The voice of the student body

The Dial

The voice of the student body

The Dial

The voice of the student body

The Dial

Putting Passion into Practice

How seniors are spending their last weeks at Hackley
Credit: Alex Schiller
Alex Schiller spent her senior project at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, shadowing orthopedic surgeons and observing various surgeries. Despite the early mornings and long hours, Alex found the experience transformative and inspiring, pursuing her passion for a career in medicine.

Have you ever dreamed of a specific career since you were a child? The perfect chance to spend a whole month immersing yourself in this career is something that seniors get to experience. Senior projects are a great opportunity for Hackley seniors to explore internships in areas of their choice. Seniors can either find a project on their own or get matched by filling out a survey, which helps them connect with a mentor. Some students also choose to create their own projects to work on, such as a cookbook or podcast. This year, seniors have chosen projects in a variety of sectors that match their interests. 

Some students have decided to explore the medical field for their projects. At least four students are working at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. Alex Schiller is one of the students who shadowed different physicians at HSS. The physicians that Alex shadowed were either Hackley alumni or parents of Hackley students, all of whom were orthopedic surgeons. 

During Alex’s internship, she woke up at the crack of dawn every morning to catch the Metro North to New York City. Throughout the few weeks she interned at HSS, she repeated a two-day schedule. On Mondays and Thursdays, she spent her time in the clinic, visiting patients and discussing their symptoms. She also reviewed X-rays and MRIs with the doctors whom she shadowed. Most of the clinic days, she shadowed Dr. McLawhorn and Dr. Ranawat. Both of the physicians she worked with specialized in hip and knee replacements. All of the patients she visited were extremely grateful for everything the surgeons had done for them. 

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, she spent time in the operating room. 

“The time I spent in the OR was my favorite part of the week. I watched about 18 full hip replacements, 12 total knee replacements, and two spinal surgeries, which consisted of spinal fusions and the removal of herniated discs within the spine,” Alex said.  

When Alex was in the OR, she observed surgeries from the monitor while standing next to the active surgeon, who walked her through every step of the surgery. During her time in the OR, she shadowed Dr. Boettner, Dr. McLawhorn, and Dr. Sandhu.

The days Alex spent in the OR were her longest. She woke up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a train to the city, leaving herself enough time. Once she arrived, she would watch the anesthesiologist prepare the patients for their surgery. 

“I was very excited to be able to watch the anesthesia process as well because one of my cousins is becoming an anesthesiologist, so it was fascinating to see what he will be doing in a couple of months,” she said.

All of the anesthesiologists she spent her time with were very kind, explaining every step of the procedure in great detail. During the hip and knee replacements, Alex learned that the patients are able to breathe on their own and do not require intubation. Since the patients can breathe independently, the anesthesiologist puts nerve blocks down the patient’s spine to ensure they do not feel anything during the surgery. This was an interesting discovery for Alex during her time at HSS, as she was not aware of this before her project.

During her time at HSS, one thing that Alex did not like was the smell of the cement that they used to keep the bone implants in place. 

Before working at HSS, Alex had always thought of hospitals as scary and stressful places, but her perception changed after working there. HSS proved to be a very welcoming and considerate environment for Alex during her time there.

Reflecting on her senior project, she said, “Not only was it an awesome experience of meeting and connecting with all of the doctors, but it also helped me practice what I love, follow my passion, and pursue my career in medicine.”

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