Department of Surgery

Summer Surgery Program: Hayley Leonard

Media Component
Hayley Leonard gives a presentation about her experience as a Summer Surgery Student.

As a Baylor Business fellow and pre-medicine student I recognize the importance of seeking experience that makes a positive impression. Through the Michael E. DeBakey Summer Surgery Program I found, and thoroughly enjoyed, that experience over this past summer. I worked within the Department of Pediatric Plastic Surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas.

The Michael E. DeBakey Summer Surgery Program is designed to give undergraduate students the opportunity to gain a small glimpse into the life of a surgeon. One aspect of the program allowed me to become familiar with the clinic and the operating room by routinely observing physicians, working with their surgical teams, and actually scrubbing in to observe surgical procedures. For eight weeks I worked at the hospital 7-10 hours per day in order to learn more about the field of surgery. Another aspect of the program was the weekly brown bag lunches. During these meetings, special guests would discuss their respective fields of surgery including reconstructive and plastic, trauma, cardiothoracic, and orthopedic surgeries. Besides this, the discussions would often include current events in medicine and healthcare policy, academic surgery, and public versus private practice. I was also able to participate in basic simulation labs. These labs provided a practical way to hone my dexterity skills, basic suturing techniques, and microsurgery applications.

It was an honor to be assigned to the Department of Pediatric Plastic Surgery, an area that I have a strong interest in. Within the department, the work week began at 7 a.m. sharp on Monday mornings where case conferences were held to discuss the cases and treatment plans for the week. I listened, fascinated, as the cases unfolded. I chuckle now as I think back on the first few weeks. Initially, I only observed due to my limited knowledge of the cases discussed. As I interacted with the staff and patients, my knowledge increased along with my understanding of procedures and case studies. I began to ask questions regarding particularly interesting cases and to my surprise, the physicians readily answered.

What I sought from this program was the opportunity to work within a team and garner wisdom from seasoned physicians. What I discovered was how relational medicine can be. This relational aspect became my favorite part of the program. I had the privilege of working with a multitude of brilliant physicians, PAs, nurses and techs who made this experience the highlight of my summer. We shared laughter, and sometimes sobering moments. I remember one particularly vivid OR experience that involved an infant who needed surgery. I walked through the OR doors and stepped near the physician to gain a better view, as per usual. I was astonished as I saw the patient before me because the patient was blind, having anophthalmia (the absence of one or both eyes). It broke my heart to see an infant with such a condition. I later talked with the doctor regarding the future of this child. As I listened, the future did not sound too bright for the child, but the doctor had hope. She was determined to do everything in her power to ease the burden of this patient and their family.

The DeBakey Summer Surgery Program was like a breath of fresh air. Over the course of two months I gained the confidence to interact with medical professionals, converse about medical topics and assist other medical staff members when needed (which was frequently well received by the staff). I was also able to witness people selflessly working their hardest to make tangible impacts in the lives of their patients, which inspired me even further to continue my course in the field of medicine.