By Carla M. Lopez
For postbacs with their sights set on medical school, the NICHD offers a unique clinical shadowing experience right here on the NIH campus. Once a week, up to three postbacs are invited to attend the “Pediatric Genetics Clinic” on the 1NW ward of the Clinical Center, where they have the opportunity to shadow closely the medical team (Dr. Margarita Raygada, Dr. Owen Rennert, and Dr. Constantine Stratakis, all experts in clinical genomics). Each clinic session lasts an average of two to four hours, depending on the number of cases, and is packed with valuable opportunities for postbacs to observe, listen in, and ask questions.
The weekly sessions begin with a genetics team group meeting to review the clinical documentation for each case. The team discusses—in depth—previous lab results, past clinical findings, and the medical/family history of each patient. Once the patient arrives, the medical team meets with the family to obtain a comprehensive patient history and to perform a physical exam. Following the exam, the entire team reconvenes to discuss findings and to develop a tailored treatment or diagnostic plan. One last meeting with the family is held to discuss the team’s conclusions and to address any remaining questions or concerns. Postbacs are allowed to observe at every stage in the process, with an average of two to four patients each week, and are more than welcome to ask questions during team meetings.
In addition to giving postbacs the chance to explore the etiology of disease from the lab to the clinic, this unique shadowing opportunity holds equally important lessons in patient-doctor interaction and the meaning of compassionate care. Under the personal guidance of our medical role models, postbacs can count on learning about both the cutting-edge as well as the interpersonal side of medicine.