settings."
—Chaitanya Pabbati

Upon arrival in El Salvador, Mayo consultants and medical students were greeted by representatives from their partner organization in the region, Operation Blessing. For two years, consultants in Mayo's Department of Family Medicine and the Program in Underserved Global Health have traveled to El Salvador to explore opportunities to provide novel solutions to decrease health care disparities in the region. Our initial exposure to healthcare delivery in El Salvador started by touring the local hospitals in San Salvador.

In the following days, consultants volunteered their time in local community clinics. Translators were available to enhance communication between the patients and consultants. Our final days in El Salvador were spent creating a makeshift clinic for residents of a rural area neighboring San Salvador. Men and women of all ages waited for hours to meet with a consultant. Before their admission, the children were given antifungal agents, adults had their blood pressure checked, and at-risk individuals had their blood glucose levels checked. Some individuals with chronic diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes, had not seen a doctor for years. As each day came to a close and the line trickled down, students would play soccer with some of the local kids. Reading about international healthcare delivery from a book or an online newspaper is one thing, but being able to see it firsthand and to interact with the local community is an entirely different educational experience. The people I met in El Salvador and the experiences that I had there have made me a better student, which in turn will make me a better physician.
—Serena Del Mundo

"Travellers (commonly called Gypsies) are a marginalized and underserved community in Ireland, and they suffer from significantly higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease compared to the settled Irish population. Through a connection with the National University of Ireland in Galway, I was able to establish a selective providing medical education and health screening for Travellers. This was a culturally profound experience. After finishing our work in Tuam, the men brought me into their workshop, where they were building a traditional barrel-top wagon. They worked by hand, carving and pounding, all the while listening to old Irish tunes on a fiddle and breaking to drink tea and smoke. The women took me in as well, singing traditional Irish melodies and telling me ghost stories from their travels. The Irish physicians were incredibly welcoming, brilliant people, and it was a pleasure to work with them as well. I am truly grateful for this experience and hope to work in Ireland again in the future."
—Michael Bradshaw