Is Surgery Summer Camp for Everyone?

By Lucky Ding – Celsius and Beyond’s 2019 Surgery instructor

As a third-grader, I saw myself growing up and becoming an astronaut. The idea of space was fascinating, and all I wanted was to see what it was like to look at the world from “up there.” One nausea-inducing space shuttle simulation ride later, I realized there was no way I was ever going to let myself leave Earth. Fast forward to college, and you’ll find me with my feet planted firmly on the ground in front of a biology lab bench, pipetting away as I worked on research projects investigating treatments for various types of cancer. In those long lab hours spent looking at human cancer cells under the microscope, I found myself thinking more and more about medicine and the lived experiences of patients who have these cancer diagnoses.

Upon graduating from college, I asked myself whether I wanted to focus my professional pursuits in molecular cancer research or clinical medicine. Giving myself time to work out the space I hoped to occupy with respect to the two fields, I spent two years investigating leukemia from the lab bench while shadowing pediatric oncology practice at a children’s hospital. In the clinic, I gained an understanding of the role that pediatric oncologists could play in guiding children and their families through the medical and psychosocial ramifications of life-changing diagnoses. I recognized this space as one in which I could feel the most fulfilled about my work, and from there, I decided to pursue a path in medicine. In the Fall of 2018, I enrolled at the UCSF School of Medicine and began my clinical training.

My longstanding enthusiasm to work with kids in educational and medical settings led me to become a Celsius & Beyond Surgery Camp instructor in my summer off after the first year of medical school. I hoped that the opportunity to teach kids in this setting could help expand their interests by exploring new topics in health and medicine together. The goal of the summer class was to encourage kids in their curiosity about how the human body worked and the various diseases that could affect the different organ systems. As we practiced suturing wounds with real surgical tools, we dove into topics like sterile operations and the different causes of infections. While repairing bone fractures with screws and power drills, we learned about the

human skeletal system and different sports injuries. The highlight activity for most of the kids was frog dissection day, where they could explore for themselves the various organ systems. The best part of being their teacher this summer was watching their eyes light up whenever they discovered something “gross, but so cool!”

Some kids came in declaring they would become future cardiothoracic surgeons. Others arrived curious about dissections but hesitant to dive in right away. The surgery course allowed each of them to engage with the hands-on learning material at their own pace, in their own ways. For parents who have kids interested in medicine at a young age, please encourage them to continue asking questions, no matter how obscure they may seem, because it is this curiosity that opens doors for them throughout their lives. With any of the career paths they choose to pursue, I hope that they can follow their passions with joy and confidence.

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