Continuity Clinic Gives Med Students a Glimpse into Life as a Surgeon

February 28, 2019

Two generations of continuity clinic students. On Dr. Mary Hawn's right, Dr. Charlotte Rajasingh—now a general surgery intern—was Hawn's student last year while MS4 Sarah Miller is this year's student. 

A surgeon’s life is shrouded in mystery. Rarely do laypeople interact with surgeons unless under extreme duress and/or sedatives and entrance to an operating room is tighter than an exclusive club. Such obstacles make it difficult for medical students to know if specializing in surgery is a path they want to pursue.

“I hadn’t had any exposure to surgery before,” said MS2 Anna Carroll, who enrolled in INDE290/291 last year. “I thought it would be great to have a structured shadow experience.”

In addition to the core clerkship, Stanford Surgery offers two opportunities for medical students to immerse themselves in the surgical community: INDE290/291: Walk With Me and FAMMED310A: Continuity Clinic.

“These electives give medical students a chance to experience a ‘day in the life’ of a surgeon,” said Dr. Jim Lau, director of the Goodman Surgical Education Center.

INDE290 is an elective course for first year medical students that explores health and the health care system from a patient’s perspective. INDE291 is the class’s companion clinical application.

“I had questions about what life was like as a surgeon,” said Khristian Bauer-Rowe, who—like Carroll—was paired with Bariatric Surgeon Dr. Dan Azagury through INDE291 earlier this year. “The program has given me the opportunity to see patients before, during, and after an operation.”

Bauer-Rowe says seeing patient care from a longitudinal perspective has not only informed him about the patient’s experience, but the surgeon’s as well.

“Seeing that change of pace helped inform me a little more about the role of a surgeon both in the OR and the clinic as well,” said Bauer Rowe. “I also learned that different surgical specialties have different lifestyle requirements and varying amounts of flexibility.”

Dr. Lawrence Cai said his FAMMED310A experience as an MS3 helped him narrow his interest in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery where he is now an intern.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities to do plastics in the regular med school curriculum,” said Cai, who shadowed Dr. Gordon Lee. “[Continuity clinic] was a really awesome experience that allowed me to build my confidence and realize my interest in micro and hand surgery.”

MS4 Sarah Miller, who has been shadowing Department Chair Dr. Mary Hawn since October 2017, has prepared her for the transition into residency and handling cases of her own.

“Getting really good constructive feedback over time has helped me develop and hone my own style of seeing patients,” said Miller. “Dr. Hawn was also an incredible advocate throughout the [residency] application process. I am so grateful for her mentorship.”

Although Miller says she has chosen to go into OB/GYN, she doesn’t regret her experience in Hawn’s clinic.

“Personally, I think all medical students should take this class. I would say it was one of the most formative during my years at Stanford,” said Miller. “It doesn’t matter what specialty I go into, I will use all of the skills I learned in my continuity clinic clerkship.”