This week started with an early, chaotic morning since five of us took the 5:40 am Campus to Campus and we arrived around 10:45am. Through getting IDs, setting up internet for our room, and going to the Bioethics meeting part I—ethics in animal research, Monday went by very fast.
On Tuesday, I was able to meet my physician and his post-doc fellow. Dr. David Nanus is an internationally recognized leader in the treatment and care of patients with all types of genitourinary cancers, including prostate cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer and testicular cancer. I have previously been introduced to him in Ithaca when he gave the presentation on current prostate cancer treatments. Due to his role as the clinical chief of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Weill Cornell that consists of over 30 physicians and nurse practitioners, Dr. Nanus seems to be busy all the time therefore our conversation was very brief. He basically asked me what I wanted to achieve during this 6 weeks and I summarized my answer into: “I would like to observe lots of surgeries, see lots of patients, design and conduct lots of experiments.” With a very brief answer “Okay” from Dr. Nanus, I started my 6 week long unforgettable (hopefully) clinical experience.
On Wednesday, I was introduced to Dr. Gunjan Gakhar, the post-doc fellow who works for both Dr. Nanus and Dr. Avi in the Hematology and Oncology Department at Weill Cornell Medical College. We discussed the project plan for this summer, which involves harvesting patient blood sample and using functionalized selectin and antibody surfaces to capture circulating tumor cell. I was really excited when I received an email from Dr. Nanus inviting me to see patients with him on Thursday morning.
Thursday was a long day. I realized that 3rd Floor Suite B was extremely difficult to locate if you are new to the building…Fortunately I gave myself an hour since I am known as someone who has no sense of direction; I was ready to fail multiple times. Finally, I arrived at “Suite B”. Dr. Nanus and I saw ~15 patients for 3 hours. I have to admit that I have trouble understanding some part of the conversations that involved medical terminologies. Some prostate cancer patients did not feel comfortable having me during the physical exam. Others were very excited about telling me their stories and asking whether my research could cure them immediately, which really motivated me to provide novel non-invasive therapies.
Friday was very exciting. Bailey, Cynthia, and I observed an angiography procedure in the morning. The patient had a tiny stent placed successfully in the fermoral artery to open the constricted area. Interestingly, the doctors found that there was a 15 cm stent placed in the other leg 4 years ago, which disturbed the arterial wall therefore caused scar tissue growing over the stent. In the afternoon, after several attempts, I finally managed to scrub in with Dr. Kevin Holcomb from gynecologic oncology for my very first robotic assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System. The patient had uterine myoma and menorrhagia, which was defined as menstrual loss of more than 80 mL. Uterine myomas, also known as fibroids, are tumors that grow from the wall of the uterus. Most fibroids are benign; malignant fibroids are rare. The patient wanted to preserve the ovaries and thus made the procedure more complicated since the surgeons had to cut around the fallopian tubes, lots of blood vessels and connective tissues to remove the uterus that was invaded by fibroids.
I enjoyed my first week in the city with a balance of observing surgeries, running experiments, and having fun with friends (lots of walking and trying new restaurants). Next week, I plan to observe several prostate cancer and retinoblastoma surgeries with the hope of gaining better understanding of the disease.