How to Make the Most of Your Medical School Experience

Georgetown med student travels the world, putting her education to the test.

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It's 1 a.m. during a ferocious rainstorm, and Melanie Sion, a fourth-year medical student at Georgetown University, is assisting the only surgeon within hundreds of roadless miles in Sudan—in a pitch-black operating room. They're waiting for the power to come back on so they can perform an emergency C-section.

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"I've worked in the developing world on four separate occasions during med school, but Sudan was by far the most extreme," says Sion, who cared for more than 80 patients as a surgical assistant during a month in Sudan in the fall.

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Education: After graduating from American University in Washington with a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry in 2004, Sion worked for a year doing HIV research at the National Institutes of Health.

Next steps: Sion plans to begin a general surgery residency this summer, and her top choices are Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and the University of Rochester. The program is five years, and she plans to spend at least that much time in a Third World country after that.

Going global: "After residency, I really want to know what it means to work in a setting where you have so little," she says. Then, Sion aspires to come back to the United States and facilitate an exchange with the facility overseas so that she can help bring more medical students, residents, and full-time doctors to that kind of setting. "It's about helping the have-nots," she says, "but it's also about connecting the world a little bit more."