Summer Gig: She’s Got Her Eye on Med School

July 29, 2019 — Kamila Bergaliyeva ’20 dreams of going to medical school. So she snagged a summer internship at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. 

“Medical school is very competitive, so I wanted to try to get an edge,” she said.

During her month in Philly, Kamila interned with a pulmonologist, observing procedures such as a cholecystectomy (removal of gallstones) and coronary angioplasty. She attended lectures, met one-on-one with a trauma surgeon, and shadowed a fourth-year medical student. 

“Day to day, I never know what I’m going to do,” she said. “One morning, the medical student, Joe, called me at 6 a.m. and said, ‘Come to the hospital at 7:30. We’re going to the morgue.’” The assignment that awaited Kamila was learning how to prepare cadavers for first-year medical students.

She then spent the day in the anatomy lab observing dissection, and eventually tried her hand at it.

“Joe gave me the scalpel, and I started dissecting,” she said. “At first, it was unsettling, but after a while it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

Before the internship, Kamila shadowed a doctor for two weeks at Maternity Hospital #2 in her hometown of Almaty, Kazakhstan, where her grandmother, now retired, had a long career in obstetrics and gynecology.

Kamila spent the first few days observing prenatal care providers and learned how to take the vital signs of pregnant women. Then she donned scrubs and got to observe actual births.

The first time, she said, “I was scared for the woman because it was really painful for her. Then the baby was born, and I watched them cut the umbilical cord and deliver the placenta.”

That day, Kamila stayed at the hospital into the evening. 

“I saw 12 babies born in one day,” she said.

With her eye on medical school, Kamila plans to take AP biology, human physiology, and AP statistics this year, as well as AP language classes. 

“If you can’t communicate well with your patients, you can’t do your job as a doctor,” she said. 

Her summer experiences have made her even more excited to pursue medicine and gave her insight into specialties she had not considered.

“I had lunch with a trauma surgeon and he said, ‘You never really know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You’re always dealing with the unexpected and there’s something new every day.’ That’s really interesting to me,” she said.

For now, Kamila is keeping her options open, and says becoming an OB/GYN isn’t out of the question. 

“My grandmother would love that,” she said.