Obstacles Surfacing

Again, here we are, 25% the way through this program. Two out of our eight weeks flew by. So far, these two weeks of this program have been some of the highlights of my college experience. I’m excited for the last 75% to come. However, I don’t want it to fly. I want to savor every last bit of it, like the last bites of your favorite dessert. I want to feel, experience, memorize, and document this journey. I know the next six will feel like two. I won’t let it go without immersing myself. I’ve always lived by the motto; I’d rather regret that I did rather than didn’t. I’m going to make sure when I’m sitting in my bed in the late hours of the night in Pittsburgh in late August that I never think I should’ve done something. Instead, do it now.

Transitioning to the week’s highlights, I believe I had an action-packed week. My first three days weren’t spent with the research team I will be spending the rest of the next two months with, but shadowing a Pediatric Cardiologist, named Dr. Lunze. Her field is relevant to my work because it’s also heart-related research. Dr. Lunze and her team were excellent: welcoming, informative, and encouraging. Throughout the three days, I learned to read an echocardiogram of the heart, a diagram of the heart used to look at the structure and function of its chambers and valves by utilizing the refraction of ultrasonic waves. I learned how to read transthoracic (TTE) and transesophageal (TEE). A TTE is much more common by putting the probe to the patient’s chest and abdomen. Meanwhile, the less common alternative TEE is completed by placing the probe down the patient’s throat via a tube. A TEE is more detailed as it’s closer to the heart, but doing this procedure dictates putting the patient under sedation. If the patient is very old, it poses a significant health risk, so it’s used in isolated situations, unlike the TTE.

In addition to the echos, I learned how to read an MRI. I was fortunate to see the results of some of the most advanced surgeries through an MRI. The MRI was used to confirm the previous surgery’s placements of arteries, valves, and stents. Reading an MRI is a skill that needs extensive practice to get truly good at, but I got to learn the basics.

After my three days with Dr. Lunze, I finally got to meet with Dr. Heidecker and her team, whom I will be researching for the next two months. The hospital was massive and maze-like; with turning every corner, there was another department. I got the usual lab safety course, introductions, and equipment walk-through there. One definitive difference between doing research in the US and Germany is that Germans emphasize communal cleanliness and mindfulness more. In the US, the benches are disorganized and dirty. Meanwhile, here constant cleaning and mindfulness were emphasized and portrayed by the spotless and organized benches.

After the introductions, I got to talk to Dr. Suwalski about what I’d be doing over the next two months. Dr. Suwalski is a medical student who should be finishing medical school at the end of this year. Germany uses the six-year system to finish medical school rather than four of college and then four of medical school. Regardless, he explained three main opportunities: lab work, creating databases, and editing papers. He explained that the choice was up to me of what I wanted. Being a native English speaker in a foreign country allows me to write and edit papers, which I wasn’t afforded in America. Having my name on a paper seems realistic, and I’m excited about that opportunity because I have done research since my senior year of high school and have never had that chance. Of course, that isn’t my main goal, but it would be nice. Now at days, research is measured solely by publications.

Transitioning to the prompt, I find time management at my lab relatively easy. I’m not constantly monitored, so the discretion is genuinely up to me. It just comes down to time consumption and prioritization. For example, if my superior needs something done now, that is being prioritized first. However, protocols in research sometimes take hours to finish and then couple more hours to rest. So planning out when to start, complete, and rest a protocol is challenging and needs to be constantly juggled.

Last, my definition of spirituality hasn’t changed. However, my view on how to obtain it has expanded. I’ve realized the things that make you the happiest consistently are the small things. I’ve had this idea that the overall bigger goal is what will make me the most joyful, which may be true. However, the more minor things allow you to keep your mind fresh and optimistic on your journey to traveling to your overarching goal. So I guess the devil is in the details.