Week 1:
Fractures Can Be Fun?

Dimensions Fellow in Orthopedic Research

Children's Hospital Colorado | Aurora, Colorado

June 15, 2019

Since the time I could walk, I was an active child. I climbed on rocks in Estes Park with my brothers, went hiking through the mountains on camping trips with my family, and loved soccer and ballet. I vividly remember how debilitating my first major injury was. During my freshman year of high school, I tore some ligaments in my ankle while playing volleyball. I remember the arduous process of therapy, working to improve my ability to walk, and eventually compete again. I did not realize how important movement was to my lifestyle until I was unable to participate and was reduced to being a spectator of the game I love. I learned that injuries, especially those that affect gait and movement, can have deep and lasting impacts on quality of life, and can prevent people from doing what they are passionate about. Programs dedicated to helping children live active lifestyles are important to development and overall health. After graduating from Cornell, I hope to attend medical school to pursue a career in pediatrics and specialize in orthopedics or sports medicine. My experience with recovering from my own injury, as well as my interest in pediatric medicine captured my interest in being a Cornell Fellow at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

I grew up in Colorado Springs, and I have dreamed being a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado ever since I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I became even more interested after talking to past fellows about how rewarding the experience was and gaining more insight into the skills they gained.

Now that I am here, there are colors, paintings, and art everywhere. Kids and families are smiling and looking around in wonder at the murals and laughing with their doctors. Doesn’t sound like a hospital right? But that is what I got to see everyday I came to work this week and that is what makes Children’s Hospital so special. I have been looking forward to my fellowship since before summer even started so it was surreal to finally be on campus. It is also close to the mountains and to my hometown, Colorado Springs.

Posing like balloon boy the day I moved in before starting my internship. I drove around to find where I would park and get more familiar with campus.

My adventure began in the atrium of the hospital meeting the other interns that will be working with me this summer on different research projects. I am also here with another Cornell student, Penny! It is nice having a familiar face and someone to drive to campus with in the morning and share ideas. After meeting the other interns, we met our RA’s (research assistants) and started on a tour of the enormous and beautiful campus which includes the children’s hospital, the medical school buildings, and the medical campus hospital. The first day was also spent meeting more of the people that we will be working with, getting badge access, and beginning a lot of training to be able to use the database and software needed for data collection.

Penny and I in the atrium of the hospital after lunch with the other interns.

My week here in Aurora has been busy and exciting. I spent the first half of the week completing trainings and conducting literature reviews to learn more about my research project. My RA, Kaley, has been an incredible resource and was so helpful with all of the questions that came up. My research this summer has two main purposes.

  1. Further understand the epidemiology of patients with physeal fractures
  2. Deepen knowledge of the incidence of physeal bar development following these injuries

Basically that is a fancy way of saying that I will be looking at pediatric growth plate fractures in lower extremities; specifically the femur and tibia. So even though fractures are not usually a good thing, I will be having fun going through patient charts and evaluating x-rays using the Salter Harris Classification system (which I will explain more next week).  This means that I will gain a lot of experience with looking through patient charts and records. My dream is to become a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital someday, so this is an invaluable way to become more familiar with the systems that are used and become familiar with charting, doctor’s notes and this amazing hospital.

The hope is that the information that I help go through will help physician’s better understand presentation of physeal fractures to enhance selection of intervention methodologies and to also understand physeal bridge development. Bone bridges are an osseous connection between the epiphysis and metaphysis that cross the physis (growth plate) that can detrimentally affect growth in children.

Looking at a femoral physeal fracture. I also have a cool DNA molecule on my desk!

After spending a lot of time reading articles and becoming more familiar with my project and terminology, I was well prepared for my first meeting with the rest of my research team. The block plan at Cornell has really forced me to be more efficient in a short amount of time, so I was able to go through a lot of information quickly and learn a lot about the project in two short days. I was very confident at the meeting and with starting data collection on Thursday.  The meeting was exciting as we talked about different problems that had come up so far in the chart reviews. It was interesting seeing some of the challenges of conducting research such as coming to a consensus on necessary variables. It is important to be efficient, but thorough to not miss important data. At the meeting, I also had the opportunity to meet my PI (Principal Investigator), Dr. Miller, who is a general orthopedic surgeon at the hospital. She will also be an incredible resource this summer.

My boyfriend Alex (he plays football at Cornell) and myself at the Cubs vs. Rockies game. The Rockies won 9-2 so you can guess who was more happy at the end of the night.

Overall, I had such an exciting first week in my new home for the summer and I have loved every minute so far. On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Rockies vs. Cubs baseball game with my boyfriend and his family. I am excited to be in my home state to explore and go hiking on the weekends outside the hospital. This weekend I will be playing in a doubles volleyball tournament in Vail. I am excited to see what next week brings!

Coors field, home of the Colorado Rockies and a Cornell purple sky.

Alicia Phillips '20

Alicia is a biochemistry and molecular biology major and a psychology minor from Colorado Springs, Colorado.