Nicole Crofton ’18 @ University of Vermont College of Medicine

Posted on Posted in Externships, Student Contributor, Summer Opportunities

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Shadowing Dr. Greenblatt for the week was an amazing opportunity that greatly exceeded my expectations. From the informative tour of Burlington that he gave my parents and myself, to letting me feel the massive tumor in the abdomen of a patient- I could not have asked for a better experience. Not only that, but with the combination of his academic and clinical work, it was as if I was shadowing two different people. It was exceptionally informative to see these two aspects of the scientific world, and it was even better to see how one person could be so brilliant in both.

I got the chance to sit in on meetings with doctors specializing in various fields and it was an honor to be in the presence of such brilliant minds. Dr. Greenblatt also took the time to explain, at great length, his genetic research with scientists across the globe. It was satisfying to see how well I understood the fundamentals of his research after taking cellular biology and genetics. From the p53 gene, to the use of immunotherapy, to the discovery of the SRC gene, I surprised myself with how much relevant information I had learned this year at Gettysburg. I also got the chance to listen in on some of Dr. Greenblatt’s conference calls with some of his collaborators and it was really interesting to experience scientific research in action. We also worked with the UVM genetic counselors to review cases of gene mutations that may be linked to familial cancer in patients. I think this is an incredibly fascinating line of work and I appreciate how far genetics has advanced throughout the years.

Although I loved and admired Dr. Greenblatt’s academic work, I found working with his oncology patients to be the most rewarding experience. Learning the heartbreaking stories of these amazing people was quite humbling. It was a privilege to get to speak with his patients and it made me appreciate how invaluable one’s health is. While observing some nurses administer chemotherapy, I got the chance to converse with an elderly woman and her husband who had been at the hospital all day. They asked me about school, soccer, and my externship program. They both seemed so genuinely interested in my life that they even gave me some advice on my soccer career. I loved that I was able to distract them for a little while from what I imagine was an extremely difficult day. Across the board, the patients inspired and uplifted me with their courage and generosity of spirit, solidifying my determination to become a doctor.

I learned more about medicine, research, life, and myself in this short week than I had in all my 20 years of life. I am infinitely grateful for this experience and I truly believe it is something that I will carry with me for a lifetime.