My Thursday morning that week offered quite a different pace than my research rotation. I was in a bustling Pediatric Cardiology clinic, reading EKGs and staring at the black and white images of echocardiograms with my attending. We came back to the workroom and I prepared for our next patient, a pre-operative visit. I went in first, asked pertinent questions, conducted a physical exam, and stepped outside the room to review the patient’s case with my attending. We then both went in together to discuss the procedure and answer the multitude of questions of the appropriately nervous parents of an infant with a cardiac defect.
The next week, as I practiced inflating the catheter balloon after the procedure was over, I reflected on how crazy the past few hours were. They were almost seamless with the team working together as one unit. I recalled the numbers signifying chamber pressures mumbled through the headset, the precision of the interventionalist’s hands guiding the wire into the heart using only 2D images to guide her, and the immense gratitude of the baby’s parents at the success of the procedure. Dr. Whiteside and I went through the procedure in more detail afterwards, she had just completed closing an atrial septal defect, a hole between two of the chambers (atria) of the heart. I was able to conduct a pre-operative clinic visit, shadow Dr. Whiteside (a pediatric interventional cardiologist), and learn more about the field of Pediatric Cardiology through the apprenticeship in the Branches, the last phase of our curriculum.
An apprenticeship allows for students to work with a faculty member once a week. Depending on your field of interest, this can be in a clinic, which allows for the opportunity of following patients longitudinally, or in the OR if procedures are more of your interest. The flexibility of the Branches allowed me to do both. I was able to work with Dr. Whiteside in her clinic, see patients independently, and establish longitudinal relationships with patients and their families. I was also able to shadow her and her colleagues in the catheterization lab, which furthered my passion for pediatric cardiology.
The apprenticeships also give you a closer look into the life of an attending physician. It allows you to build a closer, longitudinal relationship with a faculty member and develops into a mentorship role as well. I was able to work with Dr. Whiteside and learn from a clinical perspective, but our conversations spanned from tips for applying into residency to her experience as a fellow and attending in Pediatric Cardiology to our favorite episodes of House Hunters. This kind of relationship and coaching would not have been possible without a program like the apprenticeship, or the Branches.
Nishma Valikodath is a fourth year medical student, originally from Michigan. Apart from medicine, her passions include global health, running, and talking about her family.