by Lauren Goldschen
As a rising senior at Atholton High School in Howard County in August of 2010, I was excited to start my Intern/Mentor Program provided through my school. This program encourages students within the Gifted and Talented Program to apply for internships/mentorships with professionals who hold careers students admire. I’ve always wanted to become a doctor, and I envisioned my mentor as a local physician who would teach me how to schedule patients and take vital signs. I did not anticipate that the reality of my internship would actually entail observing transplant surgeries and becoming a published author in the #1 peer-reviewed surgery journal, Annals of Surgery.
Finding a mentor for the program was certainly a struggle as I applied to numerous physicians throughout the area. My high school teacher, Mrs. Natalie Kelly, and I received numerous rejections from local physicians. I stumbled upon the University of Maryland Medical Center’s (UMMC) website, which conveniently listed physicians’ names with contact information and their ongoing research projects. I selected a variety of doctors and sent emails explaining the intern/mentor program and asking if they would serve as my mentor.
Although I anticipated more negative feedback, I was amazed that multiple doctors at UMMC responded and agreed to participate as my mentor. It was even more incredible that the first positive response came from Dr. Stephen Bartlett, Peter Angelos Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Chair, Department of Surgery at UMMC, and Surgeon-in-Chief and Vice President of the University of Maryland Medical System, who graciously agreed to serve as my mentor.
On my first day with Dr. Bartlett, I watched him perform a kidney transplant. And on my second day, I met Dr. Bartlett’s colleague, Dr. Rolf Barth, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and transplant surgeon at UMMC, who would become another one of my mentors.
My internship project was to compare patient satisfaction rates of living kidney donors who donated via the novel single-port donor nephrectomy versus living donors who donated via the standard multiple port technique. UMMC’s single-port donor nephrectomy utilizes a single incision in the belly button to remove a kidney from living donors. UMMC was the only the third hospital in the country to adopt this single incision donation technique as the standard of care for all living kidney donors.
The UMMC transplant team believed that this technique, which is more cosmetically appealing and less invasive, could attract more living kidney donors and help decrease the growing kidney transplant wait list. But before the procedure could be promoted, the surgeons first needed to determine if donors preferred this novel single-incision procedure to the standard multiple port procedure.
I began my internship project by writing a survey for living kidney donors that addressed their pain levels after donation and satisfaction rates with the overall donation process. The surveys were distributed to UMMC donors of both the novel single-port and the standard procedure. Read about the survey data that were published in the Annals of Surgery.
My internship was extremely rewarding and memorable, and I’m continuing my internship with the transplant team now as a college student. I enjoy accompanying the doctors on hospital rounds and observing the transplant surgeons interact with their patients. There have been numerous teachable moments, especially in the operating room in which I get to learn about anatomy from a truly unique perspective. I also value the advice that both Dr. Bartlett and Dr. Barth share with me regarding college decisions and future medical career plans.
Although I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, I had never before considered the research aspect of medicine. However, this internship experience has certainly sparked my research curiosity. Currently, I work in a cell biology lab studying the aging process of kidneys, and this summer I am again working at UMMC with Dr. Bartlett and Dr. Barth to investigate the transplant results of different immunosuppressant drugs.
This fall I will be a sophomore Biology Major/Spanish Minor at the University of Pittsburgh. I plan to attend medical school, and due to the wonderful opportunities provided by Dr. Bartlett, Dr. Barth, and the UMMC team, I know that research will always be a fundamental part of my medical career.