Ruth Delaney, Orthopaedic Surgery elective

Specialty/Sub-specialty: Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports & Shoulder Service

Hospital, Location: The Hospital for Special Surgery, Manhattan, NY, USA.
Supervisor: Dr. Thomas L. Wickiewicz, MD. Chief of Sports & Shoulder Service & President of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

Contact person (if different from above):

Ms. Dianne E. Young,
Office of International Medical Education,
Weill Medical College of Cornell University,
445 E69th Street, Suite 420,
New York, NY 10021, USA.
Tel: 212-746-4837
Fax: 212-746-8698

Main Activities including Practical Aspect: Sub-intern on the Sports Service. Rounds usually about 6am, sometimes 5am. Teaching 7.30-8.15am. Most days spent in the OR scrubbing in on reconstructions of various sports injuries & also getting to suture quite a lot & learn how to use an arthroscope e.g. to scope a knee etc. Sometimes getting to do a bit more in certain cases. Lots of looking at MRIs. Also lots of arthroplasty done by the sports surgeons, mostly knees & shoulders, some hips, so plenty of opportunity to scrub on those cases too. Clinic once a week was a mixture of sports injuries & degenerative shoulder problems. Students given a lot of independence in the clinic setting.

Advantages: The HSS is one of the best orthopaedics & rheumatology hospitals in the US, if not in the world, so it’s great to spend time there. Teaching sessions are outstanding (as is the daily free breakfast at teaching!). The attendings are all high-fliers, many have developed new techniques or implants, so it’s exciting to get to scrub with them. A few times I had to scrub on my own with an attending for a case, which was a great chance to do a bit more. They are mostly very patient & will teach you as they operate. Many of them also have some very famous patients e.g. professional athletes, which can be a bit intimidating, but adds to the excitement. The American system gives a lot more responsibility to medical students than the Irish, so a rotation like this is a good way of getting practical experience & building confidence.  And the Sports rotation has no call & no weekends!

Disadvantages: Early mornings, long days. There are not a lot of opportunities for developing clinical skills in assessing sports injuries because there is so much to do in the OR & clinic is only once a week. Finding a place to live on the Upper East Side is difficult & expensive. You also have to pay tuition to Cornell for this rotation.

Life outside the Hospital: The hospital is right in Manhattan so there are a million and one things you can do with your spare time – Broadway shows, Central Park, shopping on 5th Ave, the beach on Long Island at weekends etc. etc.

Most Memorable Moment(s): Being handed a drill during a case & told by the attending “drill for me baby!” A patient in clinic giving me a kiss because I injected her shoulder!? A rooftop party on the last night with medical students from all over the world. And all the unforgettable NYC experiences..

Would you recommend this elective to others? Yes

Tips & How to Organize this Rotation: The HSS is a teaching hospital of the Weill Cornell College of Medicine, so you have to go through their international office to set up your rotation. Dianne Young will sort out everything & when you get to NYC, she does a great orientation session & basically acts like your mother for the month! Start planning well in advance, because they need a lot of paperwork & it’s not always straightforward. They accept applications from 6 months in advance but they will only let you know if you have been accepted 2 months before the rotation is due to start (so have a back-up option if possible). Anything related to surgery or orthopaedics that you can put on your CV will help. Go to for information on all Cornell rotations at the HSS, New York Presbyterian Hospital & Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. Do what I did & use one of the “free” Bank of Ireland med student loans to pay the tuition if you have to – it’s worth it.