Max Quellhorst '15

Max Quellhorst is a Neuroscience major from Centerville, OH. He used his Johnson Opportunity Grant to intern at the High Desert Heart Institute in Victorville, CA. 


As I landed at the Los Angeles Airport, I was anxious about my internship at the High Desert Heart Institute. I applied for the Johnson Opportunity Grant because I had found an amazing opportunity to work in one of the most dedicated outpatient heart institutes with one of the best cardiologists in the country, Dr. Siva Arunasalam. This was a perfect opportunity for me to experience what it's like to be a doctor, and to help me decide if this truly is the path I want for myself. I didn't realize at the time, however, that this internship was going to show me much more than that.

I spent six weeks in Victorville, California as an intern at the High Desert Heart Institute. Throughout my stay I was directly involved with the care of numerous patients. Dan Austin, the Head Nurse at the Heart Institute, along with his staff, were kind enough to show me the daily procedures run in the clinic, including IV insertions and electrocardiogram tests. Over time not only did I learn what it was like to work there, but I was able to contribute by running routine blood tests and checking the blood pressure of patients, as well as assisting in administering IV's. I also spent invaluable time watching numerous surgeries, including coronary and peripheral angiograms, as well as the implantation of pacemakers and stents. I was able to see all of these procedures first-hand thanks to Dr. Siva, for whom I will forever be grateful.

But the lessons I learned at this internship go beyond the mechanics of being a doctor. I have learned the most important lesson of all - why to become a doctor. Such a fundamental question may be common sense to some, but it is a question I have struggled to answer, causing my confidence to falter slightly as a pre-med student throughout my freshman and sophomore years. I believe the question goes farther than a simple answer of "I want to help people."

Working with these patients and talking to them helped me realize that being a doctor means sacrificing what you want to do for what you have to do. I met one patient who came in for a routine blood test one morning, and she told me the story of how she almost died of congestive heart failure two years ago, but thanks to Dr. Siva was able to lose 120 pounds, diminish her atherosclerosis and begin walking again. When she came to Dr. Siva she was on the verge of death. He could have simply put her on diuretics and increased the dosage of her medication, but he chose instead to perform surgeries, including angioplasties and stents, which increased her blood flow and reduced the hardening of her arteries. This, along with a radical new treatment utilizing an amazing new supplement l-arginine, allowed her the chance to begin a new life. He knew he had the ability to help her, and even though it meant a great deal of time and perseverance, he chose to do it. Hearing her story, and realizing this same story happens again and again, with every surgery Dr. Siva does, has shown me that being a doctor isn't simply a job; it's a choice to use your talents and to sacrifice who you are at the most fundamental level for the well being of others. Being a doctor, regardless of the specialty, means seeing the world from someone else's perspective, and giving yourself fully to helping that patient with no thought of personal advantages in mind.

Looking back, this internship has given me a clear understanding of what it's like to be a doctor and solidified my choice to become one. I now can move forward to my next two years at Washington & Lee with focus and confidence, knowing I am on the right path. I will never be able to fully thank Dr. Siva, Dan Austin and his staff, as well as everyone else at the High Desert Heart Institute and the Johnson family for helping to make it possible.