Week 10:
Saying Goodbye

Dimensions Fellow in Orthopedic Research

Children's Hospital Colorado | Aurora, Colorado

August 18, 2019

This summer was both an incredible opportunity and an invaluable experience for many reasons. I learned so much about myself and was able to reflect on my journey toward becoming a doctor and think more clearly about why this profession is the only thing I can see myself doing. I also found a love for clinical research and working on a research team.

I was home for the weekend to catch one more sunset behind Pike’s Peak before finishing up in Denver and heading back to Cornell.

The last few days of my internship consisted of preparing for my final presentation. After the practice on Friday and all of the feedback, I worked on making my story more concise and emphasizing my point more directly. I also spent a lot of time working on the manuscript and working on corrections after I sent my draft to Kaley and Patrick. I spent some time cleaning up my excel sheet that I used to document interesting or problematic cases as I conducted my chart review. I was nervous for the final presentations, but myself and the fellow interns practiced together multiple times before Tuesday night.

Penny and I took some photos in the Atrium together on our last day. I think that Cornell has really allowed me to excel in the hospital this summer. The courses I have taken emphasize communication, handwork, and critical thinking; all of which I applied at work each day. I did a lot of literature review and reading of clinical scientific papers, presented at journal club and learned from my fellow interns’ presentations, attended weekly lectures on different aspects of clinical medicine, and networked and learned from medical students, doctors, RA’s and more. I was also able to get a lot of work completed in a short amount of time, which I attribute to the skills I have learned being in the classroom setting at Cornell. We go into depth in a subject and know how to evaluate the important information as well as manage our time. All of these important skills have become habits as a result of the Block Plan.

My amazing mom drove all the way to Denver in rush hour traffic to see my presentation!

Finally, presentation night arrived. This was the most nerve-wracking presentation I have ever done since we were talking to the musculoskeletal research center as well as physicians, RA’s and other interns. After my presentation however, I felt elated and confident. I became very passionate about my project while working on my presentation and I felt a lot of pride for the work I did and for all of the people that I had the privilege of working with. After the presentations, I got to talk with my RA and PI one more time. Dr. Miller said that she was impressed by the work I did and thanked me for working so hard. Since I was able to contribute a good amount to the manuscript for the project, she expressed that I will be an author on the final paper!

I also thoroughly enjoyed shadowing and gained so much from my experiences with the physicians I observed. I saw open heart surgery, an epilepsy clinic, orthopedic surgeries and clinics, and sports medicine clinic. A common theme that I saw was that every physician was both a teacher and a problem-solver.  As a physician, I would have this gratifying opportunity to give people what they need to get back to living their lives; whether that is riding horses or playing volleyball, being able to walk their dog, or run with their brothers and sisters in the backyard and play in the pool with their friends. Visiting patients with the physician is always something that I enjoy doing because you get to hear a little part of their stories, a little bit of their lives while being someone they trust and confide in. There are so many humbling and rewarding moments, and after two summers of shadowing, I know without doubt that this is the career I want to pursue.

All the interns, smiling because we made it through presentations!
Patrick, Kaley and myself after the presentation.

I also gained a wonderful new friend in Penny as we lived in the same residence over the summer and drove to work with one another ever morning. We did a lot of Zumba classes together throughout the summer which was so much fun. We saw each other at lunch almost every day and at all the meetings and lectures for the interns. I did not know Penny before the internship and I really enjoyed becoming friends and learning more about her life. She taught me a lot about what life is like in China and more about her family and the challenges of learning in a new country. We also talked a lot about our projects and challenges we were facing throughout the internship. It was awesome to have a fellow Cornellian to share ideas and be there to support one another.

Penny and I saying goodbye to our home for the summer!

I think that my biggest takeaway from the Fellowship was the importance of great teamwork and collaboration that goes into a project. It is exciting to share your ideas and hear what other people have to say. Everyone contributes to the project in its entirety. The collaboration is something I really enjoy about medicine in general. The goal is to help the patient and make the best decision on their behalf, and this means everyone contributes to make that possible. I also expanded on my speaking skills, scientific knowledge and understanding of the scientific process, created meaningful relationships with people at the hospital, and learned something new each day. I gained a lot of life skills and confidence in my decision to pursue medicine as a career.

My PI, Dr. Miller, and my RA, Kaley Holmes
Presenting some of the results from my study.

This experience has increased my interest in possibly pursuing another research experience or working in a hospital for a year before applying to medical school. My goal has always been to become a pediatrician someday, but after working and shadowing here at Children’s, I think it would be exciting to specialize in an area such as Orthopedics, or Sports Medicine. This experience has really been a critical part of my journey to medicine and I learned so much that I will take with me as I continue to pursue this profession. I am thankful for all of the knowledge and lessons I gained, the people I met, and the memories that encapsulated the entire summer.

Alicia Phillips '20

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