Hands-on Medical Experiences Prepare Soka Students for the Future

October 30, 2023
Two students wearing teal scrubs review imaging during their neurosurgery preceptorship in Summer 2023.
Yinka Aduloju ’24 and Zachary Holt ’25 review imaging during their neurosurgery preceptorship in Summer 2023.

For several weeks last summer, Zachary Holt ’25 and Yinka Aduloju ’24 woke up as early as 4 a.m. to start their days shadowing neurosurgery cases and conducting neurosurgery research at medical centers in Louisiana.

They were two of three Life Sciences students who used their summer break to develop hands-on skills, conduct research, and learn more about the realities of practicing medicine. Holt and Aduloju participated in neurosurgery preceptorships at Ochsner Medical Center and Tulane University School of Medicine. A third, Trystan Ward ’25, took part in a program for prospective medical students at the University of California, Irvine.

“Professional clinical experiences provide students an opportunity to understand the realities, responsibilities, and privileges of their future careers in medicine,” said Dr. Jacqueline Mills ’08, visiting assistant professor of general education, global health, and health professions advisor. “Because of the generous donations of our donors, our students were able to experience life-changing opportunities that they may not have otherwise been able to have.”

Preparing for Careers in Medicine

Holt and Aduloju began their summer experience at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital across the Mississippi from New Orleans in Jefferson Parish. Their preceptorship, facilitated by Dr. Mills and organized by Dr. Vernard Fennell, a neurosurgeon at Ochsner, included attending the presentations about patients that neurosurgery residents make daily, shadowing them on their morning rounds, observing operations, and attending teaching conferences focused on the spine and brain.

A few weeks later, they joined neuroscience researchers working in a lab headed by Dr. Aaron Dumont, Charles B. Wilson Professor and chair of neurosurgery at Tulane. The researchers there had recently started an experiment focused on designing a viable treatment to target the formation and rupture of cerebral aneurysms.

Under the guidance of Prof. Jamie Wikenheiser, professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the UCI School of Medicine, Ward spent three weeks at the Summer Gross Anatomy Academy. He attended lectures and learned about clinical procedures, surgical techniques, and basic medical imaging. He also participated in dissecting donated cadavers.

At the end of the program, Ward, who expects to go to medical school and become a medical examiner, said the experience was invaluable in providing a foundation for anatomy studies and developing a better understanding of medical school.

For Aduloju, who has wanted to be a doctor since she was a child, the experience in Louisiana confirmed that desire. Although she had worked in healthcare before as a care assistant, she said she was eager to gain firsthand experience of the responsibilities of physicians and the process that they go through in deciding the best treatment plan for patients.

Aduloju said her favorite part of the experience was learning new things every day. At Ochsner, she saw that patients come first. “Whether during clinics, surgery, or consultation, each case was different,” she said. “It is not enough to provide treatment, but it is important I understand that patients are humans with loved ones and that my decisions and actions as a physician affect more than one individual.”

Engaging in research at Tulane made it possible for the students to develop new laboratory and clinical skills. Aduloju admits she was scared the first time she performed some tasks, but the post-doctoral researchers helped her overcome her fears.

Bringing More Humanism to Medicine

Dr. Mills said these types of hands-on experiences begin to instill in Life Sciences students a dedication to service and advocacy, providing meaning for enduring the many academic, professional, personal, and financial challenges they may encounter on the way to securing a job as a healthcare provider.

“We need more humanistic, global, compassionate physicians, dentists, and other healthcare providers serving our communities,” said Dr. Mills. “SUA’s liberal arts education, combined with this experience in clinical training, provides the foundation for developing such individuals.”

Aduloju agreed that the experience furthered her understanding of global citizenship. “Working in healthcare, I will have to deal with people from different backgrounds, demographics, and economic and social status,” she said. “These differences contribute to each individual’s quality of life and the quality of care. For example, in the United States, women of color have the highest maternal mortality rate—three times higher than others. These types of disparities exist in different ways in the medical field; it is my responsibility to ensure that I do not contribute to its spread.”