This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of the Tarrant County Physician.
OFTEN ONE OF THE FIRST QUESTIONS I AM ASKED WHEN I mention that I am in medical school is, “How did you know you wanted to become a doctor?” Sometimes I scramble to find the most inspirational and motivating answer, as there were many reasons why I chose the career path that I did, However, at the core of every underlying reason was first, my love for science, and second, the desire to put that love into good use. Throughout my undergraduate years, I made sure to put scientific research at the forefront of my priorities. I took additional classes to help develop my skills as a researcher and participated in local symposiums whenever I could. Going into medical school, I kept research and the scientific process in mind as I learned about each body system. Given my medical education, I could delve further into the pathologies and the application of their respective treatments, and, if there were any developing treatments, I could keep an open mind about them and seek an opportunity to participate in the field research (if my busy school schedule let me). Thankfully, this past summer, my school presented the perfect chance to participate in the Pediatric Research Program (PRP) with Cook Children’s Hospital.
The PRP selects a group of second year medical students to take part in research “that aligns with their specialty interest.” There are also additional benefits such as being provided a mentor who guides you along the way and opportunities to present work at local/regional/national conferences. I chose neurology as y number one field of interest, so I was assigned a case study with a pediatric neurologist as my research mentor. I was excited and eager at the prospect of beginning work, especially since I had been assigned to Cook Children’s. The idea of being in an environment that was dedicated to helping children with challenging diseases brought a sense of fulfillment to my foundational goal of helping people heal.
Writing a case study was a novel experience, but I was fortunate to have a dedicated mentor who aided me through the process and helped me understand clinical information that my then year-one-medical-student mind could not comprehend. My mentor further allowed me to shadow her periodically throughout the summer, which was a nourishing experience to my medical education. I was able to interact with many pediatric patients who were affected by a variety of neurological disorders, especially congenital ones. This provided me with an appreciation for specialist physicians since they offer a great sense of hope and security to their patients- something I had associated more with primary care. What was even more admirable was my own mentor pursuing her research and developing case studies to help spread awareness of the pathologies that affect her patients.
Regarding my own project, I was able to learn more about the neurovascular complications of Marfan syndrome and the importance of considering it as a possible cause of stroke. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of gathering information and researching literature since it showed me how physicians from different parts of the country can come together and use their scientific nature to bring light to issues and possibly come to solutions. I look forward to working on more case studies and research projects as a medical student because it reaffirms my belief in using scientific methods and research to better the lives of patients and reach new heights in treatments.