SoCal Stories – An internship update

Unji Gujral shares an update from Southern California…

Greetings everyone from sunny Southern California!  Not to brag, but the weather here is absolutely amazing!!!  I hope everyone is enjoying their summers and having a wonderful time at their respective internships.  I have been working at the Chao Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UCI Med Center for about a month now.  The Med Center is located in the heart of Orange County, California (or as many people know it, “The OC”).  I am just a stone’s throw away from Disneyland and Angel Stadium, although I have yet to visit either place since being back home.   My job here consists of interviewing patients in the clinic, completing retrospective chart reviews, attending lectures and symposiums, and working with our dear friend, SAS.  To be honest, the retrospective chart review aspect sucks.  While looking through these charts, I am forced to sit in a frigid room, by myself, for hours on end, with nothing but boxes of illegible medical records to keep me company.  While the chart review is rather miserable, my favorite part of the experience by far is interviewing the patients in the clinic.  All of the women I speak with have had some sort of gynecological cancer, ie cervical, ovarian, uterine, etc.  The majority have had complete hysterectomies, and have gone through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation as a part of their treatment.  What amazes me about these women is their strength.  Despite their circumstances, they are happy.  They approach what is dealt to them with amazing attitudes and brilliant outlooks on life.  Perhaps my favorite patient thus far is a woman named Monica.  I had the pleasure of meeting her when she came to the clinic for a follow up after her last round of chemotherapy.  Monica can best be described as a vibrant Hispanic woman in her 40’s who exudes an aura of warmth and kindness.  The second she walked into the clinic she gave hugs and kisses to all of the nurses and smiles to all of her fellow patients.    Like most patients, she was more than happy to sit and chat with me.  She told me that she loved coming to the clinic because she got to see her “boyfriend” (the attending physician that she admittedly has a crush on).  When I asked her how she was feeling after her treatment she replied with a smile and said “I feel great!  I am not going to let this disease get me down.  Oh, and girl, I know I still look good, with hair or without!”  After our interview, she left me with a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek.  I only spent 20 minutes with her, but I know I am going to remember Monica for a very long time.

I am not sure what I was hoping to get out of this internship.  Going into it, I think I was looking for some research experience, data for my thesis, and perhaps a publication.  While I hope that I do attain those things, the lessons I am learning from the women I talk to are the things I will value the most.  I am learning that the human spirit has a remarkable capacity to overcome.  I am learning that strength comes in many shapes and forms.  I am learning that if you want to find out what people need in order to improve their health and quality of life, all you have to do is be sincere in your caring, and ask them.  I am learning that laughter and a good attitude really is the best medicine, preventative or otherwise.  Most of all, I am learning about what I value in terms of a career in public health.  I love putting faces to, and interacting with, the people whose lives we aim to improve through our work.  While the chart reviews and the SAS may not always be so favorable, its all worth it when the Monicas of the world live to thrive and smile another day.

 [Don’t forget to send in your update to get posted on the blog!]


2 Responses

  1. I love your story and I completely agree with your attitude and perspective on public health. 🙂 Enjoy the sunny weather!

  2. Yes, thank you for the update!! It sounds like you are having a wonderful time. I'm working with SAS, too, and I'm so grateful that we learned it beforehand!

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