During my time at HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest and Epic Heart and Vascular Center, my experience was truly enriching and transformative. Since this was my first-ever in-person hospital rotation, I was naturally nervous and anxious, but thanks to Dr. Usman Khan under whose kind and remarkable mentorship, I was able to tremendously grow not only as a physician but as a person as well.
Dr. Khan was very welcoming at every step of the program and made sure that I had a pleasant and comfortable learning experience throughout. He called me into the office on the very first day to address all my concerns regarding the externship program and the NRMP match process in a very compassionate manner. “My door is always open for you should you encounter any issues at all,” his words compelled me to give my best during the rotation.
As IMGs, we were not familiar with commonly used electronic medical record systems in the US healthcare system, and having gone through that transition himself, Dr. Khan kept that in view. He assigned us to medical assistants initially so that we could learn the intricacies of EMR, such as eClinicalWorks, including lab follow-ups and prescription refills. The office staff facilitated all the observers, and the efficient teamwork in the office was awe-inspiring. His medical team was so supportive and encouraging that Kim, one of his nurse practitioners, let me take a patient’s history under her supervision on the very first day. “You think you are not ready and you might not be, but you are here to learn and I am here to help you,” I remember her comforting me when I expressed that I was not ready for that. The whole program was so well-structured that by the end of the first week, I was already presenting cases and updating notes on my own for Dr. Khan to provide his valuable feedback.
After the morning rounds, we would go to the clinic and learn about various outpatient procedures, including Varithena, VenaSeal, and Radiofrequency Ablation for varicose veins. He taught us about the basics of reading EKGs and stress tests early on and quizzed us daily for a few hours till the end of rotation. This allowed me to grasp the fundamental idea and theme of various EKG leads, and I was ecstatic when I had to explain it to my fellow externs who had difficulty understanding it.
I was actively involved with patient care as part of his clinic team. One particular case that I remember was of a 68-year-old patient who had grade 3 varicose veins and had come to the clinic for VenaSeal treatment. He understood only Urdu and didn’t know what compression stockings were, so I was called in by the medical assistant to explain the post-procedure care. “Thank you for your patience. I am certain you will become a very empathetic doctor in the future,” he predicted when I walked him out.
To emphasize the importance of being up-to-date with the research and evidence-based guidelines, Dr. Khan welcomed us all to present recent AHA guidelines in the journal club. He was very approachable and considerate with regards to my future interests when I expressed that I was planning to pursue a Hematology and Oncology fellowship after residency. Hence, I presented ‘Cardiovascular Toxicity Related to Cancer Treatment: A Pragmatic Approach to the American and European Cardio‐Oncology Guidelines’, a systematic review of guidelines on how to monitor the detrimental effects of chemotherapeutic agents on cardiac tissue. I was applauded by my mentor and fellow observers for the concise yet informative presentation.
This experience was not just academically significant for me but also refined my communication skills and work ethics. I got to appreciate that even small gestures like being on time and well-dressed could be very impactful. It made me more confident, approachable, and trustworthy for my teammates as well as my patients.
In conclusion, my partially hands-on rotation at HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest and Epic Heart and Vascular Center was an unforgettable experience and will forever hold a special place in my heart. It made me capable of performing outstandingly in my subsequent rotations.