One day in his first year of med school, M1 David Haidar came across an email he didn’t expect: an offer to participate in the Wolverines for Life Transplant Shadowing Program, a special program designed to give med students a chance to observe and understand the impact of transplant surgery firsthand. As an undergrad, David had shadowed a trauma surgeon and loved it, so he jumped at the opportunity for more surgical exposure. He shares how this experience was much more engaging and satisfying than he ever could have imagined.
“So many people’s lives are affected by what happens during the few hours in the operating room. Not just the patients, but also their families, friends, and others hoping to have similar operations. The kidney transplant I shadowed took place just a couple of weeks after finishing our renal sequence, so most of the anatomy and physiology explained to me by the head surgeon made sense. I actually understood the logic behind where to ligate an artery or vein to avoid accidentally cutting off blood supply to other areas of the region, and was also able to recognize the images in the radiographs (thank you, anatomy lab). This blew my mind.
“The magnitude of the operation and the ease with which the surgical team completed it was incredible. Here was this person giving up a fully functional organ, willingly undergoing an invasive procedure to save the life of another. Two people’s lives are at risk in this situation, yet everything seemed like business as usual for the experts in the room who, while still respecting the delicacy and import of the situation, seemed to easily maneuver through the body, remove the organ, transport it, and implant it into the other patient.
“The transplant surgery program of Wolverines for Life is so user friendly. I signed up months in advance and received all the information necessary regarding proper protocol leading up to the shadowing experience. If I had any questions, the answers were an email away. We were given numerous options for when to sign up with many dates available, so I picked one that fit my personal and academic schedule so that it would not affect my studies at all. This experience was so incredible that I am now pursuing multiple others to learn about other potential specialties in the surgical field.
“The opportunities are plentiful, and it’s overwhelming when you realize how much you can do, especially here at the University of Michigan.”
Photographs by Leisa Thompson