Week 9: Children’s Hospital Colorado

August 7th, 2014

Sandra Cordero ’16, Farley Fellow in Children’s Research 

Although, it is my last week, I been having trouble logging into EPIC and with my badge access. There was a misunderstanding and I was terminated earlier than I was supposed to, thus had to deal with this situation to continue my data collecting. However, this gave me time to work on my PowerPoint presentation, which I received help with. Originally, when I thought that I would not have any results to present, I was going to spend time giving a background on the different surgical treatments that we focused on. Stating the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment, and explain some past studies. However, Erin thought that people will be more interested in learning my study instead of others, and thought that I would spend a lot of time introducing these treatments instead of the literature of my study. Thus, it was a very last minute decision, but I asked Patrick to do a preliminary result summary on the demographics of my study and associated complications. He was not able to do a full statistical analysis, but I was able to learn about the need for physical therapy by groups (SMP, TENs, and IM Nail), the need for re-operation by group, have a mean table for the average age and weight for each group, and surgical rate by group for fracture stability. However, I was still able to include the advantages and disadvantages of each surgical treatment, but I chose to put these slides in the discussion section to tie it back to our overall findings. My discussion was SMP is an effective treatment for unstable femur fractures.

This summer I learned how to accept good criticism. When I did a practice presentation with Patrick and Erin, they helped me re-design my PowerPoint and gave me tips to help my presentation flow better and prepare me for questions that I may be asked. One skill that I learned was how to report results. Originally, I had my tables and graphs by counts, but since we were comparing among groups, I had to change these numbers into percentage, since there was not a same amount of observations for each group. In addition, they helped me with my transitions. For instance I did a short introduction explaining what each surgical treatment was. Patrick recommended that I state (during my presentation) that I will refer back to these treatments in my discussion section and relate it back to my findings. Since I only explained SMP, TENs, rigid intramedullary nailing, and Trochanteric Entry Nailing and not the others, it might be confusing to the audience. They also helped me re-define and re-word my research question and hypothesis. During my presentation, I was quite nervous, but I was proud of myself, I was able to say what I wanted to say and explain these topics effectively. Patrick was impressed that I was also able to answer the follow-up questions, and told me it showed that I was very knowledgeable about my topic and prepared for my presentation.

This internship was an amazing experience. I think that over the course of this summer, I was able to gain more confidence in myself. I was the youngest intern at the CHCO, and it was quite overwhelming sometimes since the rest of the interns were graduated and were in the process of applying to medical school. However, I felt that I handled the situation well. There were times I doubted myself and the reasons I was there. Hence, why I was quiet and reserved the first couple of weeks. But, I think once I got to know my colleagues I learned that I shouldn’t be afraid of them, and that I should look up to them for inspiration and advice for my future.  They were a wonderful group to work with and I have learned a lot from each one of them.

It was a great  summer, being able to work in Colorado and build lasting friendships; especially with other Cornell students, this is something that I will treasure forever. Thank you RJ and the Cornell Fellows program  for this wonderful opportunity.

After I finished my presentation, I received a certificate of completion.

After I finished my presentation, I received a certificate of completion.

 

Week 11: Pufall Lab, University of Iowa

August 7th, 2014

John Christiansen ’15, Dimensions Fellow in Research

This week has been spent trying to get the deletion check primers to work. These PCR primers would be used to amplify a region of transfected NALM6 genomic DNA to determine if the CRISPR vectors were effective in cutting out their target. However, previous attempts to validate the effectiveness of these primers using wild type NAML6 DNA have not gone well. I later learned that the primers were misordered. This week we received the proper primers and I began to work with them.

So far, I have performed the PCR with these primers three times. The first time (Friday, August 1st) I found that none of my samples, even the positive control, had any product bands when analyzed with gel electrophoresis, though the 100 bp ladders still showed up clearly. This suggested that something had been wrong in the reaction, and on closer examination it was found that I had added too much dNTP. PCR can be finicky and this might be why nothing was amplified. On Monday (August 4th) I tried again. This time the correct dNTP concentration was used, but the only product bands seen were two very faint bands, each in no template control lanes. Oddly enough they were the right size for the primers used. The procedure was performed correctly, so the fact that I saw so few bands suggested that my reactants were somehow inept and the fact that I saw bands in the no template control suggested that I had DNA contamination. The solution to both problems was to replace each reagent and try again. I also reduced the amount of ladder I loaded in with my samples after being informed that the imaging machine we use to see the bands generates an image based on relative intensity.

The third time I tried PCR with the correct primers (August 5th) I used new reagents and only loaded 3 uL of the ladder with the samples. I finally got some positive results. Out of the five primer sets tested, two had worked very well. One had replicated the desired product well but had faintly replaced a few other bands, and another produced appropriately sized but faint product bands. Only one of the five sets failed to produce a product band. These results were not perfect, but it was a relief to finally see positive results. Later today (August 6th) I’ll be redoing the three sets that didn’t work as well with some different conditions to see if I can optimize them.

Of the five primer sets, two were for my work with BCL6 and the other three were for different gene that the lab technician Mimi had been working on. My two primers worked out well, and I am ready to move on with deletion screening as soon as Mimi has the time to show me how that procedure works; hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up from watching her work with her primers. I also have assembled the samples I needed to test the dexamethasone induced BCL6 regulation in SUP-B15 cells. I have previously do the same with NALM6 cells, but a few complication have previously delayed my work on SUP-B15. I look forward to retesting the qPCR skills I have developed this summer.

Week 10 & 11: Strack Lab, Carver College of Medicine, the University of Iowa

August 5th, 2014

Jihang Wang ’15, Dimensions Fellow in Research

The final week I washed some plates off the poly-L-lycine coating. I did some 24-well plates, 48-well plates, 6-well plates, and 4-well chambers. The 6-well plates required 3 mL of washing in each well. I also counted six more wells this week to finish off my third repetition of nuclear morphology assays. Then we finally broke the code and matched up the wells that I counted with their actual respective transfections. The three sets of counting were consistent with each other and the results (shown below) were largely promising, although some did disagree with our hypothesis.

Lab meeting presentation

Lab meeting presentatio

I presented my work at the final lab meeting presentation on Tuesday. Then I used the PowerPoint as the guideline to prepare my poster and presented it at the UI SURC (Summer Undergraduate Research Conference) the following Wednesday. My faculty sponsor, Dr. Barbara Christie-Pope, also visited me on Monday when I walked her through my lab meeting presentation to show her what I did this summer.

My poster

My poster

Lab meeting presentation (1)

Lab meeting presentation (1)

Lab meeting presentation (2)

Lab meeting presentation (2)

Poster session

Poster session

Ron and me

Ron and I

Week 9: Baylor College of Medicine

August 5th, 2014

Nguyet Minh (Julie) Hoang’16, Black Fellow in Bioscience

Presentation week!

Monday and Tuesday were for practice. It awed me when I got to know what my friends have been doing during the summer. I practiced with Brianna, Anna, Luis and Manuel on the 11th floor of the NRI until 9:00 pm, on which Hugo Bellen’s lab is on. Breathtaking view! We took turn to present. It was just eye opening to see what projects my friends were doing. Ana worked on testing autistic behaviors in Ndfsdu4 gene. Brianna did imaging in oral cancer and she is trying to come up with a method to image cancerous cells, just like a histological image, by using photograph. Manuel was working with genetic manipulation to quantify targeted proteins as method to eventually replace Western Blot. Luis was working in Dr. Zoghbi’s lab. After practicing, both Manuel and Luis went back to the lab to work. I was impressed, amazed, and grateful for knowing such future researchers. What Luis told me lingered in my mind: “Research is 24/7”. Indeed, research is restless. Brianna told me about the Annual Biomedical Research Conference in St. Antonio this coming November and I wanted to attend. I have to submit an abstract and apply for funding. I will definitely do that!

The NRI from below at night. Practicing at night has its beauty.

The NRI from below at night. Practicing at night has its beauty.

Presentation day!

I was nervous, but I did well I thought. Rodrigo asked what I would do differently if I were to do this experiment again. I said that I would change the amount of essential amino acids because I suspected that leucine-stimulating protein synthesis pathway is substrate dependent. Elevating the reduction in EAA will potentially reach the minimal requirement for substrate. Dr. Fiorotto asked a follow-up question: “Would you change the content of supplemented leucine too in the new diet?” I suggested against that because if we want to test the amount of Leu we were using is the right amount, changing Leu would mess it up. A friend from Vassar University asked why LD showed no difference while gastrocnemius showed significant difference between control and restricted, restricted plus Leu. I answered that in LD, there was a similar trend as in gastrocnemius but because this is a short term, that was why the result was not significant. I was glad that I was prepared to answer these questions.

It was fascinating and interesting to hear how diverse the field of nutrition research entailed. 10 students in CNRC presented their summer projects, such as inventing smart syringe for intravenous feeding, imaging the growth of mammalian gland,… to name a few. Afterward, the director of CNRC, Dr. Bear, gave us a short speech. His main point was that no one can know what the future holds. If we feel like we love research, go for it and don’t be afraid.

Being exposing to this research has reinforced my interest in research: the daily frustrations when study does not go well, the rare excitement when things work out. Sanjeeve told me that trouble shooting was what excites him about research. What he said really made me re-think of what made me like research. What compelled me the most is the process of trouble shooting, thinking over and over to see what are the possible flaws. I had an “A ha” moment; I recalled when I took my first English class with Professor Shannon Reed. I wrote my first draft about immigration and exile and took it to Professor Reed. She read it, asked me questions to make me realized how unfocused my writing was. She explained: “most of the time, when you write something, you have to go back and start from the beginning, revise, revise, and revise!” It is just like research: I have an idea, I wrote a manuscript, but as I find more and more literature, or actually do my experiments, most of the time it will not work. I have to step back and think, to revise and redo” It may takes years and years. It is long and draining. I can see it. I am praying to myself every night that I will have the persistence, perseverance to make it to the end.

 

My BCM badge. I will miss it very much.

My BCM badge. I will miss it very much.

 

Week 9 and 10: Pufall Lab, University of Iowa

July 31st, 2014

John Christiansen ’15, Dimensions Fellow in Research

I have condensed week 9 and 10 into a single entry because week 9 was relatively uneventful and I was very busy in Week 10.

Week 9 was the last quiet week. The FACS sorted well had begun reaching significant cell density; some of the wells began to change from a light pink color to an orange, indicating an increase in cell density. However, it was still too early to move the living wells onto a new, live-cell only plate. On such a plate they would more easily be assayed for cell density, and the proper number of cells could be harvested for PCR of a segment of the BCL6 gene. From the size of the PCR product, we could determine which cells had the desired deletion.  This process requires the FACS sorted cells to grow to a significant density, as well as BCL6 gene segment primers of the PCR.

Miles and I also began to seriously consider being a part of the University of Iowa’s Summer Undergraduate Research Conference. Undergrads who were doing summer research though a UI program are required to give a poster presentation at the event, but for me it was optional, as I came in through Cornell Fellows. I knew of the event and was interested in giving a presentation. I assumed that I would be e-mailed the information when appropriate, as I was on the summer intern activities mailing list. As it turns out, there was a different e-mail list for poster information, as well as an e-mail list of summer mentoring faculty that Miles wasn’t on. By the time I figured out when the conference actually was, the registration deadline had already passed. Thankfully, the program manager was sympathetic, as others had the same issue, and although it was an extra hoop to jump through I managed to get on the schedule.

The last few weeks had been rather quiet, but week 10 made up for it. I consolidated the living FACS wells into a new plate, as described above, but before we could move on with the cell density assay, Mimi and I had to test the BCL6 gene segment qPCR primers. We used a quick extract procedure to get some NALM6 genomic DNA and check to see if we had amplification with gel electrophoresis, and we tested several other primers along with BCL6 primers. Between the two of us, we tried about 5 times with different template densities, PCR buffers, and even used qPCR to determine the optimal annealing temperatures of our primers. However, we saw either not amplification or heavy smearing/multiple bands that did not include the size of the expected target. Only later did we discover that a mistake had been made in the primer order. Although we were bound to not get any positive results, it was useful for me to get some experience with both the techniques involved and troubleshooting PCR. The timing was unfortunate, however, as I would have loved to have put successful GR deletion detection on my poster.

Unfortunately, this was the same week that the lease on my apartment was ending and I needed to figure out where I was going to live if I wanted to continue my internship past the previously scheduled end (I am, by the way), so I was somewhat distracted from lab. Furthermore there was a difference in expectations between my PI and me: Miles thought that I would generate information like I would on a paper and that he would then show me how to organizes a poster, while I thought that that I was supposed to figure out what was expected for a poster with Miles’ help before I started to produce the figures and information. Each of us was waiting for an anticipated move by the other. Between this, the apartment issue and a sudden surge in lab work, even after Miles made his expectations clearer and gave me some deadlines I managed to get behind on a project I already had short notice on. The poster was more or less constructed over the course of two days at the expense of Miles and me. This was not a pleasant experience and is a glaring blemish on my summer experience here, but it was also a learning experience about proper communication and poster construction. Also, the final product turned out surprisingly well.

The conference itself also went surprisingly smoothly. All the posters were up by 1:30 and the 145-ish presenters were split up into two groups: half presented their posters from 1:30 pm to 3 and the others from 3 till 4:30. That way, everyone got a chance to both present and look at other presentations. I was surprised by the breadth of topics covered by the research presented: they ranged from biomedical to rocket fuel to racial dynamics in early America. I feel like I presented pretty well for the most part. For the last few weeks I had been worried if my background knowledge was sufficient for the presentation, but I was able to answer every question I was asked. I also had some difficulty deciding on the timing of background information: should I try to present it all in the beginning or as it becomes pertinent to the results? I tried both and I think the all in the beginning method worked best. Aside from waiting by my poster for someone to ask a question, it was really fun. I was also set up pretty close to two other Cornellians who also didn’t get the e-mails and registered late.

Week 8: Center for American Progress

July 29th, 2014

Katherine Banks ’15, Black Fellow in Political Communications

Starting my weeks off on Capitol Hill has seemed to become a trend this summer, and my last week was no exception. I entered a packed hearing held by the United States Senate Judiciary Committee entitled VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence. Yet an another Iowa reference, Senator Grassley (R-IA) currently serves as Ranking Member on the Committee. During the hearing, two bills were addressed and sponsored by Committee members: S.1290: Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013 by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and S.174: Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013 by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The discussion following the presentation of the bills was fascinating, and creative compromises were sought after to assure that those who should not possess guns, do not. I paid close attention and kept careful notes, as I was covering the event to later write a piece on to be published through Generation Progress. A link to the final article can be found here: http://genprogress.org/voices/2014/07/31/29669/protecting-women-from-gun-violence-one-bill-at-a-time/, and I was also able to squeeze in one more Daily Dose which can be read here: http://genprogress.org/voices/2014/08/01/29676/ruth-bader-ginsburg-speaks-out-on-hobby-lobby-decision-house-republicans-vote-to-sue-obama/.

I never was much of a softball player, but I decided to try my hand at the Center for American Progress’s annual interns vs. staff softball game! Even though the staff came out with a win, it was a great way to unwind after a long summer and partake in some friendly competition.

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Generation Progress interns at the CAP softball game!

Generation Progress arranged for interns and staff members to attend a tour at the NPR (National Public Radio) world headquarters. This was an incredible experience to explore the center of a network of 17 domestic bureaus, 17 international bureaus, and a partner to Member Stations broadcasting NPR programs. As a now avid NPR listener, I loved taking advantage of seeing the headquarters that distributes programming that meets the highest standards of public service in both journalism and cultural expression. It was mutually decided amongst all who attended this tour that working at NPR would be living a dream.

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GP interns/staff in an NPR studio!

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Just becoming a radio personality, no big deal.

This week I went back to the Capitol to attend a briefing from one of my favorite women in politics – Leader Nancy Pelosi. The briefing was on her Middle Class Jumpstart agenda, which is a 100 day plan of action to put middle class Americans first. On her agenda was allowing college students to refinance their staggering student debts, and passing legislation to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work and make the same amount as their male co-workers. I felt that it was only fitting that I was able to take part in this event during my last week with the Leader, since previously meeting and introducing her at Make Progress was one of the major highlights of my summer. And, of course, I left feeling inspired by her vision as always.

Nancy Pelosi speaking on her Middle Class Jumpstart Action Plan.

Nancy Pelosi speaking on her Middle Class Jumpstart Action Plan.

What I have discovered through this fellowship that I find to be most important is that I strive to be taking part in important work – work that makes a difference. That is exactly the feeling of what my time with Generation Progress has led to, and I feel very accomplished about my contribution to the organization. I am overflowing with gratitude to the Cornell Fellows Program who allowed me to take part in a truly life changing experience. I now have a much clearer vision of the type of work I would like to do after graduation, but for now I will make sure to enjoy my final year at Cornell. I will take all of the incredible lessons I have learned and knowledge I have gained during my time with the Center for American Progress, and use it in any way I can to benefit the place that made my summer of a lifetime possible – Cornell College.

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Week 6: Phu My Medical Clinic

July 29th, 2014

Tyler Thorne ’15, Keeler International Fellow in Cross-Cultural Psychology

This was my final week at the Clinic and it feels so strange to be finished with my Fellowship.  I tremendously enjoyed going to the Clinic everyday and working with the children.  I did not realize how attached to the children I would become and truthfully, I am very sad to leave them.

The week started off slow as many of the children were still sick, yet once they returned we were very busy.  Many of the children had regressed in the behaviors that we were reinforcing, thus we had to dedicate more time reviewing behaviors, and working on approximations of behaviors that the children had already learned.   For example the speech therapist had the children do a review sheet, where they practiced sounds, and previously learned words to get them warmed up for the session.  For physical therapy we spent more time stretching out the children with Cerebral Palsy as their parents often do not have the children do anything physical and they returned extremely stiff.  From this I learned that as a psychologist I must be flexible, and be willing to change the therapy schedule in order to meet the needs of the patient.

After a few days of therapy though a majority of the children have made up for what they lost when they were sick except for self sufficient eating habits.  The children have really struggled to relearn how to self feed again.  The two children I work with mostly have regressed to the point where they do not grab the spoon and wait for me to feed them.  This is incredibly frustrating as it took literally 5 to 6 weeks to develop these behaviors and they where extinguished after only a week or two off.  I believe this is due to them not feeding themselves or having to practice self sufficient eating habits while they were sick at home.  It is also related to Vietnamese culture as I have found that it is not uncommon for a parent to spoon feed a child, even if that child is completely capable of feeding on their own.

The physical therapy is the area that I have seen the most improvement.  In the 6 short weeks that I was here several of the children have taken great strides in being able to walk without assistance. The children with Autism made small improvements but I feel that they needed much more one on one time and really a better system.  I think it is really tough as many of the staff do not understand Autism and the children are then not treated normally or with proper social cues, which interferes with properly learning those skills.  The therapists understand and provide a nurturing environment for the children, yet once therapy is done the nurses take them to the play room where the Autistic children basically play by themselves and not expected to display proper social interactions which is counterproductive to the therapy.  Yet this is due more so to the culture than anything else, in Vietnamese Culture those with disabilities are seen as lesser and almost sub-human, hence many born with disabilities are abandoned and placed in orphanages.  Thus as the nurses have not had any education on what is going on with these children, they believe that the children will never be able to grow or develop and the nurses act differently toward these children providing a less nurturing environment.  As sad as this is it is not specific to Vietnam as in many cultures mental illness has been misunderstood and been seen as demon possession or punishment for sins in a previous life rather than a situation that can be improved.

This week we also did Art Therapy and Dance Therapy with the children.  During these activities I actually drew a lot from what I learned in my Basic Acting course, such as activities and games, so thank goodness for a liberal art education or I would have been at a loss for things to do during this time.  These activities are usually done in the afternoon after the children have finished their other therapies. Art, dance and music are all great for the children as you can physically see how it calms all the children, as many of them become understandably frustrated during their structured therapy.  Also this therapy type is great as it works on their coordination, creative thinking and it helps the children learn to cope with new tasks as many of them have a hard time adjusting to new situations.  The children also love these sorts of activities, so its great to see them happy and having fun.  I also continued teaching some of the children English, which is actually really fun and I am just amazed at how clever the children are.  Many of them had picked up phrases from working with western volunteers or doctors but with some structure they have quickly learned more than just basic conversation.  It is also important for their future to have a skill such as being able to speak English, as these children are disabled (the ones who are learning only have physical disabilities) they are not allowed into the school system.  Given this, they have a lack of opportunities for jobs or a means to support themselves, yet if they learn English this opens up a whole new set of opportunities.

It was incredibly sad when the children found out it was my last day as all of them started to cry.  We had cake as a going away party for me but some of the kids did not even eat because they were too busy crying about me leaving.  Overall this was an amazing experience, and from it I have learned a great deal.  It has also really directed my goals for the future, I really enjoyed working with children and I feel that I would like to work with children in the future.  I am now sure that I would like to work in a Clinical or patient orientated setting rather than solely doing research.  I am also extremely grateful to the staff for working with me and teaching me a great deal about therapy and the Vietnamese Culture.   While there were some situations we did not see eye to eye on I have made life time friends and professional contacts.

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Week 8: Baylor College of Medicine

July 28th, 2014

Nguyet Minh (Julie) Hoang’ 16, Black Fellow in Bioscience

Data analysis week!

We crushed tissues including LD and Gastro for 19 pigs. Rodrigo used a hamper to crush tissues, Hanh weighted tissues for Western Blot (200-250g) and for Ks (120-130g); I recorded the weight.

Haha! So true

Haha! So true

We started homogenizing for Ks for a whole day. I assisted Agus with homogenizing for p75 and immunoprecipitation. It was not a complicated protocol at all. I also prepared for PICO TAG so there were days I did not get back home until 8:00 PM in the afternoon. The week seemed longer. I was physically exhausted as I moved constantly and had little rest. Yet, the laughs and talks during lunch, as always, made me smiles and energized me.

Having 5$ lunch with my lab manager and Western Blot Guru

Having 5$ lunch with my lab manager and Western Blot Guru

There was a dinner with Medical Scientist Training Program Representative from Baylor. I got to meet with a variety of MD/PhD students and also listen and talk to Dr. Plon, the director of MSTP at Baylor and Dr. Versalovic, the director of Pathology at Texas Children Hospital. He made a point that I have never thought of before: the outcome of an MD vs MD/PhD program. The outcome he talked about was a completely different way of thinking as a medical scientist. As an MD, he got to see patients day after day, seeing similar symptoms. The way of thinking as a physician was to collect the symptoms and make diagnosis. As an MD/PhD, he was trained to look at the patterns, outline the problem, and use his creativity to link and connect valuable pieces of research out there, weave them together to make his hypothesis. But those steps are not the final, medical scientist has to find a way to come up with the steps to test their hypothesis, and also learn to be flexible on the way. A medical scientist is acute at observing and at solving the problems. He emphasized that applicant must know which outcome that they want, and if they are passionate about both meeting patients and making discoveries, go for the MSTP

Sunday was exciting! I watched the World Cup with Anna and Anvita and we had pizza in the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurology Institute (NRI). This place has been my goal for research next year. Being able to go in and visit just reinforce my intention. Fantastic view from the break room! I enjoyed watching the game and was happy when there was finally a goal, plus, Germany won!

View from NRI on the Finale of World Cup 2014

View from NRI on the Finale of World Cup 2014

Week 8: Children’s Hospital Colorado

July 27th, 2014

Sandra Cordero ’16, Farley Fellow in Children’s Research 

This week we had a summer lecture with Dr. Miller about idiopathic scoliosis. I learned that scoliosis is an abnormal curve in the spine that often appears as a child is experiencing a growth spurt. Some spine curves are normal, but a scoliosis spine, curves to the side, has a lateral curvature or sometimes has an “S” shape. Some of the signs and symptoms include one shoulder is higher than the other, uneven rib cage or rib hump, waistline is uneven or one hip seems higher than the other, back appears crooked, and some patients experience back pain, but this is uncommon. Scoliosis is identified during a child’s routine physical exam. If the child’s primary doctor detects a curve in his or her spine, they may order an x-ray to determine the degree of the curve, or refer the child to a pediatric orthopedic specialist. At the Children’s Hospital they have a Spine Program that treats patients with all types of spinal diseases, deformities, and injures. Since scoliosis change as the child grows, it is important to monitor its progression closely and have x-rays two or three times per year during the child’s growth cycle. Physical therapy, stretching and core fitness exercises are encouraged for patients with scoliosis, however, research has shown that these will not prevent or cure scoliosis. Thus, treatments for scoliosis depend on a variety of factors including type of scoliosis, age, degree of scoliosis, and other associated medial conditions. The types of scoliosis are neuromuscular, where a child has underlying diagnoses including cerebral palsy, and congenital scoliosis, due to bony abnormalities during birth. Dr. Miller explained that the cause of an idiopathic scoliosis is unknown. Her background includes genetics; she wanted to recognize the patterns of how this disease is passed on. From her experience, she found that children from the same family have the same mutation, but their presentation of this disease is different, some are worse than others are. She used to believe there was one chromosomal abnormality that was the cause of scoliosis, but believes now that it is about the genetic make-up. There is no detectable vertebral malformation.

In addition, I shadowed the rehab clinic with Dr. Rhodes; he is an orthopedic surgeon and specializes in sports medicine. I really enjoyed shadowing him; he was very friendly and welcoming. He took the time to explain the diagnosis of the patients. His philosophy I learned is providing the best care for his patients by taking all aspects of their life into consideration of the treatment, with the overall goal of good functional results. Dr. Rhodes’s clinical and research interest includes gait analysis, neuromuscular disorders, pediatric sports medicine, and pediatric orthopedic trauma care.  He is very interested in combining all of these interests by studying the biomechanical changes seen through sports and trauma injuries and the care of these injuries and conditions. In addition, I learned about a patient that had cerebral palsy that had a gait disorder. This patient had a crouched gait, which is characterized primarily by excessive flexion of the knee during stance, although flexion, adduction, and internal rotation of the hips are also observed too. Hamstring surgical intervention is generally very effective in diminishing the crouch posture, which involves lengthening. After lengthening, the hamstrings are not tight and less spasticity is triggered, thus more erect posture at the knee. Due to less spasticity, the knee can make faster reactions, so the legs can move back and forth more rapidly while walking. Also, since the knees can extend better, they can reach further forward while taking the next step, bigger steps can result and lead to a faster walking speed. Faster reactions are also associated with more balance.

Since this was my last week, a bunch of Cornell students and I decided to go to Hanging Lakes. I will truly miss the beauties of Colorado.

Thao and I at Hanging Lakes!

Thao and I at Hanging Lakes!

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This view was worth all the incline and hard work #HangingLakes

 

Week 8: US Conference of Mayors

July 27th, 2014

Kelly Oeltjenbruns ’15, Ricker Fellow in Urban Policy Development

Monday:

This is it! My last week on the job. MY last day is the 23rd; it was going to be the 25th, but Dave has a fishing trip, and I’m not going to complain about two extra free days in DC! Today was income inequality paper-oriented; after the meeting last week, I have a bit of an idea of where my research will fit in with everything that is going on in preparation for the August 11th American Opportunities Task Force meeting. Basically, we are waiting to get the paper from New York to see if my work fits with theirs, and if not, mine will stand alone (as it probably will even if part goes into the New York paper). Dave read through what I had done, and gave me some edits and direction to finish the education section and get moving on minimum wage.

Me at my desk in the office!

Me at my desk in the office!

I had the privilege of getting lunch with a Cornell alum today. His name was Jon Odell, and he is a partner at Cromwell & Moring in DC, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Mr. Odell and I grabbed some Quiznos and talked about his Cornell experience, my plans, and his work, and boy, was it a blessing. Jon was super laid back and very open with his law school experience and how he liked working at his firm, and even took me to see his spacious office on the 14th floor of a downtown office building. It was great to talk to him and learn more about the field that I may be entering in a few short years.

Tuesday:

I finished the education piece on Monday, so today was completely focused on the minimum wage. I am using a study from the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning research center, and with my own conservative mindset, it was easy to see areas where the study didn’t have information on what I thought would be relevant to a minimum wage discussion (i.e. how businesses would be impacted, how workers’ benefits would be cut, etc). The US Conference of Mayors has policy supporting a $10.10 minimum wage, however, so the point of my paper is to substantively give the merits of enacting these policies, so that is what I need to focus on.

Today, I had lunch with another alum. His name is Scott Provinse, a ’93 grad who studied sociology and political science. He currently works at SunEdision, and basically handles clean energy deals with the government. Both Scott and Jon were super laid back people – a characteristic that seems to be a-typical for a lawyer – and the diversity was encouraging to me. Not because I consider myself very laid back, but because they were just your typical go-with-the-flow guys who were very successful because they adapted well. Not everyone who is successful was top of their class at Harvard, and I think if we realized that, we’d spend a lot less time worrying about where we’ll end up in 10, 20 years. I’ll get off my soapbox now!

Scott had some great experiences to tell me about at Cornell. In fact, Scott and I have both been students of Craig Allin, and we’ve both lived in Pauley-Rorem, so we were able to share some laughs about that. He was great to talk to, and I’m thankful that RJ back at Cornell was able to reach out and make that happen!

I walked back into the office after lunch and, wouldn’t you know it, the management team for the building was serving ice cream and waffles. One of the many perks of working at 1620 Eye Street: Snickers ice cream with caramel and chocolate sauce. I could get used to this.

After lunch, Dave and I worked on editing the IHS Global Income Inequality report (Dave has been editing it all along). This report is similar to the metro economies report that we worked on earlier, but deals with the wage gap, household income, and the like. Again, we worked on crafting the message in preparation for key findings, which we will write shortly!

Wednesday:

My education piece is done for the most part, so today I worked on assembling a workable minimum wage piece and putting together some preliminary key findings in the IHS Global report. That was actually fun; I got to pick out what I thought was the most impactful, and while Dave will most certainly have alterations, it’s exciting to really start from scratch, look at some statistics, and look back to say which ones are the most eye-grabbing, or will go nicely as headlines, or etc. I drafted (complete with color-coding, of course) my findings, and we’ll pick those back up on Monday!

Lunch today was with a connection through Mark Hudson, a lawyer in Cedar Rapids who I met with early February. Mark electronically introduced me to Jay Kramer, a recent law grad who spent a few years working on the Hill and now does political consulting. Talking with Jay was also awesome; over our delicious Potbelly sandwiches, Jay told me about his experience as a lawyer for political campaigns and the strategy involved. That was, by far, the most exciting thing I’ve heard someone say they did with a law degree. That would certainly be up-beat and exciting, to work for a campaign and be the legal consultant. Our discussion was at least an exposure to a field I’m not sure I knew existed.

After work, I went home quick and then headed out to the NoMa outdoor screen; a couple of friends and I caught the outdoor movie ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower” under a beautiful starry sky, surrounded by a couple hundred people enjoying the same stuff. I loved it, and the movie was great, too. The ice cream from the Orange Cow food-truck wasn’t half bad, either! We will certainly be doing back.

Thursday:

This was an unusual day. I started by going to a hearing in the Senate Dirksen building. The hearing began at 10, and though I got there 20 minutes early, it was standing room only; the hearing dealt on the border crisis, so the hot-button topic drew quite a crowd. The Senators trickled in slowly after the clock struck 10, starting with Chairmen Robert Menendez, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Bob Corker (ranking member), and Sen. Benjamin Cardin. The witnesses were Thomas Shannon Jr., from the State Department, and Bruce Swartz, from the DOJ. Menendez and Corker both said some words, and then the witnesses had a chance to testify for 5 minutes each. Following, each Senator (alternating between Republican and Democratic senators sitting on alternate sides of the semi-circular bench) had a chance to ask some questions of the witnesses. At best, I was surprised; at worst, disappointed. The witnesses were altogether unhelpful, especially when the Republican senators asked questions. There was no substance from them, no specific numbers or specific ways in which they (the DOJ and State Dept) would use the 3.7 billion that Obama asked for to address the root causes of the increase in children coming into the US (causes which may or may not have been identified). The Senators that came in at some point were Senators Rubio, Johnson, Flake, McCain, and Udall. Once the Senators (with the exception of the chairman and the ranking member) asked their question and said their piece for the record, they left. I was surprised that they weren’t actively listening to one another. I spoke with Dave after the hearing, and we talked about different kinds of hearings, and how, as the international relations committee, Menendez really had to have some sort of hearing about our relationships with the other countries involved, and how this wasn’t a hearing where the Senators wanted to roll up their sleeves and get to work; it was all for the record. That definitely calmed a bit of cynicism that was creeping up on me after seeing that hearing! There is, however, talk everywhere about how nothing is getting done in Washington. Many have said that this is the slowest they’ve ever seen government, and I was able to get a little taste of that frustration when I saw nothing really being done in front of me. Regardless, it was very cool to see Senator Rubio, McCain, and Boxer in person!

Hearing

Senate International Relations committee hearing

After the hearing, I had some time to spend outside the Capitol before a Supreme Court tour. I quite enjoy hanging around the grandiose structure; it’s crazy that I walk by storied structures like the White House and the Washington Monument every day. What a blessing!

So, a mentor/friend at Cornell who went to school in DC was really close with a family out here, so I had gone a few weeks back and spent a Sunday with them. The father of the family was Dan Long, who works at the Supreme Court and edits the opinions for publishing. He graciously offered to take me on a tour of the Court, so I dragged Parker along (just kidding, he came willingly!) and we went at 3 o’clock to see the place where the Hobby Lobby case was decided not a month before.

Dan the Man!

Dan the Man!

Dan showed us the back rooms, dining rooms, courtyards, offices, main court, and, my personal favorite, the basketball court. The Highest Court in the Land – I’d heard it was there, and it was definitely a bucket-list thing for a retiree like me to see. Parker drained a jumper and I – giddy with excitement but rusty from a lack of practice – eventually sank a free throw and took some lay-ups. The court was very old-school, and I loved every second of being there. Dan then took us down the spiral staircase and into his office. Overall, awesome tour, and a huge shout-out goes to Dan!

court2

The coolest, by far.

Friday:

Friday was a good day. I’ve been working on this paper about income inequality, but without real direction on where it will be used. Sure, Dave and I can certainly make it a stand-alone, but ever since the meeting with New York, Boston, and Sacramento, when we learned that New York was writing a paper, Dave and I really weren’t sure where mine would fit it. Today, my work found its home.

Kevin Johnson, USCM President and Mayor of Sacramento, wanted to have a paper/publication ready for the August meeting on Income Inequality. He (and the USCM staff) wanted something detailing USCM’s positions but also something substantive, with figures and numbers that can quantify advocating for certain policy solutions. Well, there was a slot for early childhood education and a spot for the minimum wage, and my work (with Dave’s help, of course) slid right in. The guys upstairs liked it, so my work was put to good use!

That night I enjoyed a little jazz in the garden (quickly becoming my favorite event) and a baseball game with Parker. The Nats, unfortunately, didn’t pull out a victory, but I will be back at the park on Sunday with Dave, his son, and his niece!

A little Friday night baseball!

A little Friday night baseball!

Saturday and Sunday:

Two great days. My second-to-last weekend in DC featured a beautiful cupcake at Georgetown’s Baked and Wired, a sad farewell to a good friend who was headed back to Louisiana, and an exciting Nats victory coming from a Jayson Werth to-the-fence line drive RBI double to score the game-winning run. Plus, I got a free Denard Span bobble-head out of the deal. Not a bad weekend at all..

A little bonding time with Denard Span..

A little bonding time with Denard Span..

Monday:

My last week is officially underway. With my paper finding a final resting place, the big things to work on now are the IHS Global income inequality report and tying up any loose ends. I worked on finalizing some preliminary key findings and the report, so that Jillian can put that all together. I may have mentioned this earlier, but it’s fun to pick out what is important in the report and classify those as key findings! Dave encourages me to think like a reporter and find stuff that can be written about, stuff that can make headlines. These key findings, like the ones for the Metro Economies report that made the Wall Street Journal, may very well be the subject of high level news stories, and that’s exciting to me!

I am also putting in some work on MoneyU, the program that Dave and James are looking at in connection with DollarWi$e. It’s really good information – I think I’m taking it more to learn for myself than to pilot it for Dave’s purposes!

My last day will officially be on Wednesday, and that is coming quickly. That will be David’s last day before vacation as well, so poor Dave will be left all alone (he is probably rejoicing at the prospect of getting something done) to eat his coleslaw at lunch!

Tuesday and Wednesday:

Well, this was it. We spent the last two days finishing up the Kevin Johnson paper, getting some last minute advice from Dave, James, and David, and spending basically the entire day talking politics. It’s a little too soon to put into writing everything I’ve learned during my fellowship, and I’ll take some time to reflect, but I can definitely say it has been worthwhile; the new perspectives, views of political processes, and observations of professional interactions. Dave has been phenomenal, as has James and Jillian – I’m going to miss them, and the rest of the staff.  The last day we had a celebratory lunch (complete with my first salmon BLT- quite tasty) and Dave and I had our closing chat.

THANK YOU to RJ and the Fellowship Program, to Dave, and to the Conference of Mayors staff! Time to go back to Iowa!

Dave and I on my last day of work!

Dave and I on my last day of work!

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