Lessons Learned from Shadowing and Volunteering

In addition to my two “excursions”, I also shadowed and volunteered throughout the summer. I volunteered at the Alzheimer’s Association, and shadowed at the local West Chester Hospital.

During this time, I learned on a physical and emotional level, and the lessons have stuck.

The issue I always faced, being a gung-ho debater, was motivating kids. They would practice tirelessly, but shut down during tournament time. I was a stereotypical “hot-blooded young man” when it came to debate, so getting fired up was never an issue.

However, not everyone worked that way. Especially not my debaters. That stumped me: why wouldn’t they fire up? Most people, if losing a debate, fight back with more vigor. I thought that was what everyone did.

I talked about this with my dad (naturally over a game of ping-pong), and he told me that people are different (obviously), but also that what most people want is not for me to talk to them, but for me to LISTEN TO THEM. I did listen to them, but I never to the extent that they would spit up what it was that bothered them. I was never able to do that with my kids, because by that time I was already in college, but I tried that now…


Specific Experiences:

Electrocardiology: 10 hours

Pediatric Neurology: 8 hours

Otolaryngology: 5 hours

Knee, Heart, and General Surgery: 8 hours

Free Clinic Shadowing: 8 hours

Pulmonology Outpatient: 12 hours

ICU: 4 hours

Neonatal/Perinatal ICU: 2 hours

Emergency Medicine: 15 hours

Cumulative: 69 hours

Main List:

  • Cliche, I know, but professionalism applies here. I wanted to get close with the patients, to understand their problems, but that isn’t my job. My job is to leave myself out of it. Granted I will be compassionate, but if I even slip with the professionalism, a can of worms opens up in the relationship, and I put a pressure on myself where I cannot treat people properly. I must alternate between clinical and medical questions, as I have noticed that this combination gets right to the point while also building rapport. Patients may not be seen for a while (6 month+ gaps in between visits), so it is critical to be attentive and get as much as you can from each visit, so that you can build on relationships even after long absences.
  • Nobody is treated differently, regardless of whether or not they have a doctoral degree or not. I anticipated that when interacting with PhD’s in the field who came in with heart or brain problems, that we could skip some of the explanatory portions of the appointment (assuming they understood what they had). While they may know what they have, there needs to be a uniformity in the way doctors talk to their patients, and there is. They treat everyone the same, and it makes things less complicated. As such, I will do the same.
  • In outpatient (where I’ve shadowed a neurologist for a week, and this cardiologist for a week), I learned that there tend to be commonalities between every patient, or rather drugs/diseases that appear every time (from my time, it’s been Keppra for epilepsy, Coumadin, Toprol, Lisinopril, and Omeprazole for the heart, albuterol and Stiolto for anything respiratory). Of course, specifics depend on the specialty, but no doubt there appears to be a lean towards certain medications.
  • Medicine here seems to be more reactive as opposed to proactive. It’s disheartening, even though we are doing the right thing. Far fewer patients need to be here. In addition, the answer to less-than-effective medication is seemingly more aggressive medication. However, good lifestyle choices need to be emphasized and encouraged as the only ways in which medication can be effective, or else no change will occur.
  • The schedule defies the typical workweek, as generally it involves a lot of choice (again, just a conclusion from what I’ve seen). However, the hours are busy and generally exhausting, though not in a bad way. Communication with the nurses and the staff is of vital importance, and notes cannot get backed up, even if that means a bit of a delay for patients.
  • Keeping updated with software is pivotal. This is a constantly changing field. Failure to do so can result in either dependency or inadequacy, neither of which are acceptable. This isn’t something most people think about when trying to become doctors, but something they realize they have to do afterwards. As my PI said once, “That which we are not, we become”.
  • ICU functions in an interesting manner, as collaborative rounds are used and conversation and communication between doctors is critical. This is different from outpatient, as patients are not conscious often and precautions need to be taken when meeting with patients. Extensive communication among staff regarding orders, tests, and scans is required, along with a more intensive workday. This feels more congested and less laid-back than I have seen. In addition, I learned about Advanced Practice Nurses and the categories they fall into: cRNA, or Nurse Anesthetist, NS, or Nurse Specialist, NM, or Midwife, and Nurse Practitioners, which fall into two categories: Primary Care and acute. These were distinctions that I had not previously encountered and I was grateful to have my ignorance cleared. The roles of nurses blend with those of doctors, which I knew. While nurses do get patient to patient interaction, the responsibility and the final decision-making does clearly rest with the doctor, along with comprehensive knowledge of many conditions. These are reasons why I want to pursue a career as a physician as opposed to that of a nurse or any sub-specialty.
  • I was truly impressed and shocked with what I saw in the neonatal ICU. These children looked so small and fragile, and had such elaborate equipment set up that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. I witnessed a gastroschisis and the subsequent attempt to fix it, along with an understanding of the importance of the job and how much small actions influence future trajectory. In addition, I was able to determine more of the difference between adults and children with regards to healthcare, and how systems that work in adults completely differ in children. This includes the knowledge that fever causes temperature increases in adults but drops it in children. Because children cannot communicate, this makes the cause of the problem difficult to discern. It could be an infection, or just the window being open. Such sensitivities make this different than other specialties, which made me quite interested in it.
  • Witnessed sickle cell crisis, motor vehicle crush victim, herpes, meningitis, ultrasound of ventral hernia, vomiting, sexual assault victims, self-mutilation victim, pyelonephritis (incredibly painful), woman rushed in with accelerated breathing, man rushed in with possible brain injury, clear alcoholism issue, inability to restrain bowels. In addition, person with eye damage, pulmonary embolism, etc.

Where I learned about myself:

I was in with a patient who was rather large and struggling to breathe because of weight. Some heart tissue had died, and thus a permanent decrease in functionality had resulted, resulting in a shortness of breath. This was especially frustrating for the patient, who was not comforted by the alternative therapies option (transplant). The medication was frustrating the patient, who didn’t want to continue it even though it was the only option. This, coupled with some miscommunication from the patient’s primary care physician, resulted in much angst directed at the cardiologist and the staff despite no culpability. The cardiologist and the staff handled this completely unreasonable situation professionally, and the problem was resolved.

That brought me back to what my father said: that people aren’t mad at you, but are simply venting their frustrations onto you. You have no right to snap back.

I was already a patient individual but that’s when it all clicked.

Later on, in the Solid Tumor Clinic, I was shadowing and was faced with a heartbreaking situation: the diagnosis of cancer. This was to a person struggling with financial times, and now had relapsed. How was the patient going to handle this news? Most people don’t plan for cancer in the first place, and never want to have to plan for it after beating it once. Heck, most people can’t produce around $400 of cash at this very moment in America. The doctor handled this case as tenderly as he could. As in the previous example, he took some verbal abuse, but was incredibly kind and supportive. From this particular instance, I learned another seemingly obvious point that I had never consciously recognized: doctors are beacons of hope, and at any given time need to be at once realistic with yet supportive of the patient. That means portraying yourself as supremely confident in the face of this adversity, and it means that you have to have a game plan ready for the patient to follow treatment-wise, because they will cling onto what you say with their life.


Alzheimer’s Association: Summer 2017 + Autumn 2018 + Spring 2019 (106 + 12 + 2 + 3 +3) (as of 4/9/19)

Rardin Free Clinic: 72 hours (as of 4/9/19)

James Cancer Hospital: 110 hours (as of 4/18/19)

OSU Disabilities Services Notetaker: 64 hours (2/8/19)

Total: 372 hours

Main List:

  • The data that a large organization has to deal with is staggering. 40,000 entries and manual editing is a nightmare. More importantly, optimization is not just a want in this sector, it’s a NEED. I’ve researched all about the VA’s technological despair during my debate days, but seeing a situation like it and working in it was stunning and quite unexpected.
  • The planning that goes behind an event, such as a walk, takes a tremendous amount of labor that not many people see, whether that be putting together folders, folding brochures, and transporting large quantities of walk materials like crates of supplies, large banners, and unwieldy stands.
  • Most people are unwilling to answer phone calls, or if they do, stay on them for an extended period of time regardless of the call’s purpose. Generally, phone calling is a highly inefficient way of reaching people, and a more efficient route needs to be discovered before the phone calls turn into a time sink that drain people.
  • DO NOT EXPECT EVERYONE to follow your advice, or be diligent about what they are supposed to do, whether this be fulfilling a commitment made, or simply listening to the best mode of action. People are stubborn.
  • Non-profits can be as competitive as your greedy Silicon Valley start-up.

 What I learned and dealt with emotionally:

I was simply performing a routine set of calls to ensure that donors and sponsors were keen on their commitment to support the walk, when I ran into a lady with a unique problem. Both of her parents suffered from some stage of Alzheimer’s, and she and her sister dedicated an immense amount of time to the cause. That wasn’t the struggle. The struggle was when she mentioned that an “undercover” cop showed up at one of her yard sales to raise money for the cause, and began questioning her integrity. This was clearly the man’s fault, yet I was being rebuked for that reason. After over half an hour of abuse, I finally managed to help calm the lady down, because I understood her concern. I then redirected her issues towards my superiors, who successfully dealt with the issue.

While I never impress myself because I have extremely high expectations, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit more mature, as I had followed my father’s advice and stayed calm in the face of so much anger. While I didn’t learn anything distinctly new here, it surely reinforced the concepts I had been taught, and allowed me to grow as a human.




My Summer 2017

So far this summer, I have visited Chicago and Atlanta. While both trips were for events and not necessarily sightseeing, my trip to Chicago gave me an interesting perspective that I’d never seen before on my identity. For that, you need a little context…

I am from Honavar, India. This is a small coastal town in the state of Karnataka in India, and is just miles from the Arabian Sea and the beach. India in general has way too many languages for everyone to count, but the main language of my state is known as Kannada (not to be confused with Canada). The problem I faced growing up is unique from those of others, because I’m not just a minority. I came from a small group of people known as Havyakas, whose dialect is mostly similar to traditional Kannada, but slightly different. Amazingly though, most modern Kannada speakers, not from that group, have difficulty understanding it, and that’s understandable. If you take the sentence “I ate, mom!” and remove the comma, you have a different sentence entirely. Similar issues are encountered during communication between the groups.

What that should indicate is that I’ve become a minority within a minority within another minority.

I’m a minority in America because I am Indian.

A minority among Indians because I speak Kannada.

A minority among Kannada speakers because of my dialect.

It’s like Inception, but with minorities.

As a result, in my school and where I lived, it was very hard to find someone like me, and I was often mocked for my tongue among the Kannada speakers at my school. However, this trip to Chicago introduced me to “my people”, as it was a convention of only Havyaka people. For the first time, I could understand every single person there and talk freely in my tongue without fear. I could listen to quality performances and relate with people who had their name misspelled the same way I did (Hedge instead of Hegde). I felt truly at home among everybody there with regards to communication, which was an unusual feeling because I’m no slouch in the communications department. Friends were made instantly, and tremendous amounts of food were consumed. The experience meant a lot, as now, I do not feel like an endangered species anymore. I feel like I am part of a larger group that can stand together. I left very happy and a changed man, and the sense of community that I felt for the first time in my life will never leave me. I wish to attend again in two years if the MCAT has been taken care of by that time, and am glad that I was able to go to this one.


G.O.A.L.S. Update

It would be foolish to assume that everything I intended to do worked out perfectly. Appropriately, these are my updated goals.

Global Awareness: I intend to study abroad in Thailand, or volunteer abroad, as I have already learned a great deal about systems in our culture. I wish to learn more about how this works in other countries. I do have many experiences in India, as I was born there and have visited numerous times. However, Europe, Africa, Eastern Asia, along with South America continue to evade my grasp and my understanding.

Original Inquiry: I will continue to work in the Riffe Building under my PI focusing on RubisCO research. My goal is to work on my own project, with the intention of going to the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum and presenting there. I am also shadowing a cardiologist and neurologist, and hope to shadow an Infectious Disease Specialist soon.

Academic Enrichment: I will continue to push towards my goals, and will take rigorous coursework primarily in the Honors category to provide me with the maximum possible education I can achieve.

Leadership Development: My freshman year, I was in the AAA Leadership Development Program, and ran my own event with over 200 people known as Spring Olympics. I was in charge of organizing the event with the gym, obtaining supplies and trophies, renting the space, and ensuring that everything ran smoothly even when it did not.  This year, I am currently an AOSCH Chair on the Mirrors Sophomore Honorary, in addition to being Advocacy Co-Chair in the Asian American Association Executive Board. I wish to use these positions to influence the actions of these organizations and help them focus on the right path, as both roles possess great flexibility that allows for me to dictate where and what to do from this point on.

Service Engagement: I currently volunteer at the Rardin Free Clinic and James Cancer Hospital during the academic year, and at the Alzheimer’s Association during the summer, primarily working with data entry. In addition to this, I coach speech to children on Tuesdays and Thursdays over the summer, in addition to directly mentoring my novices in debate on the Speech and Debate Team.



Global Awareness: I intend to join Give volunteers, a group that works around the world to help people in difficult situations and stages of life receive resources to help overcome obstacles that they would be unable to face individually, including targeting regions in Tanzania, Laos, Nicaragua, and other examples.
Original Inquiry: I will attempt to email professors who desire researchers in their labs, and hope to become part of a meaningful research experience.
Academic Enrichment: Honors & Scholars students pursue academic excellence through rigorous curricular experiences beyond the university norm both in and out of the classroom.
Leadership Development: In my future plans, I hope to join the Student Leadership Advocates Group, as it will allow me to broaden my horizons on what it means to be a leader and what I can do around campus to make a difference to other people.
Service Engagement: I plan on engaging in service by reaching out to various organizations and expressing my interest in helping a cause greater than I am.

My Summer 2016

This past summer (Summer 2016), I visited Niagara Falls with my grandmother, Maroon Bells in Colorado with my aunt and cousins, Salt Lake City for the Debate National Tournament, and Alaska and Canada with my parents and sister. I saw the Rocky Mountains from 3 different areas in the United States, and took so many pictures of wildlife and nature that I have hundreds of photos on my phone in a folder specifically called “nature pics”. I trekked through wilderness, ate sandwiches by lakes, and tripped over my fair share of rocks all around the US. Of my many pictures, this picture stands out. This is Maroon Bells, the 2nd-most photographed mountain in the world (after Everest). This picture, and all my nature pics, are indicative of my academic and personal interests. I’m a biology major, and the study of diversity, wildlife, and nature in general is at the focus of my education, both inside and outside the classroom. If I wasn’t so keen on becoming a doctor, I probably would become an environmentalist. If you sat down and tried to draw this, as I once amusingly did, you would fail miserably (unless you were actually an accomplished artist). Even then, your work would not compare to what is in front of you, as it physically exists to be touched, experienced, and admired. The point of this is that some of the most incredible things are meant to be experienced and fully known. We marvel at stalactite and stalagmite formation in caves, but far more intricate systems are at work inside our very body. These sort of wonders are not given justice even by pictures, and it’s from visiting this place that I realized how stark of a difference there is between seeing something and experiencing it. This was truly a summer to remember.

About Me








Former Debater. Current Buckeye. Future Doctor. I’m Prajwal Hegde, an OSU sophomore in Microbiology and a future medical professional. I’ve never been satisfied going to bed without all my questions answered, and that’s taken me places I never would have imagined. I currently assist in undergraduate research on RubisCO optimization at the Riffe Building, where I perform lab research in hopes of changing the way science is conducted.

I also volunteer at the Rardin Free Clinic, where we serve ordinary people with one catch: they’re well below the poverty line. I’m currently the Advocacy Co-Chair on the Asian American Association Executive Board, with the goal of bringing issues that Asian Americans and other minorities face not just to the main campus, but to those groups themselves who don’t realize they are subject to injustices. In addition, I also am one of two AOSCH Chairs for Mirrors Sophomore Class Honorary, attending Honorary meetings and reporting back to Mirrors, while spending additional time volunteering at the James C. Cancer Hospital.

I spend hours connecting knowledge from multiple disciplines together in my spare time, as Chemistry, Biology, Calculus, Statistics, and Physics have all been independent concepts in high school that I know are related. For example, did you know that resistors commonly used in circuitry (Physics) are meant to mimic neuronal synapses in the brain (Biology)? This is the basis for the field of neural networks, and ties those disciplines together in the hope of creating powerful AI that learns like we do and makes decisions as well. If you knew that, then did you know that slime molds (Biology) were used to design the rail system of Tokyo (Physics), or that ants (Biology) have figured out the shortest possible path between multiple different points (Traveling Salesman Problem, Mathematics)? These and countless more examples intrigue me, and delving deeper into such topics makes me happier than an app developer with downloads.

But don’t just assume that’s the only thing I enjoy.

I enjoy watching playoff hockey, baseball, and recently golf. I especially love basketball and tennis, with Lebron James and Roger Federer serving as my two favorite stars. I’ve been to several Cavs games, and I live just a mile away from the ATP Masters Event in Cincinnati, where I’ve been a ballboy for several years, watching Federer win the tournament 6 times. My dream is to watch Wimbledon (the biggest tennis event in sports) live. In addition to sports, I love watching movies, listening to music, and hanging out with my friends. As of right now, nothing beats watching a Hayao Miyazaki movie (with subtitles, of course), listening to the Weeknd AND Yo-Yo Ma (an interesting dichotomy, I know), or rage-quitting (angrily walking away during/after a loss) in a Mario Kart race with my boys. Still, all of this pales in comparison to my love of science and my ultimate interest, medicine.

My desire to join a medical profession stems from the fact that so many members of my family and their friends suffer from various ailments that have hampered their ability to live a healthy life, with many of my dear ones passing away due to inadequacies in the system. This, however, doesn’t compare with the real tragedy: so many people are cut down in their youth due to treatable illnesses or wounds that they cannot get treatment for, and many of these people are brilliant and capable of becoming the “next big thing”. Growing up in privilege, I’m rather humble, as I never started at the same place that so many people do, and I’ve had opportunities that so many don’t.

That’s why I want to level the playing field, so that no kid or adult is deprived of the chance that they deserve. I want to become an Infectious Disease Specialist, and save lives with my expertise. But for now, that’s going to have to wait.

If you want to talk to me about this, or anything for that matter, feel free to reach out! I assure you that I am far more fun-loving than you think. You can find me around campus hanging out with my friends, engrossed in novels, pretending to shoot like Lebron, or playing tennis (or table tennis). Don’t be afraid to talk to me, because you can be sure I won’t be afraid to talk to you 🙂 Go Buckeyes, and I hope to see you around!