Upstate medical student Alexandra Aarons spent a good part of last summer in Germany, working with neurosurgeons in a hospital for four weeks, followed by a two-week backpacking trip.
“There would be entire 10-hour days that I was able to work in the operating room, and on occasion I was able to scrub in with the surgeons and work one-on-one with them,” Alexandra said. “I had never even seen a surgery before this experience, so my time there was invaluable.”
At the Neurochirurgie Klinik in Dusseldorf, Alexandra went on morning rounds, interacted with patients and observed surgeries. She decided on a surgical specialty because she didn’t know the language that well, and figured it would be best mainly to observe during her internship.
“I stayed in a medical students’ dorm with another international exchange student from Azerbaijan and spent time with many of the German medical students,” Alexandra said. “I learned a lot about the similarities and differences in medical school and medicine as a whole. It was interesting to gain the perspective of Europeans on American culture and medicine, especially since they were very opinionated about our healthcare system.”
Under Germany’s universal health care system, she said, neurosurgery patients were able to stay in the hospital the night before their surgery.
Alexandra was awarded a $500 Susan B. Stearns PhD Scholarship for International Travel for the internship. She said she couldn’t have asked for a better experience or a better summer, and highly recommends an international experience between the first and second year of medical school.
On weekends, she traveled with some of her new international friends to the Netherlands and other parts of Germany. After her stay in Dusseldorf, she went backpacking through Western Europe.
“I am fortunate that Upstate gave me the opportunity to go abroad, which is something that I have always wanted to do, but never had the time to do,” Alexandra said. “I was able to get free housing through the medical school, gain experience in the operating room, work with doctors one-on-one, and get elective credit at Upstate.”