Senior preps for a future in the OR

Senior biology and pre-med major, Akeweh Fondong, has experienced nothing short of exceptional opportunities while planning for his future as a surgeon.

Stevenson senior Akeweh Fondong scrubbed in for a procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital. (Photo from Stevenson University biology department)

While balancing his courses, homework and involvement with on-campus activities, including the American Chemical Society and peer mentoring, Fondong makes time for one more commitment: surgery.

Already employed as a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) at Johns Hopkins, Fondong works with surgical patients and attends clinical rounds under the supervision of Dr. John Russell. In addition, Fondong is tasked with reading cases and collecting appropriate operating material and equipment. Within the operating room (OR), he works to maintain a sterile field throughout the surgical procedure.

Fondong’s employment at the hospital motivated him to explore a capstone within the Johns Hopkins Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery – Endoscopic & Robotic Thyroid Parathyroid Surgery. This capstone provided him with the unique experience of participating within the operating room on head and neck surgeries.

Fondong was involved in researching and testing a new approach to thyroid surgery. Transoral neck surgery, which is defined by a Johns Hopkins article as a procedure done “through the mouth by using robotic technology,” which would allow a thyroidectomy surgery to be done without a central neck scar. He worked with a team of doctors to explore the new surgery, and his work was later published. Fondong was amazed by the trust he received from the doctors, and the level of work he was able to complete.

During his time at Johns Hopkins, Fondong was also given the opportunity to explore a variety of other specialties including urology, gynecology, gastrointestinal, and trauma.

“It was an amazing experience. I got to meet new people and work with doctors, residents and medical students. Interacting with them gave me an overview of what being a doctor really is,” said Fondong.

Akeweh Fondong worked along side Jonathan Russell, M.D., the doctor whom he shadowed at Johns Hopkins. (Photo from Stevenson University biology department)

Out of all the experiences he has had at Johns Hopkins, one stands out the most. In late March of 2018, he was chosen to be a part of the team that performed the first ever penis and scrotum transplant in the United States. The 14-hour procedure surgery was performed on a patient who suffered an injury while serving in Afghanistan.

According to Carolyn Danna, senior lecturer in the Stevenson University biology department, Fondong signed up to be part of the team, but did not expect that he was going to be called. He was told to come in at 9 p.m. the day of surgery, and was in the OR until 8 a.m. the next morning. The procedure was successful and received national news coverage.

The best part of the experience, Fondong said, was being able to be part of a team, “making a difference in somebody’s life and being able to learn. Every time I go to work, I learn something new,” he said.

Fondong is eager to begin the next steps towards his career as a surgeon, including applying to medical school. Regarding his involvement at Johns Hopkins, Fondong appreciates the insight he received regarding the challenges and difficulties of being a doctor. Despite this, Fondong is confident in his future career path.

“It has made me 200 percent sure that this is what I want to do,” he said.

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