A Final Stop in SXM Before Beginning Life as a Surgeon

May 25, 2011

Although Heath Antoine has not yet begun his surgical residency at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, he is getting a head start on his new job by joining some of his peers on a humanitarian medical mission to Honduras on May 14. He is anxious to get started, to say the least.

“I’m excited,” said Antoine, who matched into his first choice, a categorical general surgery program at Henry Ford Hospital. He will start practicing there on June 21.

Surgical residency positions are very competitive and the field is a difficult one to get into, as program directors customarily do not grant interviews to candidates who lack strong letters of recommendation and performance evaluation comments from their surgery rotations. Typically, students should also have a USMLE Step 1 score above 208.

“It’s definitely more trying, mentally, physically, and emotionally, but I knew I wanted to do surgery the second I stepped into the operating room,” said Antoine. “I’m ecstatic to be able to pursue my dream.”

Antoine chose to focus on surgery during his clinical rotations. He did his core surgery rotation at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut, and then completed two elective surgery rotations– one month of Trauma at Henry Ford in Detroit, and one month of Surgical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

“At St. Mary’s, I was in by 4:30 every morning, in the OR until 6 or 7 every night, and then I went home and read up on the next day’s cases. I learned a ton there and by the end of my third month, I was doing a Laparoscopic pleurectomy-decortication with the chief resident and chairman.”

He knows the workload will get heavy, and he’s preparing for it.

“I know come June 21, I’m going to be in charge of a floor of patients, so every night I’m going home and studying harder now than I probably did at any other time of the year.”

Dr. Dwight Hertz, a professor of Pathology at AUC, thinks Antoine’s hard work and diligence will pay off.

“He was high energy, always happy and very engaging. I was amazed at how well he did in school with his involvement with SGA,” said Hertz. “Bottom line, he has all the right stuff to be a great physician: bright, articulate, and compassionate.”

Before he starts working at Henry Ford, though, and after he returns from Honduras, Antoine has one final – and important – assignment to complete on the island of St. Maarten.

On May 28, he will be delivering the commencement speech to his fellow graduates.

“It was quite humbling actually to be chosen not only by our deans but then validated by my peers to speak,” said Antoine. “Being able to go up there before my classmates, professors, and everyone’s family and friends and hopefully relay to them a little bit about our struggles in medical school, our successes, and our perseverance to finish medical school and gain entrance into competitive US programs is such an honor.”