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Money Matters
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Operation Internship
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David Rees Gets His (Bleep) On
Around Tappan Square
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One More Thing
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Operation Internship
Obie surgeon spurs passion for medicine in student interns
by Eric T. Everett

Dr. Douglas Kirkpatrick '65 has stood in an airport terminal in Provo, Oregon, every January for the past 20 years, awaiting his next Oberlin "transplant."

He and his unsuspecting student intern will become nearly inseparable during the coming weeks--darting in and out of operating rooms, conducting early-morning hospital rounds, or talking together in Kirkpatrick's home. For the student, it will be a winter-term project like no other.

"Doug told me, 'You'll go wherever I go, except the bathroom,'" Dr. Paul Samuels '82 recalls with a laugh. As Kirkpatrick's first intern, Samuels went on to graduate from NYU's School of Medicine and today is associate professor of anesthesia/pediatrics at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.

"My experience with Doug was incredible--he was extremely skilled. I was in my third year at Oberlin and was undecided about my career."

His mind-set soon changed. During his four-week tour with Kirkpatrick in 1981, Samuels took a front seat to several surgical procedures, including a craniotomy (he remembers being awed by the exposed, pulsing human brain) and an STA-MCA bypass on an anesthetized mouse. Samuels was equally impressed by his mentor's ingenuity when a power outage in the operating room forced the surgeon to complete the job via lantern light.

"I returned to Oberlin knowing I wanted to go into medicine," says Samuels, whose fond memories of Kirkpatrick run deep, especially given the surgeon's announcement of his retirement this past December, ending his 25-year career.

Kimberly Betz, director of internships in Oberlin's Office of Career Services, says that Kirkpatrick's popular internship gave students complete access in and out of the operating room. "Support from alumni like Doug is invaluable in helping students assess their goals and interests," says Betz. "Many of these opportunities lead students toward their post-Oberlin path."

"It's been a pleasure," says Kirkpatrick. "Having new, fresh minds with which to share experiences revitalized me. I wanted the students to experience medicine, not necessarily create doctors or neurosurgeons." The tactic worked: nearly all of his 20 interns have become doctors, health care providers, or business owners. Many recall his gentle bedside manor, vibrant personality, and pure enjoyment of teaching.

"I saw procedures and emergency situations that I didn't even see during my years of medical training," says Shannon Sims '93, whose current career combines health care and information technology. "Dr. Kirkpatrick provided an extremely intimate view of the medical world, from allowing us to view neurosurgical procedures in the OR to letting us sit in on clinic visits to initiating frank discussions about the financial rewards and lifestyle issues of being
a physician."

"He turned me on to detailed anatomy and minute surgical technique," says Charles Soparkar '83, an associate ocular plastic eye surgeon in Houston. "And I expect it was his compassion, balanced against stark, community prejudice, that contributed to my own acceptance of different cultures."

"Kirkpatrick did a great service to Oberlin students by showing them the good and bad sides of medicine," says David Brand '92, an epidemiologist and director of research and evaluation in the Chronic Disease Department at the Colorado Department of Public Health. "He immersed students in the experience and let them sort out, on an individual basis, whether or not they wanted to pursue medicine."

Kirkpatrick's influence on his interns extended beyond the professional; many recalled his sense of humor, devotion to his children, passion for art, and his extravagant greenhouse in which he maintained a collection of parasitic plants. Soparkar claims that the doctor "quite literally shoved me down my first ski slope.

"Many things I will not forget," he adds, "like his wry humor in operating to Pachelbel's 'Canon in D' and his human frailty when, after slogging like a healing God through 12 hours of sick and dying patients, he looked up at the mountains as we drove home and said, 'They make me remember how small we are. That makes it better.'"

"My fondest memory was driving with him and singing 'The Hallelujah Chorus' at the top of our lungs," says neuroscience major Ayo-Lynn Richards '03, who interned in 2000 and now is considering a career in surgery. "The experience made me a better medical school candidate--the admissions officers seem really surprised and impressed that I spent a month with a neurosurgeon."

Old habits are hard to break, and even in retirement Kirkpatrick continues his cycle of giving; he plans to volunteer in a high school biology lab, teach, and write a technical paper on a subject he knows well: what a typical neurosurgeon does to guide the training of future neurosurgeons.

Thank you Dr. K.," says Soparkar. "Your lessons will forever travel on through successive generations of young doctors."

To learn more about sponsoring an internship, write to internship@oberlin.edu or visit www.oberlin.edu/career/Alumni/alumni.html