September 8, 2023 | Tina Keshishian, Angela Chen, Sophia Jensen, Michael-David Caldero
Six medical students from schools across the country converged in the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine at UCLA to embark on a summer research experience. This immersive opportunity not only deepened our understanding of anesthesiology, but also solidified our career aspirations and forged lasting connections.
From the moment we stepped into the bustling corridors of UCLA, we were enveloped by a tangible sense of community. Despite our diverse backgrounds, the institution's tight-knit community made us feel like a part of the family. The intertwining of our six different perspectives, driven by a common goal, allowed us to collaborate seamlessly on projects tailored to our individual interests.
Under the mentorship of Dr. Cecilia Canales and Dr. Sumit Singh, we expanded our knowledge of frailty, perioperative neurocognitive disorders, and point of care ultrasound. Our weekly research meetings became crucibles of knowledge exchange, enhancing our analytical thinking and encouraging innovative approaches. Venturing beyond the lab, we gained firsthand exposure to clinical procedures, learned the basics of point-of-care ultrasound, and practiced IV placement.
The impact of this summer research experience radiated far beyond the confines of the lab and the hospital. As we dispersed back to our respective corners of the country, each took back with us a trove of memories, knowledge, and inspiration. Despite our varying experiences, we emerged from this opportunity with solidified aspirations to specialize in anesthesiology.
Albany Medical College, Class of 2026
Over the course of the summer, I honed my ultrasound skills under the guidance of Dr. Canales and discovered the profound impact that this seemingly simple technique could have on patient care. The ability to assess frailty through ultrasound became more than just a newfound skill—it became a tool for potentially improving the quality of life for countless patients.
My exposure to anesthesiology extended beyond the lab and into the clinical realm. We were granted the privilege of observing and shadowing various procedures, gaining a front-line appreciation of anesthesia in action. Witnessing the seamless coordination between anesthesiologists and other specialties was nothing short of impressive and offered a glimpse into an environment where quick-thinking, flexibility, and precision were of utmost importance.
This summer experience was not merely a research endeavor, but also a catalyst that broadened my perspective and motivated me to approach my career with compassion, a commitment to excellence, and the drive to keep learning. Dr. Canales’s mentorship cultivated an environment of curiosity and questioning, facilitating growth as I continue to navigate my interest in the field of anesthesiology. The bonds we formed with one another and Dr. Canales have extended beyond the summer and become an invaluable support network while we continue our medical school journeys.
Going home to my institution, I will continue to focus on the bidirectional association between frailty and cognitive impairment. My ultimate goal is to identify at-risk individuals in older adult populations, inform clinical decision-making, and guide interventions targeted at reducing postoperative delirium.
I would also like to extend immense gratitude to Dr. Canales, Dr. Singh, Dr. Vandiver, Stephanie-Dee, Einat, Lucy, and the residents of DAPM for taking the time to teach and support us. None of this would have been possible without you all.
Chicago Medical School, Class of 2026
When I first received news of my acceptance to FAER’s Medical Student Anesthesia Research Fellowship (MSARF), I was ecstatic to learn that I was matched to UCLA, my first-choice host institution. While browsing the expansive list of mentors and their research projects during the application process, I gravitated towards research on postoperative neurocognitive disorders (PND) in minority elders. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to interact with some of these patients in the PTU/PACU and OR, where I administered research surveys to patients and shadowed Dr. Canales as she performed anesthesia for a range of surgeries across specialties. From my encounters with the diverse patient population of the UCLA Health System, I witnessed firsthand the need for culture- and language-appropriate patient education tools. It was enlightening to see that beyond a physician’s primary clinical responsibilities, one can improve patient outcomes through research and patient education. I greatly appreciated Dr. Canales’ perspective as a physician-scientist and her multifaceted approach to patient care.
Beyond conventional advice about medical school and residency, Dr. Canales’ mentorship delved deeply into important topics such as finding fulfillment, well-being, and purpose within medicine, inspiring me to reflect critically about the physician I hope to become. I’ve always known the importance of a strong support system; the camaraderie and kindness displayed by the entire department made an especially strong impression on me. After this transformative summer in sunny LA, I head back to Chicago, solidly anchored in my pursuit of becoming an anesthesiologist. Thank you to Dr. Canales, Einat, and the many residents I had the pleasure of meeting.
University of Nebraska, Class of 2026
During my summer at UCLA's Department of Anesthesiology, my initial curiosity about point-of-care ultrasound technology grew into a profound appreciation for research's impact on patient-centered healthcare. Focused on ultrasound modalities in frailty assessments, our project aimed to enhance predictive outcomes, decision making, and informed consent. A highlight was collaborating with a diverse group—anesthesiologist attendings, residents, an ultrasound technician, research scientists, and other medical students. This interdisciplinary teamwork not only integrated diverse perspectives into research but also nurtured an environment of continual learning. It offered a window into the integration of research, technology, and ethics in medical contexts.
As I conclude my summer research with an inspired mind and a full heart, I am invigorated in my journey towards becoming an anesthesiologist, eager to embrace the scientific curiosity that my mentors at UCLA so passionately nurtured. I aspire to become an anesthesiologist who navigates the waves of medical technological advancement with an unwavering dedication to patients. By melding the application of new technology and evidence-based clinical research findings, I envision a future where medical advancements consistently prioritize the well-being of patients.
Kansas City University, Class of 2026
Most rising second-year medical students are familiar with the idea of having one last summer of unencumbered freedom. There’s an instinct to ration the weeks—whether it be studying for upcoming board exams, work, travel, or research. But after spending time fully immersed in anesthesiology research at UCLA, I believe the “correct” choice comes down to one that can be most meaningful. To each their own!
We live in a hyper-connected world that’s a Zoom-click away from viewing guest speakers like Jonathan Tan, MD, Matt Fischer, MD, and Grégoire Ruffenach, PhD, share their latest discoveries. The scope of anesthesiology has expanded tremendously, shattering any previous assumptions that one might have had about the specialty. Topics such as social/environmental determinants of health, multi-omics of postoperative atrial fibrillation, and transcriptome analysis of pulmonary arterial hypertension offer a rare glimpse into emerging trends and prospects.
With activities such as ultrasound workshops, simulation training, and Grand Rounds, it was too easy to get inspired about the specialty while the summer months melted away. It’s admittedly bittersweet for things to come to an end, but it might be better to reframe it as the start of another chapter in the journey toward medicine. Thank you, Dr. Canales, Dr. Singh, Stephanie-Dee, Einat, Lucy, and the research team for taking the time to mentor and support us medical students this summer!