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Marquis Scholars Cara Hueston ’07 (Clintondale, N.Y) and Laura Danberg ’06 (Hockessin, Del.), along with Jenna Kelly ’07 (Bethlehem, Pa.), were able to catch a glimpse of the hectic and multi-dimensional lives they would lead if they choose to become doctors.

During a three-day externship, they shadowed Carmela Pané ’78, associate director and physician in the neonatology department at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J.

The women are among more than 200 Lafayette students who gained first-hand knowledge of the professional world in January. They served externships with alumni and other experienced professionals in business, the arts, education, healthcare, law, engineering, science, government, non-profits, and other fields. The students observed work practices, learned about careers they may consider entering after college, and developed professional networking contacts.

“I have been debating, and I still don’t know, if I want to do something following graduation that’s research-oriented or go to medical school,” says Hueston, a double major in neuroscience and English. “But this definitely got me thinking about going to medical school more because I like the interaction with people.”

Since she already had decided to attend medical school, Danberg, a biology major, wanted to use the externship program to see what being a doctor is really like.

Kelly, a biology major, says she plans on going to medical school and used the externship program to learn if she would like to pursue a medical specialty.

In addition to helping shape the students’ future decisions, the experience provided them the rare opportunity to get some early hands-on experience in a field where doing is an essential part of learning.

“It’s not often you get to have hands-on exposure to actual job positions, so I thought I would take advantage of that,” Kelly says. “I had a conversation once with a mechanic and he said it was hard to find good help because all of the kids coming out of school are book smart. I think that applies to every profession and career.”

“I began participating in the program because I wanted students to get an idea of what it’s like to be physician,” says Pané, who has hosted externships for several years. “A lot of the students I get are female because they want to go into pediatrics and I think it’s important that they get a woman role model to show how a career and a family can be handled with success because it’s a pretty intense field. So many times they want to go into medicine, but they’re afraid because they’ve gotten negative feedback. I hope to show them it’s a wonderful field.”

“Wonderful” is just one of the ways the students describe their experience, which included examining babies, going on rounds, meeting with other doctors, and watching a cesarean section.

“We had such a good time,” Hueston says. “Dr. Pané was amazing. She had answers to all of our questions, and when she was too busy, she had another doctor take us around. She was always very thoughtful. She had such great advice and she explained how she handled things on a day-to-day basis.”

Danberg says the hands-on nature of the externship made it more beneficial than expected.

“We performed exams on the babies and she would ask us to determine what was wrong. It was a better way to learn about doing something than reading about it in a book,” she says.

Kelly says that observing Pané as she cared for the premature babies and worked with their parents gave her insight into some other skills successful doctors need to possess.

“It’s always been one of my dreams to be a doctor, and watching Dr. Pané interact with people made me want that even more because I think I would be good at dealing with people at that level,” she says.

The externship taught the students that being a doctor is much more complicated than it seems.

“Dr. Pané has a lot of problems that come in and she has to keep on top of all of the issues that come up and have knowledge of so many things because no problem is ever the same,” Hueston says. “Her job is never routine and she consistently has to plan out new ways to help the children get better. As a doctor, you need to have great problem solving skills.”

Danberg adds that Pané gave them valuable glimpses into her life as a busy doctor.

“We asked her about how going to medical school, her job, and being on call all the time affected her and she gave us straight-up insight about what it was like and what her life is like right now,” she says.

Pané says that exposing the externs to her vast number of responsibilities is what makes the experience so beneficial.

“When I was a student, we had to go out on our own to try and get outside internships and externships,” she says. “This experience is nice because the students get to work with physicians and get an idea of whether this is something they can do.

“By trying to explain what I’m doing, it really brings back all of the joy I had when I decided I wanted to be a doctor. It’s a nice feeling to see these kids starting out with that same good feeling and to try and be a role model for young women. I get a lot of pleasure from seeing them get excited about their first delivery, examining their first patient, and listening to their first heartbeat – it’s nice to see their enthusiasm.”

Hueston is captain of the women’s rugby team and a resident adviser.

Danberg is treasurer for the crew club and volunteers through the Landis Community Outreach Center with the Big Brother Big Sister program.

Kelly is a peer counselor and a member of Nia, a multicultural women’s group.

Categorized in: Academic News