Summer Experiences: the DeBakey Summer Surgery Program

DeBakey 5

Alyssa, third from the left, with her surgical team at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital.

By Alyssa DaVolio

Over the course of eight weeks, I have had the great pleasure of participating in the Michael E. DeBakey Summer Surgery Program at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, part of the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX. When I arrived for my first day of the program, I was an ordinary pre-medical student eager to dive deeper into the world of medicine and surgery; however, by the end of the program, I could see myself as nothing less than a future surgeon.

The DeBakey Summer Surgery Program selected 15 pre-medical students from across the country and placed them at three different hospitals on the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world. I was placed with the director of the Elkins Pancreas Center, Dr. William Fisher, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. My days usually started off at 6:00 a.m. with patient rounds.  The surgical team and I would pre-round first to collect vitals and address any issues our patients had overnight followed by rounds with Dr. Fisher.  Once we finished the rounds, I either headed to the operating room or the clinic.

Debakey 2During clinic days, I had the incredible opportunity to shadow every part of the surgical team, including the surgeon, intern, chief resident, and medical students. With this wide variety of shadowing opportunities, I had the great pleasure of learning the qualifications of each professional and how they interacted as a team and with patients.

My favorite opportunity of the program was being in the operating room. What makes this program so unique is I was actually able to scrub into a case in order to get a better view. In addition to “scrubbing in,” I got to work with patients during both pre-op and post-op. Watching Dr. Fisher operate was unbelievable. He was willing to teach while keeping close concentration on the task at hand.

All in all, the DeBakey Summer Surgery Program is a program I would highly recommend to any pre-medical student, especially those interested in a surgical career. Not only do you get to study at some of the top hospitals in the country, but you also get to participate in medicine on a deeper level. This program enabled me to expand my medical knowledge and expertise and take one step closer to my dream: a career in medicine.

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Summer Experiences: Living in the Heart and Hospitals of Argentina

By Shayna Mooney

In July 2014, I traveled to Argentina to volunteer through International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) and Fundación AFOS, IVHQ’s partner organization in Argentina.


For two weeks, I lived in the small town of Villa Allende, in the center Córdoba Province, and volunteered at El Dispensario Dumesnil, a small community clinic run by the municipal government in Córdoba.  The clinic provides general medical care, nursing services, vaccinations, gynecology, dentistry, and social support to needy populations in the area. I shadowed health care professionals and provided assistance by taking patient vitals.


Through this volunteer experience, I was able to improve my Spanish speaking skills and increase my knowledge of how health care is practiced in a different area of the world.  I not only learned about the health issues face by Argentines, but I also learned about the customs and culture of Argentina.

The highlight of my experience was watching the semi-final and final matches of the FIFA World Cup with the locals. The atmosphere and excitement were unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was also fortunate to travel to different parts of Argentina after my volunteer experience.


I visited El Calafate in Patagonia to see the Perito Moreno Glaciar. I also traveled to the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, and spent a few days taking in the sights of the beautiful European-influenced city.

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Summer Experiences: An Open Door Led to India


By Zoe Hinton

The required study abroad experience of the EC Scholars Program is a gift that can open a variety of doors. Some doors open to Ecuador and environmental sustainability, while others open toward Italy and art history of the Renaissance. The knob I chose to turn landed me in Northern India on a Religious Studies trip with 13 other East Carolina students.

My classroom has never been with fifteen other people in a foreign country. In fact, this scholarship gave me my first opportunity to travel outside of the United States. By the end of the trip, we were no longer a group students with widely different interests, we became a community of people. When we were put further away from home, it was easier to realize our similarities and bond as a whole.

As a Neuroscience major, most were surprised with my decision tto study a subject so vastly different. I am intrigued by the interaction and overlap between religion and medicine.



If I had the opportunity to experience another study abroad trip, I would pick India one thousand times over. I found beauty everywhere we traveled: in the architecture of the temples, in the hand woven saree designs, in the cows and dogs on the street, in the spiritual connection on the mountainsides of Dharamsala, and even in the lemons artfully stacked morning after morning on carts in Delhi.

I learned lessons about myself, I broadened my horizons to learn about other cultures and professional interests, and I pushed myself further than I have ever been outside of my comfort zone, and there is nothing more priceless than that.

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Welcome to Australia: Remember that Everything is Borrowed

By Chris Thaxton

A reflection on power struggles and environmentalism during a semester in Australia.

Today, a man from a local indigenous group gave welcomed us to Australia.  Traditionally tribes and nations would not intrude on the land of others without first being “welcomed,” so before all of us international students begin our adventure down here in Oz, the Uni thought it important that we be formally welcomed by the people the land belongs to. Although the lifeless faces around me suggested that most of my peers could not have cared less about this gesture, to me it was awesome. Never in America would you see a university invite a Native American to welcome you to use the land simply because we no longer recognize the land to belong to anyone but us. Although the Australian government obviously doesn’t admit that they are borrowing the land they have developed, this university and many of the people here do.

Australian wilderness

After all, are we all not just borrowing this land? Even the aborigines were just loaning the country from a higher power…they just left it in a much better condition than we have. Who says what belongs to me, or my parents, or my friends, or my government? What right do we have to call a piece of dirt ours…we did not create it did we? All the materials we use, to produce the goods that we sell, and create structures on the land that we develop does not truly belong to us. We have borrowed everything from Mother Earth, who I call God, and She is probably not happy with the way we are treating her things.

Who decides who owns a piece of land?

When I let a friend borrow a book, I expect them to return it a little bit worn, but still very usable. If they live up to my expectation of respect, then that same book can be passed between a tremendous number of friends before it is unreadable, and odds are by that time several more books have been published for me to read and begin to pass on. We should be treating our planet in the same way we should treat anything else we borrow, such as the metaphorical book. You don’t borrow a book and begin taking notes in the margins, crossing out things you disagree with, or ripping out your favorite pages for you alone to enjoy. You instead do your very best to keep the text in mint condition so that the next reader can get all of the thought and emotion out of the read that you did. I want my kids, and their kids, and their kids, and so on to be able to see, hear, and smell the same wonders that I have, so that they can draw their own emotions from this amazing planet.

Australia’s natural beauty must be kept in mint condition.

Australia, like the rest of the world, has quite a few things to work on when it comes to carbon emissions, over development, and conservation. Regardless, at least this one university seems to understand that though we may call a place “ours,” we are only its temporary users, and we owe it to the original owners to leave it better than we found it.

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Summer Experiences: U.S. Golf Association Internship

Megan WoodliefBy: Megan Woodlief, junior hospitality management major

This summer, I had an internship with the United States Golf Association working at the U.S. Open Golf Tournament held in Pinehurst, N.C. As a rising junior hospitality management major with a concentration in conventions and special events, this internship right up my alley. I hope to eventually work in either collegiate or professional sports.

For two and a half weeks, I worked from 5 a.m. until 7 or 8 p.m. as one of 12 “will-call” interns hired for the tournament. Our basic job was to run the will-call offices located at the main gates. This included far more than I ever expected. From running the ticket databases to answering every phone call that came through every day, multitasking became my no. 1 skill. The days seemed to fly by, as we never stopped moving or answering questions the whole day.

Making history, this was the first year that the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Open Tournaments were held at the same golf course spanning two weeks of continuous golf.  This required the interns to be there longer than normal, making for a very long month of waking up early.  Not only this, but there were record-breaking crowds at both tournaments. One of my favorite parts of the tournament was when I got to meet Adam Scott. As an intern, we had the opportunity to meet many of the famous golfers as well as many of the up-and-coming players.

US OPENStaying in a new place and living with new people for a short timespan was sort of like going to college again. Yet, in those few weeks that we all stayed there, we made friends for life. Most of us still keep in touch and wish to pursue another internship with the U.S. Golf Association for additional golf tournaments. The experience gained from this type of nonstop internship couldn’t be traded for anything in the world.  I got to see all the effort and hours put into making a large event run seamlessly, only solidifying the many reasons I love my major.

One of the greatest pieces of advice came from an Honors College professor when helping me look at different internships. “Find your passion and run with it,” said Dr. Todd Fraley. “Never let it go and never let anyone tell you that it won’t work.” He was the reason I changed my major and pursued this internship.

The Honors College not only provides us with one of the best learning environments on campus, but they prepare us to succeed even when we venture out into the world.  Everyone should get the opportunity to have a fantastic internship during college. It is the best way to see if you enjoy your field of study, and pursue your passions.

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