Essay Series from SAGES Medical Student Scholarship Award Program

Top Essays from SAGES 2016 Medical Student Scholarship Award Program


Congratulations Eric Etchill, Hasina Maredia, and Kristin Partain, winners of the SAGES 2016 Medical Scholarship Award Program!

For the fourth consecutive year, SAGES Membership Committee successfully administered the Medical Student Scholarship Award program that offers participating medical students attending medical schools in the United States and Canada the chance to meet, network, and attend educational courses alongside experienced surgeons attending SAGES annual meeting.

This year 87 medical students submitted their personal essays in a competition to win three awards that provided complimentary meeting registration, a check in the amount of $2,000, an award certificate, and recognition during the meeting.  The essays were outstanding.  The Membership Committee is delighted to share the top essays with you.

Essay #1 Fourth Year Medical Student, Eric Etchill, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine20160318_175648

When I first entered medical school, I had no idea what specialty I was going to pursue. But through the experiences I had shadowing in the operating room during my first year, it quickly became obvious that I would be most fulfilled pursuing a career in general surgery.

Ever since the notion of a surgical career became seeded in my mind, I have had several formative clinical, academic, volunteer, and leadership experiences that have reinforced my decision to pursue surgery and helped me gain the foundations for success as a leading academic surgeon. I have had extensive experiences in basic science research investigating molecular mechanisms of tissue inflammation that have resulted in multiple presentations and publications. I pursued a masters in public health and spent the last couple years conducting clinical and outcomes research examining transfusion and resuscitation strategies. I have become involved in medical education and spearheaded efforts to incorporate global health and health policy content into our formal curriculum. And I co-founded a nonprofit that increases collaboration between health services agencies and underserved populations in the greater Pittsburgh region and beyond.

I have been most influenced by my experiences in international health and global surgery. Through clinical work and surgical epidemiology and trauma registries research in Honduras and Mozambique, I have witnessed and heard from many individuals with correctable surgical diseases who have suffered, become disabled, or died due to a lack of surgical resources. Through these interactions I have become acutely aware of the lack of basic surgical care in low income settings and am committed to devoting a significant amount of my career toward improving global surgery.

Through each of these endeavors I have grown personally and professionally by expanding my comfort zone, broadening and deepening valuable skill sets, and ultimately becoming better equipped to provide excellent surgical care and advance the field. And as the first physician in my family, I have been fortunate to benefit from the guidance and support of many tremendous mentors who have devoted countless hours towards helping me achieve my goals.

By attending SAGES, I hope to continue to strengthen the groundwork I have established in preparation for a surgical residency and beyond. In addition to gaining exposure to innovative surgical technologies and exciting new simulations, I would benefit greatly from establishing mentorships with leading GI and minimally invasive surgeons from all over the world who share my interests and passions for building surgical capacity and bringing quality, laparoscopic and endoscopic care to acute care and low resource settings. And perhaps most importantly, I would share the information I gained through participating in courses, learning about educational innovations, and hearing the most recent evidence guiding patient management with my school’s surgical interest group and other colleagues in an effort to increase interest and expand knowledge in general surgery among my fellow physicians in training. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Essay #2 First Year Student, Hasina Maredia, Johns Hopkins University20160318_175702

The SAGES meeting will be integral to furthering my interest in pursuing a career in GI and endoscopic surgery as an academic physician, and it will assist me in achieving my goals to assist in advancing the field through clinical practice, research, and teaching.

My interest in GI and endoscopic surgery has been sparked by my anatomy lab experience. I’m captured by the process of meticulous procedures for the vital organs often affected in the most ill patients. Rather than waiting until my third year rotations to better understand surgery, attending the SAGES meeting will help jumpstart my career early in my training. By getting this immersive experience as a first year medical student, I will be better equipped to identify relevant clinical rotations, craft a specific summer research project in the field, and develop long-term mentoring relationships to help navigate this competitive field.

The panels, talks, debates, postgraduate courses, and masters series will provide me with a better understanding of the major challenges in the diagnosis, procedures, and management of patients in surgery. Furthermore, these sessions will enable me to understand what an academic career in surgery entails and gain an appreciation of the skills to further develop as a medical student. The meeting offers opportunities not found in a medical school curriculum, such as conversations about residency training development which will further inform my career goal in academic medicine of teaching and training the next generation of surgeons.

The knowledge gained from the conference can furthermore inform my design of an outcomes-based clinical study in GI and endoscopic surgery research this summer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through such a project, I hope to improve the quality of care for surgery patients based on needs identified at the meeting. I then hope to submit an abstract for presentation at the following Houston SAGES meeting in 2017 as well as a manuscript to the journal Surgical Endoscopy.

As a first generation college student, I come from an extended family where I am the first to complete high school. My parents came to the US from a poor village in India, and even in the US now, women in the family have not had the opportunity to seek work outside the home. Thus, my upbringing has not entailed much interaction with professional careers. As a result, I highly value mentorship, as it has been integral to my choosing a career that I am very passionate about in medicine. Attending the meeting with an assigned mentor will give me crucial insight into an academic career in GI and endoscopic surgery and how I can best contribute to the field.

In the past, I’ve been privileged to attend national conferences and recognize how to maximize the experience of education, training, and networking at meetings like SAGES. Medical students are often told about how physicians’ careers entail lifelong learning, and the meeting will illustrate how GI and endoscopic surgeons learn from and train one another.

Essay #3 Fourth Year Medical Student, Kristin Partain , Emory University20160318_175654

At the monthly pediatric surgery research meeting, Avi stood to practice his oral presentation. The excited murmur of the upcoming joint conference of the International Pediatric Endosurgery Group (IPEG) and the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) filled the room. Since then, SAGES has been brought up on innumerable occasions, from eager fellows planning submission of their laparoscopy video to the vast number of faculty excitedly sharing their plans to attend SAGES. I want a chance to join in the excitement!

I hope to become a general surgery resident in July, and I believe my duty to be the best surgeon has already begun. Although I plan to become a pediatric surgeon, there is much of surgery that I have not experienced. Regardless if I choose to do a fellowship, I will be a general surgeon, first and foremost. The SAGES medical student scholarship would be a great honor and would facilitate my career goal of being a skilled general surgeon through didactic sessions, hands-on sessions, and a SAGES mentor.

Attending the SAGES conference will better my surgical knowledge through the post-graduate didactic sessions on the essentials, changes, and innovations of minimally invasive and open general surgery. Although there are many great surgeons at my institution, becoming the best requires learning from best, which includes experts from other institutions. At SAGES 2016, I’m looking forward to hearing distinguished surgeons share their expertise on emerging changes in technology, resident education, and enhanced recovery protocols. I’m especially excited to discuss the latest data on the enhanced recovery protocols with presenters as the improvements for adult surgical patients are likely to have parallel changes that I would like to investigate to improve outcomes for pediatric patients.

As a medical student, the hands-on sessions are an appealing opportunity. Fear is essential to prevent surgical trainees from being reckless, but fear is also debilitating. Although there is nothing as spectacular as a living human body, hands-on training would allow me to gain proficiency in simple techniques that I am able to master before preforming in the operating room. Endoscopy and laparoscopy were once new innovations but have become standard practice; thus, creating the need for the FES, FLS, and FUSE curriculums. At SAGES 2016, I’m looking forward to the FUSE course and the session on using simulation to improve quality and safety.

Finally, a mentor is priceless. Without several mentors providing mock interviews, I would not have been as confident in my residency interviews. Since surgery provides many career paths, there is much value in having mentors in multiple surgical specialties. I would greatly appreciate a SAGES mentor to guide me as I journey through residency. I would also value the opportunity to volunteer at the mini med school to excite and encourage high school students as I may have not chosen surgery as a profession without the encouragement from a particular mentor.

Thank you, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons membership committee, for providing such a gracious opportunity to medical students.

Top Essays from SAGES 2015 Medical Student Scholarship Award Program

Congratulations Marc Olivier Duverseau, Collin Howser and Cypriana Koziak, winners of SAGES 2015 Medical Scholarship Award Program!

For the third consecutive year, SAGES Membership Committee successfully administered the Medical Student Scholarship Award program that offers participating medical students attending medical schools in the United States and Canada the chance to meet, network, and attend educational courses alongside experienced surgeons attending SAGES annual meeting.

This year 69 medical students submitted their personal essays in a competition to win three awards that provided complimentary meeting registration, a check in the amount of $2,000, an award certificate, and recognition during the meeting.  The essays were outstanding.  The Membership Committee is delighted to share the top essays with you.


Essay #1 Third Year Medical Student, Marc Olivier Duverseau , Ross University School of Medicine

Being from Haiti, I have grown up taking nothing for granted in life. I was brought up with the mindset that whatever you want in life, you must ardently persevere to obtain it. In January 2010, a terrible earthquake devastated my home country. The damage was unimaginable and the pain and agony I felt inside were even worse.  Although I was attending college in Florida at the time, I went back as soon as possible to assess with my own eyes what had truly happened. Words will never be enough to explain what I saw.  Thankfully, my father is an Orthopedic Surgeon, and my mother is an Anesthesiologist, and so I was able to get deeply involved with helping the population in need.  The amount of patients and the diversity of their problems were like nothing I had ever seen before. Diagnoses ranged from simple fractures, to mutilated limbs and body parts, to hanging appendages. Such an event can truly scar one for life.  By then, my decision to become a surgeon later in life had been made. The friends and tears that I lost created a gap in my soul, a gap that could only be replaced by fulfilling my goal in life.  I do believe this purpose is to practice the surgical arts. As I assisted my parents and other surgeons in dealing with the incessant flow of critical patients, I actually felt as if I meant something on this planet.  I treasured this feeling, and wanted to turn it into a lifelong opportunity. Although I am currently attending medical school, you may not know that being a foreigner made this road logistically and financially difficult. I’ve made it through so far, however I struggle daily with obstacles. These include immigration issues, finding hospitals that accept foreign students, and fighting the unfortunate stigma associated with being an international medical graduate.  Fortunately, I am not the type of person to let such things bring me down; instead I keep aiming higher and higher. Attending the SAGES meeting would really help me find the jumpstart for a potentially beautiful career in surgery. I would be able to meet top-notch surgeons who have gone through the hardships of the profession already, and see how they may help pave the road for me.  Although the financial aid would be very helpful, the recognition of my ongoing mission would be even more fantastic. I do think SAGES will help me attain my career goals, and all I ask of you is a chance to prove so.

Essay #2 Second Year Medical Student, Collin Howser, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Throughout my medical education I have been drawn to gastroenterology, a field of medicine that continues to provide innovative approaches to cancer therapy, advancements in minimally invasive surgery, and better outcomes in preventative medicine. These aspects of gastroenterology have given me the opportunity to incorporate my expertise in biomedical engineering to design novel medical devices that I believe will advance the field.

During the summer of 2014, I co-invented (provisional patent application serial number is 62/034,677) an effervescent CO2 insufflation device with the potential to reduce patient cost, alleviate patient discomfort following colonoscopy, and improve the quality of patient care. The device development received funding and is currently in pre-clinical evaluation.  In addition, several gastroenterologists have agreed to trial the device upon FDA 510(k) clearance. The device is capable of generating carbon dioxide to serve the needs of an endoscopy suite throughout the course of a normal day by using a tank of citric acid solution and a reaction chamber containing solid sodium bicarbonate.  A valve is used to control the flow of acidic solution into the reaction chamber and the resulting carbon dioxide is carried via a flexible tube such that it may be easily integrated into various applications for use over the course of the day. I am more than happy to share with SAGES the complete patent and references if requested to do so.

My experience designing an FDA approved medical device further strengthened my desire to study minimally invasive surgery in gastroenterology.  Attending the SAGES meeting and receiving the mentorship of physicians specializing in this discipline would only further reaffirm my interest and future goal of becoming a gastroenterologist.  I look forward to continued involvement with SAGES and the opportunity for potential future mentorship.

Essay #3 Third Year Medical Student, Cypriana Koziak, University of Alberta

Applying for the scholarship to marySAGES Conference is an exceptional opportunity for me due to my personal, professional, and research interest in general and laparoscopic surgery. Attending the 2015 SAGES conference would help me attain my career goals by furthering my education in the field of general surgery, making me a more competitive applicant in the field of my choice, as well as guide future projects and understanding of my research in surgical simulation and skill transference.

SAGES.  The SAGES Conference would be an excellent opportunity to gain knowledge and learn new skills from individuals with experience in the field of medicine of greatest interest and fascination to me. As I am pursing a medical career in general surgery it would be valuable and exciting to attend a conference of such caliber and international collaboration for the advancement of the surgical profession, and to learn from world-renowned surgeons and leaders of their respective fields.

The conference will also allow me to experience an environment with individuals passionate about their careers and their patients, in addition to a commitment to life-long learning. Being paired with a SAGES Member Mentor would be my chance for advice and inspiration for achieving a successful and meaningful career in general surgery.
Over the past 6 months I have been working on a project in surgical simulation researching eye-hand coordination and the ability to learn pre-tool gaze movement during laparoscopic exercises using the FLS (Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery) model. This project also includes analyzing the transference of learned simulation skills to surgical procedures. I hope that attending the conference will expand my knowledge of the most current laparoscopic techniques and procedures, allowing me to apply new methods and approaches to the learning aspect of laparoscopic skills, and choose simulation skills with the highest yield for surgical procedures. Research on the transference of simulation skills to real life surgical competency could affect surgical residency training, in particular the addition of more rigorous simulation training. I hope, through this research, to make an impact on the training of surgeons and residents, especially in the expanding and innovating field of lapa roscopic surgery.
This conference is a beneficial opportunity for students, residents, and staff at any level of training in their career.  Attending at this stage of my medical career is an ideal opportunity to grant me exposure to the vast breadth and innovation of general surgery and the surgical community, especially in light of the mostly missed but essential surgical education in pre-clinical medical curriculum. Additionally, this conference would benefit my research of laparoscopic simulation and surgical skill transference by expanding my knowledge in this field, and allow me to contribute to the surgical community. I hope that my sincere interest and pursuit of a career in general surgery will make me a competitive application for both this application and for residencies.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


Essay from SAGES 2014 Medical Student Scholarship Award Program

SAGES Membership Committee annually administers SAGES Medical Student Scholarship Award program that offers participating medical students attending medical schools in the United States and Canada the chance to meet, network, and participate in educational courses alongside experienced surgeons attending SAGES annual meeting.

Earlier this year, 140 students submitted their personal essays in a competition to win three awards that provided complimentary meeting registration, a check in the amount of $2,000, an award certificate, and recognition during the meeting.  The essays were engaging and well written and the Membership Committee will be sharing the essay series with the membership through SCOPE, SAGES monthly newsletter and SAGES website. We hope you enjoy this essay from Priscilla Sugianto at Stanford University School of Medicine.

When I started medical school at Stanford, I told myself to embrace opportunities and to seek out things outside of my comfort zone. I would like to believe that I have done so for the past one and a half year. I deeply enjoyed and was comfortable with basic science research prior to coming to medical school, so I decided to pursue a clinical research project and got into qualitative research where I assisted in gathering data for our community partners through focus groups. I learned tremendously from these experiences and have published one manuscript and will submit an additional two. I also worked for a startup company to develop mobile healthcare applications together with engineers, programmers, graphic designers, linguistic assistants, and our physician collaborator.

I have also done exploration for my quest for a field that I would like to enter. I never thought I was a surgery person, but I scrubbed in the OR and fell in love with it. Since then, I have pursued another quest which type of surgery should I enter. I believe that by attending SAGES meeting, it will be another opportunity for me to learn outside my comfort zone. Regardless of what I decided to do, I have always given 100%, become an active participant instead of just passively absorbing like I used to. As a medical student with no financial support from my family, I solely rely on grants, fellowship, scholarship, and my own small income to fund my education. Being able to travel to conferences is such a luxury for me that any financial help will be much appreciated and will alleviate my financial concern. I believe that SAGES would give me a chance to learn more about the field and to actively participating in the process. More importantly, I can bring what I learn from the conference back to Stanford and share it with my colleagues, such that more students are aware of this opportunity and learn more about the fields as well.