In late May, I and 13 other community members had the opportunity to participate in the Community Rounds Internship Program at the UVM Medical Center.  In addition to learning specific things about the hospital, such as infection rates, we all had an opportunity to shadow different health care providers.  I had the very good fortune of being able to work with a cardiologist and an orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Prospero (“Perky”) Gogo was the cardiologist I shadowed.  Dr. Gogo not only allowed me to witness two catheterizations but he also took time to teach me about stents and arterial blockages. Before the two procedures he showed me tapes of actual blocked arteries so I’d know what to look for. He gave me a book that visually depicted the stent and its balloon so I could understand what the procedure was actually trying to do. We talked about the use of drugs that could be used instead of or in addition to the actual stent. And I learned what most likely saved my mother from having a major stroke 18 years ago; an injection that opened up the arteries in her brain.

The next day I observed Dr. John Macy repairing a rotator cuff. Yes, I was scrubbed from my feet to my head. Because it was micro-surgery the real action took place on a video monitor over the operating area. Dr. Macy’s attention to detail was amazing – from his special type of suture knot to his “suture management”. I honestly couldn’t take my eyes off the screen as he so deftly repaired the torn cuff. And once again, he became my teacher as he completed the procedure, explaining to me what he was doing and why.  Dr. Macy also showed me the MRI images and what the injured part of the shoulder looked like before the surgery.

To say I learned a lot from my internship would be a huge understatement. I came away from the experience understanding in a very small but real way why it takes so long to become a doctor and be able to operate on patients. There is so much to learn and know and understand – and to be able to accurately diagnose takes unbelievable skill and knowledge.

In my real life I serve as a trustee on a hospital board. I believe that it’s very important for board members to understand as much as they can about the institution, its medical and non-medical personnel and its services. Obviously having a two-day internship doesn’t provide you with one heck of a lot of information, but it does expose you to the inside workings of the essence of a medical facility. I’m better informed now than I was before the internship. And I’m certainly more aware of the incredible skills, knowledge and dedication our hospital personnel have. For that alone, I will be a better board member – and, undoubtedly – a better human being. Thank you UVM Medical Center!

Greg Voorheis interned at the UVM Medical Center’s Community Rounds program in May 2012.  He is the senior grant manager for the Vermont Department of Labor and is a member of the Board of Trustees at Central Vermont Medical Center.

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