Student Accepted Into a Prestigious Summer Internship

Elizabeth Wilkinson, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
In her Grade 10 year, Melissa Suma began researching programs and opportunities that would further develop her interest of medicine. Through her research, she found Stanford University's School of Medicine Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills Summer Internship, a program designed to educate high school and pre-medical students considering careers in science, medicine and public health at Stanford University. The program seemed quite advanced, but Melissa took a risk and applied.
She sent her transcripts, résumé, a short essay and recommendation letters. Ms Danielle Ganley, Ms Georgette Marshall, Mr. Michael Storey and Ms Mei Wong, all teachers Melissa had throughout Lower, Middle and Senior School, gladly wrote her recommendation letters for her application. In March 2018, Melissa was given early acceptance into the summer program and she gladly accepted the offer. Not only was Melissa given early acceptance, but she was also one of the only two Canadians admitted, and the youngest student admitted at age 16.

Leading up to the program, Melissa connected with HTS alum, Michael Salna ’09. Michael had completed his first-year residency at Stanford in cardiothoracic surgery and previously taught technical sessions at the program – he was a perfect connection for Melissa. Through email, Michael prepared Melissa for the program by providing her with resources including videos and readings. Melissa said this connection was very helpful, and it was a great opportunity to connect with someone with the same interests.

In June, Melissa began the summer program. Her day consisted of morning lectures from guest surgeons on advanced cardiovascular anatomy, physiology, and medical and surgical techniques utilized in premedical and medical school. After lunch, the students practised lab techniques and procedures based on the morning’s lecture. This was followed by another lecture from medical students on general anatomy and physiology. Melissa’s favourite part of the program was working in the labs where they were able to engage in hands-on learning.

In labs, Melissa worked on pig hearts to practise key cardiothoracic surgical procedures and fundamental cardiothoracic surgical skills including surgical knot tying, instrument handling, surgical running suturing, heart dissection, coronary artery bypass grafting (distal), aortic valve replacements, aortic dissection and thoracic aortic vessel ligation, aortic valve suturing and aseptic surgery course. After numerous lectures and labs, the students were able to perform their final procedure – a coronary bypass. This final procedure required students to scrub down, gown up, and perform everything they had learned. Melissa was able to practise both in the head surgeon’s role and the assisting surgeon’s role to understand how the two efficiently work together.

Melissa knew she wanted to go into medicine, and this experience confirmed it. She is grateful for the teachers who prepared and supported her through the process, and for her connection with Michael Salna ’09. Melissa’s advice to her peers is to apply to everything that appeals to you, even things you don’t think you’ll get into, whether it is a summer program or a post-secondary destination. “The biggest part is showing up,” says Melissa’s father –  sound advice that has stayed with her.

Congratulations, Melissa, and well done. We look forward to hearing about what you’ll do next.

Read more about Stanford’s program.