Week 3:
Movin’ and Groovin’

Dimensions Fellow in Orthopedic Research

Children's Hospital Colorado | Aurora, Colorado

June 30, 2019


A sunset on Sunday night in Evergreen before I headed back to Denver for work in the morning.

Saturday morning started with an overcast and rainy Denver, while other parts of Colorado were snowing. Even though it is officially summer, some parts of the mountains got up to 7 inches! As a result, I spent the day exploring the Natural Science Museum in Denver with my boyfriend and his family. I was ecstatic to see that there was an exhibit titled ‘Expedition Health’, as well as a new Anschutz gallery exhibit to investigate. They even had a section about bones and bone growth! On Sunday, I learned how to mountain bike. Alex and I explored the trails at Three Sisters park in Evergreen and hiked to a gorgeous view of the mountains.

One of my favorite parts of the Anschutz exhibit was this wall with beautiful images of the starburst galaxy, the 3D pathways of neurons in the human brain, and the x-ray of Wallace’s flying frog. I love the fusion of art and science.
Learning how to mountain bike was so much fun and it always feels good to get some fresh air after sitting inside most of the week.

I also took some time to reflect this week. One of the myriad of reasons why I want to be a doctor is to facilitate and engage patients to take control over their own lives, develop and sustain active and healthy lifestyles, and to get them back to enjoying their passions in life. As a result, I think that preventative medicine is infinitely valuable. It is important to incorporate and emphasize ways for patients to engage in a healthy lifestyle. With that being said, I encourage you to take a few moments out of your day to appreciate the ability to move and walk. And if you have some time, go for a walk outside, breathe, and enjoy being here in this moment.

As part of the Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) in pediatric orthopedics, there are two main research departments. The Musculoskeletal Research Center (MRC) is where I am working this summer. There are four interns on this level that are studying medical and surgical interventions, treatments, and current therapies for patients with musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorders. Within the umbrella of MRC is the Center for Gait and Movement Analysis (CGMA) where gait analysis is measured to look for abnormalities and find proper treatments and therapies to restore walking function. The goal of the orthopedic department as a whole is to get kids back to walking, participating in athletics, and doing other activities that they love. I was inspired by this quote from our lecture series this week about the importance of a simple action that we do everyday: walking.

“Nothing epitomizes a level of independence and our perception of good quality of life more than the ability to travel independently, under our own power from one place to another.”-Aftab Patla, Ph.D

Think about that for a second. Walking is so simple we never really think about it; but the value is priceless. The health benefits are only one component of frequent ambulation. I think that it was really interesting to think of walking as a symbol of our independence and I believe it is important to think about how to restore this intrinsic aspect of humanity to the kids that are seen here at the hospital. Quality of life is greatly impacted by our movement; our ability to explore and seek out adventures and opportunities in our lives. This is something that I have really come to appreciate by working in Orthopedics. As I go through charts of patients with significant injuries, I like to imagine these kids healing and getting back to their lives.

This stairway in the hospital that I took to go to the Gait Lab has a wonderful mural that continues on every floor. How fun for all the kids (and adults)!

As a culmination of my week learning more about the value of movement, I had the opportunity to shadow a gait analysis in the CGMA. I was curious how the technology facilitates treatment options and interventions and I was excited to be involved in the patient interaction. The physical therapist who conducted the examination and gait analysis was so friendly and open to all my questions. It was also a new experience since I have never shadowed a PT before. I got to observe the appointment of a sweet 11 year old girl with Cerebral Palsy (CP) as they analyzed her range of motion, muscle specificity, and finally, her gait. I was amazed at how the technology captures an expansive range of data that is later used in a review meeting consisting of doctors, surgeons, PT’s, and engineers to generate the best treatment options and least invasive interventions to ensure patient success. In one case I learned about, the analysis allowed them to pinpoint the source of a little girl’s walking discrepancy, and formulate a single surgery and physical therapy to correct the problem in one year.

I was excited to see that the Expedition Health exhibit was educating the public about bone health and growing bones!

I have been hard at work this week going through patient charts and I was able to finish around 1,000 so far. I am excited to see what next week brings as I will also also be doing some shadowing in pediatric cardiology. I am heading back home to Colorado Springs for the weekend to spend time with my family and I am excited to see what other opportunities are in store the rest of my internship!

One of my favorite views of the mountains.


Alicia Phillips '20

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