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Medical student spends four weeks volunteering in Shanghai hospital

Joseph Milano

Joseph Miano (20), with the ambition of becoming a surgeon after med-school, traveled to China to do an internship during his summer break at Renji Hospital. “Med-school is very competitive and I needed to do something that would differentiate me from other people in my position, something that would be attractive to future employers while at the same time gaining some meaningful experience for myself.”

Renji Hospital was founded in 1844 and it was Shanghai’s first hospital, and the second in China, to adopt a western approach to healthcare. Over the past 160 years it has combined medical treatment and teaching with scientific research. Now, the hospital covers an area of over 90,000 square meters with over a thousand beds and almost 2500 staff members. The hospital treats an average of two million patients a year with over 30,000 operations. In a city with around 24 million people, the size of Renji is not surprising.

Joseph’s responsibility at Renji was to shadow the surgeons and observe different procedures while in theater. He worked in the neurosurgery department and the cardiothoracic department. “Every day I got to work right next to the surgeons, observe the rounds, learn about different diseases, and got an insight into the day-to-day life of a surgeon in practice. The doctors were always very friendly and explained each procedure clearly and they really enjoyed having me around because they got to practice their English.”

A typical day for Joseph started at 7:30am when he attended a morning meeting with the doctors, followed by shadowing the doctors on their rounds. In the late morning he observed surgery in the theater room for around four to five hours. “One of the most interesting days I had at work was when I was in the theater observing a surgery for nine hours. The patient had esophagus cancer and it was an extremely complicated procedure that involved the doctors making three different holes in three different places!”

In addition to this nine hour surgery, Joseph observed a brain tumor removal, hemorrhage surgery, hydrocephalus surgery, lung cancer removal, and even open-heart surgery. “I have never seen what the inside of the body looks like before and it was fascinating to see how the human body fits together.”

During Joseph’s brief time in China, it is obvious that he has learnt a great deal. “Shadowing experience is an unspoken requirement to get into med-school, so this internship has been extremely useful, but what was the most inspiring was to actually see the surgeons in action. Prior to this experience I have only studied the theory behind surgical procedures, so seeing these procedures in practice has been a worthwhile experience.” His daily interaction with the surgeons at work was also a rewarding experience for Joseph. “I have really found out what it means to be a surgeon and they were a great help explaining about surgical diseases and the steps that you have to take to fix them.”

Read more about Medicine in China.

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