Aspiring neurosurgeon gets hands-on experiences in hospitals

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Catherine Gagulashvili staff writer

American neurosurgeon Ben Carson separated adult conjoined twins at the peak of his career.  Australian neurosurgeon Wirginia Maixner performed the first auditory brainstem implant on a child in Australia at the peak of her career. Sophomore Nicole Feyzjou has not yet reached the pinnacle of her career, but it was something as simple as bringing a child a bottle of water that made her realize she wanted to pursue neuroscience and surgery.

Feyzjou is currently enrolled in the Introduction to Medical Science class, a part of the Medical Science Academy (MSA), and she volunteers at Cedars Sinai Hospital every Saturday morning. Feyzjou volunteers in the clinical part of the oncology department and her job entails anything from helping and reporting to nurses and making phone calls, to doing patient rounds and making sure patients have what they need.

“I was at Cedars Sinai…and I had come to a patient’s room and they asked for something as simple as a bottle of water. I brought [the patient] a bottle of water and the mom of the child, who was in the room, just started to completely cry. She thought it was really great how teens, who are not far off her child’s age, were able to make a difference and just help out in the smallest ways possible,” Feyzjou said. “I knew I wanted to get those reactions from other people for the rest of my life.”

Feyzjou first became interested in pursuing neuroscience and surgery when watching medical-related TV shows. She would hear neurological terms and would look them up to understand what they meant. What followed was her fascination with the one marker that makes humans human.

“I [was interested in neurology] especially because your brain is what makes you human and what makes you, you, aside from your heart, lungs or anything else. You have your other organs in your body which enable you to survive, but I think our brain is so fascinating and interesting because it’s one part of our body that is completely responsible for everything,” she said. “Without it, we would literally not be ourselves and we wouldn’t be able to function.”

In order to prepare herself for the many years of medical school and surgical residency, Feyzjou is trying to expose herself to as many hands-on opportunities as she can. She is volunteering at Cedars Sinai Hospital and applying for the UCLA Scholars Pre-Medical Program, a one-week-long, intensive program that focuses on specific aspects of being a doctor. Come June 3, she is headed off to Warsaw, Poland for two weeks to shadow doctors and experience what it’s like to be a doctor in a foreign country.

“I’m so excited about so many different things in terms of meeting new people and trying new foods and being with patients. But I think what I’m most excited for is to see how a hospital is run in a different country, and a different continent for that matter. I think just if you compare how hospitals are run from California to New York, it’s really different. So I think it’s going to be really interesting culturally to see the diversity and differences throughout the trip,” Feyzjou said.

Seeing as she is still young and there is still the possibility of her changing her mind about her future vocations, Feyzjou knows it’s important to not put too much pressure on herself. She has taken into consideration the fact that becoming a surgeon would very much be a life-consuming career, one that would include many years of schooling and practice.

“[When applying to different pre-medical programs, the first thing going through my head was] ‘Wow, like this is really happening.’ I’ve really wanted to achieve this goal for so long, and I don’t want to let myself down,” she said. “I’m also really excited because to me this is what I want to do and being exposed to all of this is getting me more of an assurance that I want to do it. But also it’s me being able to tell myself that if it doesn’t work out or I don’t like it, it’s not the end of the world. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to get to see whether this is the thing for me or not.”

Feyzjou’s family and friends have been “100 percent supportive” of her goals of going into neurology.

“I seriously and whole-heartedly believe that Nicole is one of the smartest people that I have ever met. I know that whatever she sets her mind to, she will accomplish. Her goal to be a neurosurgeon will be very much easy to grasp,” sophomore Yasmin Sobhanian, a fellow volunteer at Cedars Sinai Hospital, said.

Up until this point, volunteering at Cedars Sinai Hospital has been the most beneficial contributing factor to Feyzjou’s experience with the medical world. It has been what has inspired her and what has ultimately made her further realize just how much she wants to be a doctor.

“[Volunteering at Cedars has] really showed me what it’s like to interact with patients and how you’re going to meet so many different types of people in the medical field, from extremely happy to moody. I think it’s really amazing how you are able to have such a wide variety of people, incredible people, in your life and how you are also able to help people bring a smile to one’s face,” Feyzjou said. “So I think that really showed me what it’s like in the real world, aside from just being buried in my books and my school work, what it’s like to be a doctor. That’s what really drove me to want to do this profession.”

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