By Helena Wichova, MD
Reflecting on my first four months as a House clinical fellow, I realize what a transformative time it has been. I still vividly remember the call I received from Dr. Slattery last October inviting me to join the program for a 2-year fellowship. My career as a neurotologist was only beginning. Little did I know that our world was about to change with a pandemic. The year 2020 has been challenging for all of us with social isolation, changes to patient care, adjustments to wearing face masks, and the constant reminders of social distancing. These circumstances created minor roadblocks for me as I found myself not only virtually searching for a place to live but also virtually meeting many of the clinic staff.
One theme throughout this journey remains constant: the welcoming environment of the House staff. From the first day, the front desk staff greeted me with smiling faces. The medical assistants were always willing to lend a helping hand, and our world-renowned physicians dedicated time to teaching in the clinic and the operating room. Additionally, I am fortunate to have three co-fellows who are not only great lunch partners, but have created a home away from home, along with an environment to share research ideas and clinical pearls.
As a fellow, I work alongside all the faculty and learn the nuances of the treatments each has developed over the years. Early on, I realized how vast the patient population is at House. I have met patients several years out from large skull base tumor resections who share their recovery journeys as well as patients with new acoustic neuroma diagnoses discussing treatment options. My favorite office days are when Dr. Brackmann recalls his patients with incredible detail and reviews their surgical cases and imaging. He always asks questions to probe the fellows to think critically while teaching us a valuable point.
As we adjust to this new world, House has adopted wearing clear masks to accommodate our hard-of-hearing patients and pre-operative COVID testing for safe surgery. Despite a pandemic, my neurotology knowledge has already expanded exponentially, and I look forward to twenty more months of knowledge.