Erasing Any Ounce of Doubt

This is the final part of series of posts by recipients of the 2020 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Tara McCaffrey, COL ’21

Tara McCaffrey standing in front of a boatThis past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to intern at Jenkins NeuroSpine. Although we were (and still are) in the midst of a global pandemic, I was fortunate enough to have an enriching outlet that was my summer internship. During my 10-week experience, I conducted clinical research on a condition called Bertolotti’s Syndrome, which is the clinical presentation of pain that results from a congenital spinal anomaly called a lumbosacral transitional vertebra (LSTV). I am extremely grateful to have gotten first-hand experience in the field of neurosurgery, a field which I often learned about in class as a neuroscience major. Through thorough examination of patient files in various databases, I was able to conglomerate patient data and analyze pain trends based on surgeries performed on the patient and the patient’s LSTV type. I learned the stories of each Bertolotti’s patient who was treated through minimally invasive spinal surgery performed by Dr. Jenkins. It was inspiring to learn about patients whose pain greatly decreased or even completely dissolved!

In addition to conducting clinical research, I also had the opportunity to shadow patients during office hours in Jenkins NeuroSpine’s NYC and Connecticut locations. I am thankful to have received a generous grant from Career Services, which I was able to use for transportation and living expenses and allowed me to get the most out of my internship through clinical experience.

Being the first in my family to pursue a career in medicine, this clinical experience provided me with great insight into the daily life of a surgeon, and particularly a neurosurgeon. Starting on my first day in the office, I was welcomed by an amazing staff and was exposed to tons of medical jargon. The importance of patient-physician relationships and the true compassion, patience, and empathy involved were undeniable. I had always wanted to pursue a career in medicine but questioned if I would truly enjoy the day-to-day life since I never had the chance to see what it would truly be like; however, my summer experience gave me that chance and erased any ounce of doubt.

At the end of the program, I was tasked with presenting my summer’s work to the team. Although I was nervous to present my research and analysis in a professional setting, I felt extremely prepared by my mentors as I learned valuable skills that are extremely applicable to my journey in research and medicine. My mentors were extremely encouraging and passionate about teaching in addition to their jobs. These relationships made me excited to work every day and allowed me to truly grow as I was never afraid to ask questions.

This summer has provided me great insight into what a future in medicine entails, including all the hard work, dedication, and kindness this kind of pursuit requires. I am more motivated than ever to continue working toward a career in medicine and potentially one in neurosurgery. Although the pandemic definitely impacted the role, I was still lucky enough to retain some in-person opportunities and feel truly immersed in the welcoming environment of Jenkins NeuroSpine. This internship made this summer so enjoyable and is an experience that will stick with me as I continue my journey toward a career in medicine!

By Career Services
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