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August 2007 Issue

Alison Goldsmith, of Kenyon College, learns the art of intubating from UC anesthesiologist Lindsey Nelson, MD.
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Summer Program Gives Top Students a Preview of Life as a Doctor

By Amanda Harper
Published August 2007

Science-savvy undergraduate students contemplating medical school can get a crash course in what it takes to become a surgeon during a summer education program at UC College of Medicine.

The competitive program—called the Summer Surgery Experience—is a 10-day intensive course that allows mostly college juniors, seniors and recent graduates to learn more about careers in surgery through medical observation, scientific lectures and handson experiences that include gross anatomy and clinical skills labs.

First offered in summer 2005, the program aims to stimulate interest in medicine among the nation’s top science students and increase enrollment at the UC College of Medicine.

“Medical school is a major commitment, but many students have trouble finding experiences outside the classroom that might help them learn more about medicine before deciding to pursue that path,” explains Walter Merrill, MD, a professor of surgery and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UC. “The summer surgery program addresses that need among college-level students.”

Merrill partnered with fellow cardiothoracic surgeon John Flege, MD, and Laura Wexler, MD, cardiologist and associate dean for student affairs and admissions at UC, to bring what they believe is a one-of-a-kind undergraduate education program to UC.

Although the curriculum initially focused on the medical and surgical treatment of heart and vascular disease, it has since evolved to incorporate other surgical disciplines. Pre-med students get the unique chance to observe surgical procedures from inside the operating room, shadow surgeons on patient rounds and participate in patient case discussions.

In just three years, administrators say the program is already making an impact by increasing awareness and interest in the UC College of Medicine among top students outside the Tristate region.

“Students from top universities across the country are participating in our program and getting excited about what the UC College of Medicine has to offer, then spreading that message to their friends,” says Jennifer Rosichan, director of student affairs and recruitment programs. “That’s a powerful recruitment tool that increases our visibility outside the region.”

In 2006, the program accepted just 10 of 100 applicants for one session.

The 2007 program had 140 applicants from across the country and accepted 24—their grade point average was 3.8 in both science and cumulative coursework—for two 10-day sessions held in June.

Sarah Dawson, who completed the summer surgery program in 2004 and returned as a teaching assistant this year, says the program was an enriching experience that she would recommend to anyone considering medical school.

“I really wanted exposure to the field to make sure it was something I truly wanted to do,” explains Dawson, a 2007 Xavier University graduate who will start medical school at UC later this year. “The summer surgery program gave me a good vision of the profession and left me with a stronger desire to pursue a career in medicine.”

Aside from learning about the anatomy of the heart and basic skills such as intubating, suturing and taking blood pressure, she says hearing doctors talk about how they manage both a professional and personal life was a very valuable lesson.

“I needed to know that being a doctor wouldn’t prevent me from having a personal life—I want to devote 100 percent to both my patients and my family,” says Dawson. “After talking with surgeons, particularly the females, I felt confident I could do both.”

For more information on the Summer Surgery Experience, visit The program will begin accepting applications for 2008 in January.

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