A WINning Experience in the O.R.

Please be advised: this blog post contains photos depicting cardiac surgery up close and personal!

At Notre Dame Preparatory School, academic excellence is at the core of our mission. We strive to provide experience outside the classroom to help our girls discover their passions and explore real-world careers. Programs like Women In…(WIN) give high Shadow picschool students  the opportunity to explore what they want to do (or not do!) when they graduate from NDP. WIN connects students with mentors in almost any career: from medicine and biotechnology to business and law and everything in between.

Of the 200 students who participated in WIN experiences last summer, about 20% traded in their blue dresses and saddle shoes for scrubs, surgical masks, and booties to step into operating rooms to observe surgeries.  They have seen hip and knee replacements, kidney transplants, heart and brain surgeries, Cesarean Sections, and more. Sophie Snoussi ’20 was one such participant. Here is her story.

Sophie woke on a chilly morning, had breakfast, and got ready to start her day shadowing Dr. Luca Vricella, Chief of Pediatric Heart Transplantation at Johns Hopkins Hospital. As her father drove her to the hospital, the possibilities of the day ran through her mind—“What if I get lost?” “Will I be in another room or up close to the surgery?”

These questions vanished as soon as Dr. Vricella opened his office door. Sophie put on her scrubs and was quickly whisked away to attend a two-hour cardiac conference, where she joined a room full of surgical fellows to learn the surgical techniques they would need to save and heal their patients. It was still morning, but already she was immersed in the world of a cardiac surgeon.

After the conference, Sophie and Dr. Vricella visited their first patient of the day: a 64-year old woman with a hole between two chambers of her heart. This type of Adult Patient (hole between righ atrium and ventricle)congenital heart abnormality causes the heart to work harder to pump oxygen to the body. Repairing the hole with open heart surgery would give the patient a higher quality of life. Sophie saw the entire (successful!) surgery up close, standing next to Dr. Vricella throughout the entire three-hour procedure.

Following a lunch with the medical fellows to debrief on the surgery, Sophie joined Dr. Vricella for their second and final surgery that day. The procedure was another Baby (repair of scarred tissue and reconstruction)_BWrepair, this time for an infant born with scar tissue on her heart and other cardiac deformities. Sophie watched as Dr. Vricella removed the scar tissue and reconstructed the abnormalities. She learned surgical techniques, discussed the anatomy of the heart, and saw firsthand how surgery can improve the lives of the hospital’s youngest cardiac patients.

From discussing medical school experiences with surgical fellows over lunch to viewing two open-heart surgeries up close, Sophie’s shadow day at Johns Hopkins Hospital was packed with experiences. She plans to return throughout the rest of high school and maybe even college.

Ever since her 7th grade anatomy course introduced her to the complicated structures that make up the human body, Sophie has wanted to become a surgeon. In addition to her WIN shadow day, Sophie has had the opportunity to “run the floor” at the Carol Ball Unit at Bayview Hospital by directing calls to the surgical ward and ensuring medications got to delivered to a patient. She has joined a team of surgeons, nurses, physicians and physical and occupational therapists for rounds, learned the software for used charting medical history, and interned in an emergency room. “I can now say that I have fallen in love with medicine!”

Author: Sophie Snoussi, class of 2020

Contributor: Mr. Tom Peri, NDP science teacher

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