Jul 30, 2011

New York New York: Adolescent Medicine

I'm telling you something very personal - I had a horrible time as an adolescent. What typical adolescents do I missed all, except the endless tuition classes, science projects, and striving for As in school. I was a total alien during sports, hanging out at the cool spots, and relationships. Somehow when I saw Adolescent Medicine is being offered, I wanted in. Images of a friendly doctor talking to the vain teenager about issues too embarrassed for parents and too personal for friends conjured in my mind. Somehow I wished I had one of those doctors back then.
I'm well pass adolescence now. But my blank experience didn't help when it comes to talking to American adolescence who seem to have everything in the world.
Dr. Chang and Dr. Ipp are like twin sisters managing the adolescent medicine program at NewYork-Presbyterian. They were chatty, fun, and just the sort of person I would pour my secrets to if I were an adolescent. Dr. Chang also manages a special service program on Monday afternoons which sees children from problematic families. I am humbled by the amount of patience and confidentiality she gave her patients, and the generosity she showed me by showering me with details and reading materials.

As for American adolescents, my experience with them are far away from Hollywood stereotypes of arrogance or self-bloated possessive personality. Many of them are even shy and, like Asian teenagers, blush and turn wood when we talked about sex or illicit drugs.
Teenagers here enjoy a lot of confidentiality - physicians are not allowed to disclose information even to their parents without permission provided under special circumstances. The difference in culture, attitude towards casual encounters and school are all new to me. While I read up night after night on contraception and minor's rights, I went to an eating disorder ward at Westchester, New York, and was surprised by how open-minded families are toward their child with psychiatric disease - Mum and Dad were readily talking about how the perfectionist daughter grew obsessive with calories and their future plans and confidence that everything would turn out fine. It tears me to see ill adolescents, but the family and hospital staff support here is overwhelming.
Both Dr. Ipp and Dr. Chang are very accommodating towards medical students. Dr. Chang never failed to praise anyone for their littlest effort, with "exactly!" and "excellent!" all the time; Dr. Ipp thanked us after each session and always provided feedback and motherly advice. Both to me were like older sisters in medicine which set the benchmark of how I will treat my students in future (that is, if I manage to graduate).
I'm at the end of my clerkship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. The one month seemed as surreal as first stepping on American soil. Hospital environment is so familiar yet different - the morning reports, noon conference, friendly residents and medical students, attendings I shall all miss dearly. Most of all, I shall miss the multicultural, often unpredictable, but always interesting patients. Spending more time with patients and being thorough and dedicated toward their care is my goal after this elective. We might not have the American environment for training physicians, but care and attitude towards patients we can achieve.