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  • Writer's pictureThe Rivers School

Olicia Xu: Beth Israel Deaconess

This summer, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to intern at Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare in Wayland with Dr. Deborah Riester. Dr. Riester is a physician and endocrinologist at Beth Israel who specializes in Primary Care and Internal Medicine. As an endocrinologist, Dr. Riester works extensively with medicine concerning the endocrine system, its glands, and hormones. At the beginning of my internship, Dr. Riester informed me that my age may limit me in terms of what I would be able to do within the office.

Despite her initial words, I have found my experience at Beth Israel enriching nonetheless.

Typically, my jobs consisted of greeting and rooming patients, which included taking their weight and going through an initial screening. Afterwards, I would research and read up on the different cases that were introduced to me that day, to gather a more profound understanding of the medical concepts. Reasons for visiting Dr. Riester varied from patient to patient and I was able to learn something new from every one of them. I watched as Dr. Riester, along with others in her office, checked blood pressure, performed pulmonary function tests (PFTs), and completed electrocardiograms (EKGs) on various patients.

Since many of Dr Riester’s patients were diabetic, I learned a lot about diabetes over the course of my internship as well. When treating diabetic patients, Dr. Riester would typically have a series of tests done including an HgbA1c, to monitor the patient’s glucose levels and ensure they were living a healthy lifestyle. An HgbA1c is a common blood test used to analyze a patient’s blood sugar level over the course of 2-3 months. This would allow Dr. Riester to gain a better grasp on how each patient was doing in terms of caring for their diabetes. The target HgbA1c for diabetics is usually around 7%, because the higher the HgbA1c level, the greater the risk for diabetes complications and poor blood sugar control. Dr. Riester would typically analyze their blood sugar levels, and prescribe proper doses of insulin and medication, in order to help them live a healthy lifestyle.

The cases on each patient varied across a wide spectrum as well. One specific case that stood out to me was a patient who came in with complaints of chest pain on her left side. I was aware that chest pain could be a serious condition and since it was mainly on the patient’s left side, it could have been a result from heart or blood vessel problems. The patient’s EKG was normal; however, Dr. Riester decided to run some more tests. After examining the test results and noticing elevated secreted levels of CPK and Troponin in the patient, Dr. Riester concluded that the patient had had a heart attack. She described how Troponin and Creatine Phosphokinase (CPK) are two enzymes found in the heart that will be released into the bloodstream after cardiac injury. A heart attack (myocardial infarction) happens when a blood clot causes a sudden, complete blockage of the coronary artery. This prevents the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle, and puts individuals at risk of heart failure and ventricular fibrillation (V-fib), a type of cardiac arrhythmia where disorganized electrical activity in the ventricles cause a rapid, irregular heartbeat. At first, it surprised me that the patient was unaware that she had just undergone a heart attack. Then, I realized how lucky she was that Dr. Riester had caught it and she was able to seek further treatment.

As my time at Beth Israel draws to a close, I realize how lucky I am to have been given this amazing opportunity. I am thankful for Mr. Schlenker, Dr. Riester, and everyone else in the office for affording me such a wonderful internship and making my time at Beth Israel so invaluable. I found everyone I met at Beth Israel to be so open and encouraging, and I am so grateful to have been able to work with them for the past few weeks, getting the “real” experience within the medical world. I have learned more than I could have ever imagined throughout my time here researching medical conditions, interacting with patients, and observing Dr. Riester. This internship has greatly reinforced my passion and love for the field of medicine, and I will carry the lessons I have learned with me throughout my the rest of my education and future career.


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