Seeing Cleveland through an Intern’s Eyes

By Kristiina Boettiger ’19

Before heading into my second year at Gordon, I wanted to get a good look into the medical world (specifically the hospital environment) to confirm that studying biology was, in fact, the right thing for me. I had been shadowing at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio back in December when I was approached by a surgeon, who offered me a summer internship opportunity.

So, I spent the past three months at two Cleveland Clinic Family Health and Surgery Centers. First, I found myself in the Department of Ophthalmology, where my job was to assist patients, perform clinical testing and conduct a research study. My research focused on Toric lenses, a relatively new type of lens that is implanted during cataract surgery to correct astigmatism.

Cataracts develop as layers of cells build up on top of the lens in the eye over a long period of time, slowly creating a cloudy effect and diminishing a person’s ability to see. Vision progressively fades to monotone shades, causing difficulty in night driving and reading.

Cataracts can become more complicated by astigmatism, a condition where the eye is shaped more like a football than a baseball, causing blurriness, partial blind spots and compromised peripheral vision. This is where Toric lenses come into play. As a patient’s cataracts are removed through surgery, the Toric lens is implanted to simultaneously correct the astigmatism. The result? Vastly improved vision.

But since these lenses cost $600 per eye and are typically not covered by insurance, it was important to receive feedback to ensure that Toric lenses are worth the cost. My time was devoted to assessing how satisfied patients were and capturing their satisfaction levels in a quantifiable way so that we could use that clinical data to make improvements and adjustments.

Over 400 patients gave their feedback during the summer study, and the results showed that the surgeons’ precision and the new Toric lens implants left patients thrilled with their newfound vision. It was the combination of the surgeons’ “know how” and the well manufactured lens that gave the patient a chance to enjoy clearer vision again. I compiled these results into a brochure, which will soon be distributed at the hospital locations.

As the ophthalmologists and hospital managers I worked for reviewed the results of my research, I was asked to join a business project—the second part of my internship, although it was not initially planned that way. The Cleveland Clinic hoped to close a deal with Zimmer-Biomet, a medical instruments company, to restructure patient care and their educational experience in all facilities.

As part of this deal, the surgery center wanted to increase patient care and communication through improved computer systems. It was my job to research the existing methods of patient care and provide suggestions for improvement. Additionally, I met with the potential vendors and prepared a detailed description of what we hoped they could do for us.

It was intriguing to experience the business aspect of medicine, and conduct thorough research for this deal. I learned that every worker, no matter what position he or she holds, is vital to the success of a hospital. It is the cooperation of each involved party that creates a holistic patient experience.

I concluded my internship with a deep aspiration to one day have the honor of serving patients as their medical provider. It came as no surprise that Gordon had prepared me well for the assignments I was able to do at the Cleveland Clinic. Returning to Gordon this semester, I have a new spring in my step and I work hard to prepare for my career after graduation. I can hardly wait.

Kristiina Boettiger ’19 is a biology major with a pre-health concentration. She is fluent in three languages and grew up near Munich, Germany, where she attended school before moving to the States. Her parents are missionaries to Germany, and she is excited to have an opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds—U.S. and Europe. Kristiina is a member of the 2016–17 Gordon Presidential Fellows cohort, serving in the Office of the Vice President for Marketing and External Relations.