Like many high school students interested in the physician career path, Sean sought numerous opportunities to explore his interest. He volunteered in various medical settings. In each of these environments, despite being surrounded by medical professionals, there was very little student/ physician interaction. Without specific personal connections and limited by restrictive hospital policies, he found few readily accessible shadowing options.
Apollo Program: Student Reflection
I was interested in the medical field from a young age and having an opportunity to shadow a physician and to explore the true life of a medical professional was very exciting. I have had a few injuries in my life, so when the opportunity to shadow a physician arose, I thought it would be interesting to follow an orthopaedic specialist. I was able to pick Dr. Jeremie Axe from First State Orthopaedics in Newark, which worked well because some of my family members and friends had seen him for care.
On the day of my shadowing, I left school early to get ready. I wasn’t sure what to wear, but I figured it was better to be overdressed than underdressed. I put on my blazer and grabbed my notepad and was ready to go. My mind was wandering as I drove to the Sabre Building, thinking about the unique situation I was in. I was finally able to get a sneak peek of my dream. Once I arrived, it took me a second to gather all my thoughts and find the office. One kind woman had to help me find it. I walked into the waiting room and the atmosphere immediately changed. It went from a quiet office building, to a full running clinic, filled with patients who needed help. That’s what I find incredible about being a physician. A patient can walk in with a serious problem, and you get a chance to help them feel better.
I told the office manager I was there to shadow Dr. Axe for the Apollo program, and she brought me through the locked doors. The atmosphere changed again. I was on the other side of the glass — going from the patient I’d sometimes been, to the doctor I’ve always wanted to be. We’re all patients. We were born patients and spend our first days in a hospital. Many of us will die spending our last days there. But only a select few get to put on the white lab coats. For the first time, I got to see what that was like.
Dr. Axe introduced me to the rest of the office, from his PA, Christian, to his many nurses. I spent my first 10 minutes analyzing and absorbing every detail of the office, from the charts on the walls to the x-rays on the computer.
I had a few minutes to ask Dr. Axe questions about his education and practice, and made sure to take notes in my trusty notepad. Now it was time to shadow my first patient! The day went much faster than I expected. I was amazed at how much care and attention Dr. Axe gave each and every patient in the short amount of time he had with them. He introduced me to every patient, and I stood to the side, observing intently. It was fascinating to see the whole process, from chart to post-appointment notes. Every person in the office contributed, from the nurses checking on patients and preparing shots, to the PA seeing patients or informing them about upcoming surgeries. I was also able to observe the social environment of the office. This team has worked together for years and it was interesting to see how they interacted.
I really felt involved. They would ask me questions about my school and different programs I was in, and they shared about their lives and paths to medicine. By the end of the day, I felt like I had developed and learned a routine with each appointment. We would go over the chart, Dr. Axe would examine the patient and provide them with any care they needed, then Dr. Axe did his notes and we would talk until the next patient was ready. I was learning more and more with each patient visit. We saw a variety of conditions, from arthritis, to joint replacements, to surgical repairs. By the end of the day, I could even recognize arthritis from an x-ray! After seeing many patients, my shadowing came to a close. I took a photo with Dr. Axe and said goodbye to the office staff. I wished I had had more time, but I knew that this was just the beginning. This day gave me more inspiration to pursue the career that fascinates me. I left there with one thought: “That was it, that’s what I want to do!” I am extremely grateful that I had this experience through Apollo: Youth in Medicine, and cannot wait to shadow again.
John Kepley is a junior at Saint Elizabeth High School. John is a member of the Delaware Youth Leadership Network, the Student Leadership Group, and the National Honor Society.