Three Months of Fun and Learning at Cincinnati Children’s
By Dr. Sukalyan Dey - International Visitor, 2018
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is a great place to visit as an observer, not only because of the academic enrichment it provides, but also because it provides a wholesome exposure of the culture and lifestyle of the United States.
Located in the state of Ohio and flanked by the river it derives its name from; Cincinnati is a beautiful and vibrant city, in the outskirts of which the Burnett Campus of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is located. The first look at the campus is enough to make one realize why the Cincinnati Children’s has been ranked as the one of the best children’s hospitals in the country. This conviction only becomes more and more concrete with each day at the hospital. The legacy of the hospital is illustrious with many landmark events, discoveries and personalities originating at the Cincinnati Children’s. Perhaps the most well-known amongst them is Dr. Albert Sabin, who saved billions of children from the crippling scourge of polio with his oral polio vaccine. It is nice to see how his contribution to the world is beautifully commemorated in the walls, streets, hallways and auditoriums.
The observership starts in September and ends in December. Weather is warm on arrival and sometimes mercury touches 30 degrees. Gradually it gets cooler. The autumn leaves turning golden yellow all around is an amazing sight. Towards the end snow becomes a possibility and it can become quite cold.
Cincinnati Children’s is a busy place throughout the year, regardless of the weather. On weekdays, teaching sessions start at 6:30 am. An observer gets to take part in the case presentations, pre-operative planning, post-operative evaluation, morbidity & mortality meeting and discussion on various topics. Some of the most memorable lectures are those which are called “Master Classes” - which are exclusive one-to-one interactive classes with one of the most celebrated professors at the University of Cincinnati, Professor Alvin Crawford. He spent his entire life in clinics and operating rooms at Cincinnati Children’s and has an understanding of pediatric orthopaedics like no one else. He loves to talk, he likes to share his experience but most importantly he likes to infuse an inquisitive mindset into his trainees.
After the teaching sessions, on a typical day, an observer can either attend the clinic with an attending or you can visit the operation theater and observe surgical procedures. Operating rooms are equipped with several cameras mounted on the walls and operating lights and the details of the surgical steps are displayed in the overhead LCD monitors. The operating team is always receptive to questions and surgeons like to explain the surgical steps and discuss with the observers during or after surgery.
Outpatient clinics are equally interesting. Visitors see patients along with the attending surgeons, discuss clinical findings and X-ray images. The records for follow-up patients are kept so meticulously that these add up to make the cases as interesting as stories and as informative as book chapters. The presence of dedicated subspecialty teams within the department makes it possible to segregate cases into subspecialties and enables state of the art patient care, better incorporation into scientific studies, and ample opportunities for research and development of substantial clinical database of specific disorders.
Dr. Patrick Whitlock is interested in hip preservation. Dr. Junichi Tamai takes care of hip dysplasia and foot deformities. Dr. Shital Parikh and Dr. Eric Wall take care of the sports injury, arthroscopy and sports medicine section. Dr. James McCarthy who heads the department also takes special interest in Cerebral palsy and neuromuscular disorders. Dr. Viral Jain and Dr. Peter Sturm are the Pediatric Spine surgeons. Dr. Sorger is pediatric musculoskeletal onco-reconstructive surgeon. Dr. Jaime Denning treats complex foot disorders in children. Pediatric upper limb disorders are managed by Dr. Kevin Little and Dr. Roger Cornwall. The musculoskeletal outcomes research is headed by Dr. Charles Mehlman. Dr. Sheila Chandran looks after the non-surgical aspects of the orthopaedic clinics. Dr. Wendy Ramalingam completes the list with a pelviacetabular specialty. All of them also manage pediatric musculoskeletal trauma in addition to their specific disciplines.
The story does not end there. A visit to the basic science lab headed by Dr. Whitlock reveals how enthusiastic the orthopaedic department is about research that involves futuristic medicine like bioscaffolds. An equally avid researcher is Dr. Cornwall, who has been doing fantastic work in deciphering the mysteries in Brachial Plexus palsies. On the other hand, there is a fully equipped gait and motion analysis laboratory, which is run by Dr. McCarthy and his team. It is very informative to spend time in the Gait lab during the discussion and interpretation of findings.
On a good day, one can also accompany attending surgeons and fellows to some of Cincinnati Children’s satellite locations, like the Liberty Campus. These are smaller hospital facilities and one can get a glimpse of the outskirts of the city during these trips.
Speaking about trips, Cincinnati has so many places to explore; the downtown on the banks of the Ohio River is a lively place. The Cincinnati Zoo is only a five minute walk from the Burnett Campus. The Cincinnati Art Museum is another place one must visit at least once. There are also opportunities to visit nearby towns to attend conferences and talks which are often held during that part of the year. Towards the end of the observership, one gets to visit Florida for the International Pediatric Orthopaedic Symposium. It is one of the biggest annual events for the pediatric orthopaedic surgeons, particularly, for the young surgeons. One can attend the hands-on workshops and learn from the best experts in the field. An equally great experience is to listen to the lectures of some of the greatest surgeons in the world of Pediatric Orthopaedics and to interact with them in the discussions.
At every point of time, assistance is sure to pour in should the visitors need any. Julie Rogers, who co-ordinates all the official formalities of the visitors, has amazing managing skills. All the attending surgeons, fellows, residents and staff are always ready to assist. Be it answering queries regarding clinical cases or sharing the weekly routine of classes or helping out with directions to a location, someone will always provide a helping hand. Not only inside campus, but colleagues and teachers are great people to be with outside the campus as well. Dr. Shital Parikh and Dr. Viral Jain take special care that the visitors get a great time during the observership. Frequent invitations to weekend dinners, cultural events, Halloween and Thanksgiving are indeed great moments to cherish for a long time.
Visitorship in Cincinnati has so many things to explore and experience that three months seem hardly enough. One feels a heaviness in the heart to leave such a wonderful place and such amazing people, but the inspiration that one has imbibed during the stay kindles one to return to his workplace and apply the skills and knowledge learned in Cincinnati. And at the end of the day, one realizes that it is not the end, but rather that a life-long relationship with Cincinnati Children’s has just begun!
If anyone is interested to know more about my experience at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, I would be happy to share more it.
Dr. Sukalyan Dey
Department of Orthopaedics,
FAA Medical College & Hospital,
Barpeta, Assam, India