Neal Hayhurst (’21), Dr. Serak (’05), and Michael Tanchevski (’20)

Michael Tanchevski ’20 — I had the opportunity to spend two weeks of my summer shadowing a neurosurgeon in Denver, Colorado. Dr. John Serak, Wabash graduate of ’05, volunteered and opened up his home to allow myself and another Wabash student to observe him in the OR and his private clinic. It can be easy to speculate on how the life of a surgeon may look, but getting the opportunity to live it was the real deal. Having an extended externship of 2 weeks allowed us to see patients come into clinic to schedule a surgery, and on some occasions, we were able to observe their surgery and see them for post op checkups as well – giving us an all-encompassing physician-patient interaction.

What sticks out the most to me was the passion that Dr. Serak has for health care, but more specifically, the passion he has for the most efficient and effective health care. To provide some context, Dr. Serak is a neurosurgeon who predominately enjoys taking on spinal cases. With his operations, he uses a minimally invasive approach which leaves small incisions and keeps blood loss to a fraction of what traditional invasive surgeries would cause. Through learning this and observing how he interacts with his patients, you can see the model care taker that one should strive to become. His desire to be on the cutting edge of minimally invasive surgery speaks to the devotion he has to his field and the patients he takes care of.

It would be selfish of me not to share the most exciting surgery we had the privilege of observing. In my opinion, the most exciting surgery was the endoscopic discectomy – which is the removal of a herniated disc. This is a minimally invasive surgery, thanks to Dr. Serak’s approach, that only requires two small incisions and a microscope to complete, allowing us to watch the surgery on a monitor. What makes the surgery incredible is that the patient is awake for most of the operation and under local anesthesia, enabling them to leave the hospital a mere 2 hours later! To my surprise, as I reflect, it was in the shorter, hour long operation that I can draw the greatest take away from. Here, I gained the appreciation and understanding as to what it can look like to own your passion and use that passion as a means to serve others. It seems clear to me that Dr. Serak found the aspect within medicine that is most meaningful to him and has been able to craft it into something special that not only allows him to help others, but teach and inspire students like me. Thus, I gained the understanding to truly find and do what you’re passionate about as that will benefit the most people.