A standard medical degree takes at least eight years to receive, with four years of college and another four of medical school- not to mention internships and training that add even more. And for good reason: doctors are trusted with the lives of others, so it’s common sense for them to undergo such extensive preparation.
Senior Sohini Desai has not yet attended college or medical school, but that didn’t stop her from helping to save a life.
Desai’s annual trip to Haiti over Spring Break is a tradition for her.
“I’ve been going since my sophomore year, so this year was my third time,” Desai said.
The charity work Desai participates in is extensive, taking place both in San Diego and across the globe in Haiti.
“Here in San Diego we package food, and we actually go and distribute that food when we go to Haiti,” Desai said. “We install water filters [and] help with construction at the orphanage we stay at.”
This trip, however, was not the standard caregiving experience most teenagers have the opportunity to participate in.
“I helped work with [a] pharmacy, and the very last day I actually got to assist with a surgery,” Desai said. “A man had a keloid, which is a growth of scar tissue, right on top of his nipple, and I kind of was a scrub nurse. I helped remove it, and we just had to stitch right over that area.”
For a high school student, being a member of a surgical team is rare, and even though she wasn’t alone in the operation, Desai got a close-up look at that side of the medical field.
“That’s the first surgery I ever had watched and the first surgery I’d ever been a part of,” Desai said. “There was a surgeon there; I was more of an assistant, blotting the blood and helping him with the stitches and cutting the string off.”
Cutting open a living human being is a bit more complicated and intense than most teen’s Spring Break routine of sleeping in until noon.
“It was just on the go, it was kind of crazy, hoping that I wouldn’t permanently mess up this person’s nipple or whatever, but the surgeon there was a really good teacher, so everything ended up being fine,” Desai said.
Desai’s experience contributed to her knowledge of a possible profession.
“They knew that I had an interest in medicine as a career so they just gave me the opportunity to assist, which was pretty cool.”
In just a few months, Desai may be able to apply some of the real-life experience she gained through the surgery at school.
“I’m thinking of doing pre-med at Berkeley, which is where I’m going to be going in the fall,” Desai said.
Blood and guts haven’t fazed Desai, and she maintains a strong connection to her work in Haiti.
“It’s just hard to imagine doing anything else over Spring Break, because every time I go I feel like I’ve really helped someone out, and that I’ve really accomplished something,” Desai said. “There’s just this feeling [that] I helped somebody today, and that’s hard to get anywhere else.”