CCPA Summer Series 2021: Health Career Opportunity Program at NYU Rusk Rehabilitation

By: Trea St.Hillaire ’23

Funding Source: Primary Care Pre-Medical Internship

When I applied to the Health Career Opportunity Program (HCOP), my goal was to gain experience in the medical field as well as insight into daily life on the job of an emergency medicine doctor. The program is based at NYU Langone Hospital in New York City and is meant to give students exposure to the medical field. Within the HCOP, there were multiple specialty programs in various departments that students could participate in. The program I was in specialized in emergency medicine. Although the bulk of my time was spent in the ER, the program was holistic, so I got to spend some time shadowing physicians in sports medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, immediate care, observation and short-stay medicine, pediatric emergency medicine, stroke care, and even social workers. With emergency medicine, I would go to different emergency departments within NYU Langone to gain a sense of how various emergency departments operated. I went to the emergency departments at NYU-Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, and Tisch Hospital. My day would start by heading to the department I was scheduled to be in that day at around 8 a.m. I would spend 6 hours in that department, until 2 p.m., then head to the lecture hall in Tisch Hospital at 3 p.m. for an hour lecture on various topics to do with the medical field. Some of these topics included applying to medical school, learning about less common specialties, and euthanasia. 

Although I came into this program for emergency medicine, I found out by the end of the program that emergency medicine was not for me. Even though the emergency department can be fast-paced and very exciting, I learned that patient relationships are very important to me. I found that the doctor’s job in the emergency room is to determine if the complaint you are coming in for is life-threatening or not. If the complaint is not life-threatening, emergency care physicians focus on making you comfortable, for example through pain medication, and connecting you to a primary care physician that can see you for the complaint moving forward or a specialist. At most, emergency care physicians do not spend more than 10 minutes with a patient as they are trying to move patients in and out of the emergency department as quickly as possible. Once the patient has left the emergency department, rarely do emergency care physicians see them again. It was in my other rotations in departments such as cardiology, neurology, and sports medicine did I see physicians develop more of a relationship with their patients. In sports medicine, the patients are recurring, and in neurology and cardiology, patients usually spend a decent amount of time in the department, days or even weeks. What I found very interesting about cardiology and neurology was that every morning, for a couple of hours, the team would congregate and talk about each patient, discussing their progress, health problems, chief issue, and treatment.  After this discussion, the team would make their daily rounds together to see each patient, perform tests, ask them how they are doing, and update them on their treatment. This gave the physicians more time to form bonds with the patient and get to know them. I really value this aspect of medicine, which is why I no longer see emergency medicine as my top choice. This experience was invaluable because in no other setting would I have had the opportunity to discover this about myself.