Summer Spotlight: Elisabeth Slighton ‘20
In our Summer Spotlight series, we explore some of our students' interesting and unconventional summer endeavors. This week, we highlight Elisabeth Slighton ‘20, a prospective Anthropology major who is originally from Hong Kong. In addition to being premed, she has a strong interest creative writing and is an avid long-distance runner.
Last year, Elisabeth attended a Woman in Medicine talk hosted by the Princeton Premedical Society with Dr. Elaine Barfield ‘04. Dr. Barfield is a pediatric gastroenterology specialist who teaches at Weill Cornell and is an assistant attending physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Inspired by her talk and intrigued by her work, Elisabeth reached out to Dr. Barfield to inquire about shadowing and potentially working with her over the summer. Elisabeth’s initiative paid off: Dr. Barfield invited her for a short shadowing visit during the school year and to work with her over summer at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
Elisabeth told us the days varied greatly, but often included an early start at the Pediatric Grand Rounds where doctors would present case studies and residents would present their research for discussion with the group. This provided an invaluable opportunity for Elisabeth to understand how physicians interact with one another and work collaboratively on cases. Later in the morning, Elisabeth would typically work on research, assisting with three different studies. Duties often included gathering demographic information and consenting patients for study participation. Given the nature of pediatric work, Elisabeth also spent considerable time discussing the study with patients' families and obtaining consent from the families. And as Elisabeth says, “that was just the mornings.” In the afternoons, she would often shadow -- she observed a number of different specialists throughout the summer and was able to watch a handful of different surgeries including one that involved a highly specialized team flying in from Israel.
One of the highlights of the experience was the amount of patient and patient family interaction Elisabeth was afforded as part of her research work. In addition, because Dr. Barfield is an attending physician who supervises residents at the hospital, Elisabeth spent significant time interacting with those residents. This allowed her to gain first-hand perspectives on their experience throughout the process of medical school and residency, and exposed her to the types of research she might pursue when she gets to the residency stage of her medical career. One consideration for students hoping to find similar opportunities is that Elisabeth was a volunteer and was not paid over the summer. She acknowledged the privilege afforded to her in being able to spend a summer in NYC without a stipend or salary, something many students would be unable to take advantage of.
In all, Elisabeth considers her time working with Dr. Barfield to have been an incredible experience that helped to solidify her interest in medicine as a career. Elisabeth describes the experience as “finding her calling” and now can’t imagine doing “anything other than being a doctor”. She found this opportunity through her own initiative by attending premed events on campus and taking advantage of networking opportunities. In addition, Elisabeth read her audience well and understood that Dr. Barfield appreciated when students were direct with her. As far as advice for first-year and sophomores seeking summer opportunities, Elisabeth said students shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to people whose work they find interesting, but that it also helps to establish initial communication beforehand. She couldn’t say enough about attending talks and different events on campus, using them to learn more about the work being done, then utilizing the networking opportunities these events afford.