• Students pictured: Justin McCormack ’20, Ana Sanchez de Tagle Cardenas ’22, Madison Delmer ’19, and Megan Melo ’21.

Ana Sanchez de Tagle Cardenas ’22

My name is Ana Sanchez de Tagle Cardenas, I am class of 2022, and I am currently pursuing a B.S. in biochemistry with a minor in physics. I am completing a baccalaureate training program for the Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgical program at UTHealth [the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston] paired with Memorial Hermann Hospital and McGovern School of Medicine.

My internship ranged from June 3 to August 3, 2019. Every day, I go into the operating room and observe several different procedures. I ask questions of the surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and technicians, and I ask them just about every question you could think of. I also work on a systematic review research project in the afternoons with my partner, Megan Melo ’21.

During this experience, I have had to overcome several professional challenges, like having the courage to ask a question in a room where everyone else is smarter than me. Being surrounded by this competitive environment in an area with such innovation in medicine has certainly given me a clearer goal for myself, the biggest take away being to gain my motivation back for school and to continue on this difficult path that I have chosen. 

Justin McCormack ’20

I am Justin McCormack, a rising senior biochemistry major and biology minor in the class of 2020 at Southwestern. I was a part of the UTHealth–Houston/Memorial Hermann Hospital summer internship program with Dr. Eyal Porat P’21, a cardiothoracic surgeon for UTHealth-Houston and Memorial Hermann.

This internship spanned from June to August for nine weeks and took place in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas. During this time, we worked with numerous cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons within the department, observing cases and watching them make decisions and also discuss important treatments with patients in the clinic. In addition, we worked on a medical research project incorporating cardiothoracic and vascular health under the guidance of Dr. Miller and Dr. Sandhu, researchers for the department.

From the operating room to the medical lectures at McGovern Medical School, we saw the life of an academic teaching hospital and connected with many medical students, residents, fellows, and attending physicians on their tips for pursuing a career in medicine. A typical day’s routine followed attending medical lectures and conferences in the morning from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., watching cases and complex operations or clinic shadowing from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., having lunch from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., and conducting medical research from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The major goals that I accomplished were following the life of a surgeon on a daily basis and learning more about the training required for a surgical career. I also learned an immense amount about medical research and how these projects truly improve the lives of patients worldwide. An unforeseen challenge that I was able to overcome during this internship was the endurance in standing for six or more hours during complex and challenging procedures. However, I soon gained this endurance over the summer and was able to witness an amazing variety of surgical procedures and cutting-edge treatments.

The greatest takeaway from this internship was how much I loved the field of surgery, including the preparation it takes and the research process on improving techniques, and seeing the immense amount of good surgeons do for all patients. This internship has completely confirmed my desire to pursue a career in medicine and has led me toward wanting to pursue a surgical career with a subspecialty in oncology. I plan to continue taking challenging science courses at Southwestern and know that this internship has given me a lot of background knowledge on the cardiovascular system and diseases, anatomy, and physiology and the medical research process, which will only complement my studies further in medical school and at Southwestern.

Megan Melo ’21 

I am a junior pre-med biology major planning to graduate in 2021, hoping to go to medical school to become an anesthesiologist. The UTHealth McGovern (in the Texas Medical Center) internship with Dr. Porat and the entire cardiovascular surgery department at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute has been one of the most amazing opportunities I have ever received. For two months, I have been able to watch open-heart and endovascular surgeries from feet or sometimes even inches away. I also got to partake and learn about clinical research into health issues related to cardiovascular surgery. This showed me an entirely new and exciting side of research that I had never been exposed to or knew existed. Further, I got to sit in on conferences and meetings between doctors, residents, fellows, and medical students to truly learn more about the intricacies of medical practice and new innovative techniques.

One of the most worthwhile aspects of this internship was the ability to talk to surgeons, nurses, medical students, residents, and (most importantly to me) anesthesiologists about their decisions to become a healthcare professional and what they believed were the most important qualities in their profession. I learned more about what happens in medical school and my options after medical school that really helped me feel more secure in taking on my journey to becoming a doctor because it illuminated some of the misery around where my path will take me. One of the biggest challenges in this internship was building up the confidence to ask questions of surgeons and anesthesiologists, as they were very intimidating to me. But once I decided to speak up and tried to understand what the doctors were saying while asking clarifying questions, I realized that the UTHealth/Memorial Hermann staff were some of the most intelligent and kind professionals I had ever met. They truly cared about my education and wanted to foster my growth.

The conversations I had with various anesthesiologists confirmed my dream of becoming an anesthesiologist as I learned about their schedules, job responsibilities, and most important qualities. Other than the medical knowledge I gathered while participating in this internship, one of my biggest takeaways was believing and being comfortable in my own intelligence and able to ask when I needed help. This is something I can apply to my education at Southwestern as I will be able to go directly to a professor and feel comfortable asking questions and not feeling stupid for doing so.  

Another takeaway I had from this internship was an aspect of my own personal growth. Coming from a tiny rural town in California, I was very anxious to move into downtown Houston, by myself, and learn to navigate the city and its public transportation. I’ve grown my own confidence in myself as a young adult in that I can live alone and learn how to perform daily tasks while balancing my internship schedule. I’ve also learned that just because you are scared to be in a new environment, it is an amazing opportunity to grow into a better person.

Madison Delmer 21

I am a biology and business double major and will be graduating in the spring of 2021. I wish to attend medical school and eventually settle in a career in sports medicine, hopefully as the physician for a sports team. This summer, I participated as one of four undergraduate research fellows in the Cardiothoracic and Vascular Department of Memorial Hermann and Hospital UTHealth Houston. This internship was sponsored by Dr. Eyal Porat P’21, and we worked closely with him as well as Dr. Charles Miller and Dr. Harleen Sandhu as we delved into the world of surgery and clinical research. 

We spent two months observing world-class cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons, fellows, and residents in the operating room during their cases. We were able to see the ins and outs of the operating room, and it was incredible to see the way professionals with many different backgrounds came together to better a patient’s life. We also attended lectures and department rounds at McGovern Medical School three times a week which was fascinating. Interacting with surgeons, fellow, residents, and medical students outside of the operating room gave a glimpse into the many facets of life in medicine. Along with observing, we were also given the opportunity to develop and begin a clinical research project that brought together orthopedics and cardiovascular surgery. 

One of the hardest parts of this internship was gaining the courage to ask questions in an operating room. The whole room had more experience than me and it was difficult to admit when I didn’t know something. But once I started asking questions, I found that I learned more and better understood the surgery itself and the reasons why it was happening. I am now able to better communicate with people. I was timid around strangers before but now am much more confident about asking questions and learning. 

The most influential part of this internship for me was getting to communicate with all of the different people that make surgery possible. Whether it was a nurse or a surgical technician or a medical student, everybody had a job and it was fascinating to see the well-oiled machine that is an operating room. It was also extremely helpful to learn the different paths that everybody took to end up where they are. All of the different perspectives I heard will help me immensely in the future as I continue on academically. I will hopefully feel more comfortable asking questions inside and outside of class. I still plan on going into the field of sports medicine but this internship made me seriously consider orthopedic surgery as a pathway into the field. I have never had such personal encounter with medicine and I will never forget the things I learned in the company of many brilliant minds as we stood around an operating table.