This past summer, BMHS juniors Natalie Hedding ‘23 and Jolene Roohan ‘23 attended the UCLA Health Pre-Med Summer Scholar Program at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Hosted by the Center of Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) in UCLA’s Department of Surgery, the program provides an intensive educational experience that incorporates medical guest speakers and hospital tours and activities for the purpose of giving the students an involved sense of working in the field of medicine. During the week-long program, Hedding and Roohan were immersed in a variety of activities and disciplines that left both excited about the possibility of a future career in medicine.
Bishop Montgomery was notified of the opportunity at UCLA by alumnus Henry Alvarez ‘94, who is the Director of Performance Improvement at Kaiser Permanente Downey Medical Center. After passing along the information to the students, Hedding and Roohan applied and were chosen to attend. “I am happy to be able to align an educational opportunity that can make a difference for Bishop Montgomery’s students,” says Alvarez.
When asked about the program, both Hedding and Roohan spoke about both the quality of instruction they received as well as the density of information. Of the five days, three were in-person and two were virtual; no matter the case, however, the program was intense. During the week, Hedding and Roohan worked with UCLA surgical residents as well as a variety of physicians’ panels. They learned how to perform ultrasounds and colonoscopies, gained practice in suturing, practiced simulated robotic surgery, sat in on a birthing lecture, and became CPR-certified, to name just a few things. For Roohan, the highlight was seeing a quartered cadaver. “That was my favorite part,” she said. “It was something that I probably will not have another opportunity to see until I am in medical school.”
Another highlight for Roohan was learning about the process of becoming a surgeon and working in the surgical lab using robotics. During this “rotation” of the program, Hedding and Roohan were able to practice different procedures using advanced surgical simulators. “It was almost like playing a video game,” explained Roohan. “We were using controllers, almost like you would find on a video game, to practice what it is like to perform a surgery. Much of the entire program was learning how technology and robotics help to make surgeries less evasive.”
For Hedding, a highlight of the program was hearing about all the different specialties within the medical field and learning from UCLA students in residency. The entire experience also validated for Hedding a desire to pursue a career in medicine, perhaps as an OB/GYN. “It was an amazing opportunity because everybody who guided us during the week was in the residency program and they really gave us first-hand knowledge of what it is like being a medical student,” says Hedding. “They took us on so many experiences and talked to us about all the different specialties and the avenues to get to where we want to go in our study of medicine.”
Like Roohan, Hedding loved the hands-on experiences she received in the program and learning new things. “I knew that robotic surgery was a thing, but I really didn’t know all that it involved until getting the opportunity to practice,” says Hedding. She also found the radiology “rotation” of the program fascinating because, as she says, “we performed ultrasounds on ourselves and the other students in the program.”
For these two juniors, the experience of attending such a prestigious program was invaluable. Despite the intensity of the program and the amount of information they received, they truly enjoyed their week being immersed in all the program had to offer, and it only strengthened their desires to pursue a career in medicine. “It was one of the best summer programs I have ever done,” says Roohan.