Like many little boys, Jayce Simoncic grew up wanting to be a doctor.
Unlike most young men, the Smith-Cotton senior did not think he would have the opportunity to watch a surgeon in the operating room or attend clinical and patient office visits and watch as people “were given their lives back after being injured.”
Thanks to the Sedalia FIT Internship program, that is exactly what Simoncic has had the opportunity to do: spend a week experiencing the medical practice of local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Doug Kiburz.
Kiburz is a highly qualified mentor in many respects not only because of his work as a practicing physician, but because 40 years ago, Kiburz was one of the first interns in a program Ed Watkins, founder of the FIT Internship Program, began at the Doane College Career Development Center in Crete, Nebraska.
“I was one of Dr. Ed Watkins’ first interns some 40 years ago as he ventured out to change the future of education and improve career development,” Kiburz said. “This is an exciting way to both pay back and pay forward that experience.
“There is a constant demand for musculoskeletal research and care, especially in the rural setting,” Kiburz said. “It is important to expose young capable students toward the possibility of study and work in orthopedics.”
One of Kiburz’s goals during the week was to allow Simoncic to see what it might be like in the future if he chose to become a practicing orthopedic surgeon.
“My charge this week is to show him what it might be like 14 years down the line to be a practicing orthopedic surgeon,” Kiburz said. “Not just the slicing and dicing of a day in surgery but the clinic time, the importance of teamwork, and the necessity of communication skills in dealing with a wide range of people and personalities each day.
“There is also the aspect of the requirements of medical records and forms and the need of flexibility in the unpredictability of a day’s plan when a few emergency room calls can completely rearrange a schedule,” Kiburz added. “I think it is important to expose young minds like Jayce to all the aspects of the profession and capture and retain that energy level in the field.”
For Simoncic, the week was, as he described it, “an amazing experience.”
“I have witnessed seven surgeries since I began my internship which has been an incredible opportunity for me,” Simoncic said. “The first was rather shocking and graphic but now after seeing them for a while, I am not at all discouraged by the experience.
“The access I have been given has been amazing and I am very thankful for the exposure that not only Dr. Kiburz has allowed me to have but also that of other staff at the hospital,” Simoncic added. “I was allowed to be in the operating room with a few other surgeons and that has been a tremendous opportunity as well.”
After observing broken bones being set, carpal tunnel surgery, a total knee replacement, and the removal of a cancerous tumor, Simoncic commented that he was looking forward to his last day of the internship when he would observe a total hip replacement.
“I’ve been a part of the Medical Explorers Program here at Bothwell (Regional Health Center) where we have been permitted to shadow different areas of the hospital but there is no way I would have been permitted to get the kind of exposure I have been given access to unless I was a part of the FIT program,” Simoncic said. “I don’t think you can truly know what the job really involves until you can see and follow a professional in the way I have been allowed to.
“The internship is about getting to know if what you want to do is truly right for you,” Simoncic said. “I feel like I am ahead of the game now when I begin college this fall.”
Simoncic will graduate tonight from Smith-Cotton and has been accepted to the University Of Missouri-Columbia where he will major in biochemistry and pre-med.
“When I was in the first grade I had a severe case of bronchitis,” Simoncic recalled. “I thought it was so cool how my doctor took care of me and made me better.
“I wanted to be a doctor ever since that time,” he added thoughtfully. “One of the things I have appreciated the most is listening to Dr. Kiburz as he speaks with his patients. He is very caring and has helped me to realize that between a doctor and patient communication is key — he listens to his patients and their concerns and what they want as well as what they need to recover.”
For Kiburz, who is a member of the Sedalia FIT board, Simoncic’s internship has benefited him as well.
“I think that for the students, they can’t appreciate an internship program such as this unless they are permitted to take ownership in it,” Kiburz said. “It makes us teachers and provides us the opportunity to stop and think about why we do what we do and why we entered our profession.
“I know some people may tell you that these students aren’t getting paid but they do,” Kiburz added. “It may not be a monetary check but they are paid in the experience the internship provides.”
Kiburz said another part of his job was to impart some of life’s philosophies, commenting that he felt everyone could teach him something.
“I tell everyone not to take themselves too seriously, and find ways to bring some humor into your life and those around you,” Kiburz said. “We are responsible for our own progress and satisfaction in life.”
Simoncic took many lessons from his internship with Kiburz.
“I have no doubt I will be a part of the medical field in the future,” Simoncic said. “I am so grateful and thankful for the experiences and exposure I have been given this week.
“It’s hard to know what the exact path I will take may be, but Bothwell is an excellent hospital and Sedalia would be a great town to have a career and raise a family,” he added. “After watching the care and commitment Dr. Kiburz has for his patients and seeing him help those who are not at 100 percent work to get there and become whole again, I know this is what I want for my future.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484