Meet your future surgeon
Physician shadowing class gives pre-med students an inside look at medicine
By Laura Mize
Standing in an operating room at Shands Cancer Hospital, Fred Bien-Aime feels one step closer to his dream of becoming a surgeon.
He watches in amazement as UF surgeons remove a patient’s cancer-ridden esophagus and fashion a new one from the patient’s stomach. He’s just a few feet away from the medical team, watching the complicated procedure unfold.
Throughout the seven-hour operation, the surgeons sometimes take a moment to tell Bien-Aime what they are doing and why. Sometimes he asks questions. Mostly, he just stands and watches, fascinated.
“I want to be a surgeon more,” Bien-Aime said after the surgery.
Not every undergraduate student at UF gets to watch an operation take place. Bien-Aime, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry, is enrolled in a College of Medicine course called Physician Shadowing.
Students who receive an ‘A’ in the prerequisite course may enroll in the class and are assigned to shadow a faculty member from the college.
Bien-Aime has spent the semester shadowing Kfir Ben-David, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery and director of bariatric surgery at UF. Bien-Aime has followed Ben-David as he visits patients in the clinic and watched several surgeries in the OR.
He said he enjoys seeing Ben-David interact with patients, and he appreciates all the work, care and concentration that go into a surgery. To him, it seems like the perfect career.
“I want something that’s going to keep me interested, something that makes me think a lot but really gives me the satisfaction when I’m done with it,” Bien-Aime said. “With surgery, it’s an instant gratification. Either I did it, or I didn’t. I live for that.”
Ben-David, who has been a physician mentor through the course for about three years, said he sees his involvement as a way to give back to his alma mater.
“If I am able to positively influence these undergraduate students to go to medical school, I think I’ve done well,” he said.
Bien-Aime first dreamed of becoming a physician as a child, when his parents suggested it. The idea stuck with him. But when Bien-Aime was 9, his father died of brain cancer.
“I couldn’t cope with the fact (that he had died),” he said. “I thought my dad was a good man, and I didn’t understand.”
He struggled in school and didn’t get along with his mother.
“A lot of stuff was going wrong in my life,” he explained.
Eventually Bien-Aime began attending church and reading the Bible. He said his newfound faith helped him get serious about academics and his future. His father’s death became a motivation for helping others.
“Going back over my life, what happened to my dad, I was like ‘You know, I want to be that … doctor (who) was with my dad before he died,’” Bien-Aime said. “I would hope that he put his all into trying to help him, and I want to be that for someone else.”
Bien-Aime enrolled in a pre-health magnet program in high school, where he learned basic anatomy and earned several entry-level health certifications.
Today, he focuses on finishing college so he can attend medical school.
“Being a pre-med student, it’s hard,” he said. “You’ve really got to be focused and determined that this is really what you really want, something that you really desire in your heart.”