An intense internship in a hospital emergency room helps pre-med
student decide to pursue a career in medicine
Josh Mac Fawn ’11 describes the previous night’s shift. A heavy-set, wheel-chair-bound man arrived in the emergency room at Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital after dropping a lit cigarette on the blanket in his lap. “The fire burned his entire leg, arm and hand,” Mac Fawn says. “The smell is something that will stay with me forever.”
Mac Fawn is a scribe, a highly sought-after, paid internship working side by side with an emergency physician during an intense 9 p.m.-6 a.m. weekly shift.
“We also had a car wreck,” Mac Fawn continues. “The victim was completely unresponsive with no pulse and blood in his lungs. The doctor put in a chest tube and punctured the lung, and blood spilled out. It was just like the reality shows where there’s chaos in the ER, but it’s an organized chaos. It’s exciting to be there with doctors, nurses and techs caring for the patient.”
Mac Fawn, a pre-med student with a minor in chemistry, has designed an alternative major in organizational studies. He wants to become a neurosurgeon but has a keen interest in hospital management as well.
He heard about the scribe program during his sophomore year from a Cottage Hospital medical director who spoke to Westmont’s pre-health club, a group Mac Fawn helped transform by affiliating with the American Medical Student Association. After several interviews, Cottage Hospital officials selected Mac Fawn and seven others from 50 applicants. Though emotionally challenging and time-consuming, the scribe position allows Mac Fawn to test the waters before diving into medical school.
“There was a lot of training the first few months, but I found out I really want to go into medicine,” Mac Fawn says. “I love the energy and late nights. The patients tell you so much about their lives, and I want to be educated enough to help them.”
Mac Fawn wanted to stretch himself with a leadership role in student government, so he ran for WCSA vice president in 2009 and won the election, promising to listen to people authentically. “I didn’t realize how much influence I would have in working with faculty and staff,” he says. “I love networking with people and have enjoyed getting involved in the school. It’s helped me grow and learn how to balance my time.”
There is no history of medical careers in Mac Fawn’s family. His father started an HVAC company in Truckee/Tahoe, Calif., and his mother works at a law firm. Since elementary school, Mac Fawn has been fascinated by the brain. “I was never exposed to medicine in high school, but at every step I have prayed about it,” he says. “Doors seem to open for me. It’s been too good to be true, so I continue to go for it.”
Mac Fawn says serving others has helped him form lasting relationships. “If you serve with your heart it doesn’t become a burden or wear you out — it enables you to see God,” he says. “By serving people through medicine and showing compassion to the lowest of the low, I can be an example.”
After graduating in 2011, Mac Fawn plans on studying Spanish for a year, serving in a Latin American country. He feels learning Spanish is essential for any new doctor and looks forward to taking a year off before beginning medical school.
In the meantime, he will be part of the Orientation team, planning activities for incoming students and conducting summer research with Tom Fikes, professor of neuropsychology, using a new EEG machine to test areas of various brain activity.
“My education at Westmont has been unique,” Mac Fawn says. “If I had gone to a large university, my research would be specialized in one field, which I don’t think prepares you for life. We are living in a fast-paced world with a global economy, and if I had gone to a big school I would have missed so much. There’s more to a doctor than being book smart and a research-oriented person. It’s important to be a more holistic, liberal-arts minded person, where you know not just the biological, but the sociological and psychological factors.”