Last summer, I had the pleasure of shadowing five doctors at the Laguna Beach Community Clinic. The clinic offers medical, dental and health education services to low-income and uninsured residents of Orange County.
The first doctor I shadowed was Dr. Rubal. Since he was a relatively new addition to the clinic and was still building his patient list, I got to see a great variety of patients from young to old. Dr. Rubal was very organized and meticulous in his interactions with his patients. Shadowing Dr. Rubal really helped me develop a sense of how to approach different chief complaints in a way that was clear and orderly. At the time, I had just finished my first year of medical school and was not overly versed in pathology, but Dr. Rubal was very patient with me and even took the time to review various disease processes that we had seen throughout the day. Dr. Rubal also loves doing procedures and I was able to help him with some I&Ds and suture removals!
The second doctor I shadowed was Dr. Ngo. He is an Internist and is the clinic’s primary diabetes specialist. With Dr. Ngo, I got to see the entire spectrum of diabetes—from patients whose recent labs showed that they were ‘pre-diabetic’ to patients who presented for wound care after a diabetic amputation. Dr. Ngo is very direct with his patients and I was able to see they appreciated his efforts in keeping them healthy. On my first day with Dr. Ngo, he said that I should look up diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disease, anemia and hyperlipidemia to be ahead of the game. I am thankful for that advice because I saw these conditions repeatedly and it really helped solidify what I was learning in class.
The third doctor I shadowed was Dr. Jorgensen. He is a family physician and is the clinic’s primary HIV specialist. With Dr. Jorgensen, everything seemed to be very fast-paced and I was always on my toes with anticipation. He patiently reviewed with me how to obtain a good history and physical from my patients so I could then formulate a problem list and develop a plan. Before working with Dr. Jorgensen, I didn’t realize that HIV/AIDS is now considered a chronic disease. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Dr. Jorgensen’s patients were doing even years after their initial diagnosis. He reminded me about the importance of follow up and continual care in keeping patients healthy.
The fourth doctor I shadowed was Dr. Murray. I only got to work with Dr. Murray for a couple of days, but it was really nice to get a perspective from a female physician. As a female medical student, thoughts about how to find the best balance between having a career and a family life are constantly lingering in the back of my mind. It was nice to see that it is possible to have a family and a career while being happy.
The fifth doctor I shadowed was Dr. Bent. He is the former CAFP President and current Medical Director of the clinic. With Dr. Bent, I had the chance to see patients with mental illnesses. I did not have any psychiatric experiences prior to this but Dr. Bent allowed me to interview a few patients and work with him on how to help them. Dr. Bent has a gentle and down-to-earth approach with his patients, which was very refreshing to witness.
I am so fortunate to have had this amazing experience through the CAFP Scholars Program. Not only did I get to be at clinic seeing patients every day for a month, I also got to see how five different doctors worked and interacted with their patients. Not only did I gain new medical knowledge from each patient encounter, I also learned about the humanity of medicine through how each doctor cared for their patients. No one method is the best method, but having the chance to see such a diverse group of physicians work is something I will never forget and am truly grateful for.