Week 6:
All About the Journey

Dimensions Fellow in Orthopedic Research

Children's Hospital Colorado | Aurora, Colorado

July 21, 2019

An incredible view of Crater Lake after hiking a few miles into the Maroon Bells and Snowmass wilderness trail.

Kids have this passion and full spirit for life that is contagious. In the hospital, they might be suffering or going through life-altering illness, but their smiles and laughter are truly infectious. There are many sad and difficult aspects of pediatrics, but simultaneously, I think these kids can teach us a lot about how to really live. Children are fully present in the moment, they get excited by the simple things in life, and they share their emotions and feelings. They are not afraid to color outside the lines or dream big and I am inspired by the energy and potential of these kids each time I have observed a patient interaction in the past few weeks. This inspiration has fueled a lot of my approach to this summer and has shaped my experiences both in the hospital and outside it.

Before work on Monday, my entire weekend felt like a dream. I have been trying to explore more of Colorado while I am home for a summer, so I traveled to Maroon Bells and Hanging Lake to do some hiking. Maroon Bells has been on my bucket list for a long time so I was extremely excited. I was in awe of the gorgeous lakes and scenery of the mountains and relished in the difficult hike up to tree line. I really enjoy hiking not only because it is a physical challenge and the views are always spectacular, but also because I think it is a great metaphor for life. Even when it is hard- I am breathing heavy, my heart is pounding, and I feel the ache deep in my legs-I choose to keep moving forward. Overcoming challenges is part of life and it can be ethereal when you take a moment to stop and look at how far you have come. It puts everything in perspective. Pursuing what you love can be hard, and it is good to remind myself that it is about the journey and how you learn and grow on the way to your destination.

Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs. It has a very fragile ecosystem, so visitors are not allowed to go in or touch the water.
My boyfriend, Alex, and his dog, Lola, were my adventure buddies for all the fun hikes this weekend.

When I decided to attend Cornell, I wanted to be able to create my own experiences and participate in activities that I am passionate about. Each experience that I have had, has continued to solidify why I want to become a physician. I have been able to play college volleyball  and create lifelong friendships with my teammates. My team even got to travel to Costa Rica to help coach a clinic and donated jerseys, shoes, and knee pads to little girls in San Jose, some of them I still keep in touch with. I traveled to Spain last summer to shadow physicians in Pontevedra which allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of global health and other cultures. I participated in Lunch Buddies and made an amazing new friend at the elementary school in Mount Vernon. I wanted to do more at my school to help other pre-health students, and as a result have exciting opportunities to aid my classmates as the Vice-President of our campus Health Professions Society. I have had the privilege to work as an intern this summer at Children’s Hospital learning more about clinical research and other aspects of medicine. Cornell has allowed me to dive into activities that I love and go after opportunities that inspire me. I get to create my own unique college experience which is invaluable in setting up success for a future career.

Weekly sunset picture-this one was taken in Breckenridge after a perfect day in the mountains.

This week at the hospital continued my unique experiences. I was able to shadow with Dr. Sanders in her clinic earlier in the week. She is the head of orthopedic trauma and she told me that her favorite aspect of her job is that she gets to see new and different injuries everyday. We had a great conversation about how medicine is very sub-specialized, so it was difficult for her to stay in general orthopedics. Going into trauma allowed her to still see diverse cases while also specializing.

One little girl we visited had lost a nickel inside her arm cast, so when it was removed, she had a big green stain on her skin. We all laughed as the young patient look at it wide-eyed and told us she didn’t know how it got in there. Another patient that we saw was back for a follow up of a distal tibial fracture and after learning that she was healed enough to walk without a boot, gave Dr. Sanders a huge hug and said “thank you so much for healing me!” The whole way back to the physician’s office, Dr. Sanders had a huge smile on her face and excitedly told everyone in the office that her patient had given her a hug. She turned to me and said, “this makes the hard journey to get here very worth it.”

On Friday, I was back in the OR to shadow an Open Reduction Internal Fixation (ORIF) with Dr. De. The patient had re-fractured his radius and ulna. The re-fracture was also an open fracture so he had puncture wounds in his skin from where the bone exited. One of the surgical tools that was used (cauterization tool) sends an electrical impulse when it is used so it stimulated the muscle connected to the thumb. This caused the thumb to contract on its own! During the surgery, Dr. De corrected the anatomic alignment of the bones and then inserted a plate and screws so that the bone will stay in place during the healing process. After the surgery, I was able to ask Dr. De some questions. I wondered if he placed the plate in a lower position because the physis was still open, which he told me was exactly right. It was so fascinating to see a surgery that I see in my chart reviews come to life and Dr. De was an amazing teacher.

Intern selfie waiting in line for barbecue!
Penny and I wore our new Children’s Hospital t-shirts for casual Friday at the hospital and took some fun photos after work.

We also had a staff-appreciation barbecue this week, so all of us interns headed outside for the food and free t-shirt! I have really enjoyed getting to know the other interns here, and we have a lot of fun talking at meetings or lunch and learning more about each other. At the barbecue they even had a life-sized version of the game Operation, so we had a fun time “conducting surgery” on the “patient”. This weekend, I am planning on doing more hiking and working on my presentation for journal club next week. Next week, I will also be thinking more about my final project and presentation. I can’t believe we are more than halfway done with the summer, but I am enjoying every minute of the journey.

Alicia Phillips '20

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