Hands-On Learning in a Clinical Setting

As a nuclear medicine intern at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, Maria Rodriguez ’12 is learning the ropes in the real world.

mariaFor almost 180 days, eight hours a day, Maria Rodriguez ’12 has been interning in the nuclear medicine department at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center — her first choice of hospital assignments. Rodriguez started this past January and anticipates finishing up her clinical requirement in January 2013.

As a student intern, the Yonkers, N.Y., native has had the opportunity to work on almost all of the patient imaging procedures in her department. 

“You pretty much learn to do everything a technologist does,” she says. “Obviously, it takes time, but I can do bone scans, lung scans and PET [positron emission tomography] scans. I pretty much have learned how to be a real-life tech.”

Under the guidance of about eight technologists, Rodriguez has been learning from each of them about the different types of scans and protocols, including getting a peek at some unique images.

“We had a bone marrow scan, which is not the norm, it is rare, and I saw it,” she says. “It was really cool. They all taught me how to do everything.”

Now that she’s finished her PET rotation, Rodriguez can do anything related to PET scans. She also completed a cardiology rotation, among other imaging.

“The only thing I have to do is my hot lab rotation, which is basically working with the radiopharmaceuticals and measuring the doses,” she says.

The internship really put everything together. When I went to the internship, it was kind of like a light bulb went on.

Rodriguez can be working on practically anything on a typical day, as the nuclear medicine department performs a variety of different scans daily.

Reflecting on the many highlights of her internship, including learning from great teachers, she especially enjoyed her PET rotation.

“I think PET was my favorite out of all of them,” Rodriguez says. “The scans were just really cool. They do fusion imaging with CT [computed tomography] , so the images were awesome. And the people I worked with there were really knowledgeable.”

She loves the field of nuclear medicine, and being at Columbia this past year has further reinforced her career choice. 

“I feel like the internship really put everything together,” she says. “You learn about books and all these scans, but when I went to the internship, it was kind of like a light bulb went on. It is different seeing it than just reading about it.”