Week 9:
Dream Team

Dimensions Fellow in Orthopedic Research

Children's Hospital Colorado | Aurora, Colorado

August 11, 2019

Gorgeous river flowing at the base of Mount Princeton.

It was bittersweet completing my last hiking adventure in Colorado over the weekend. I drove to Mount Princeton and spent time with my boyfriend and his family relaxing at the hot springs, and hiking to a gorgeous waterfall. I am going to miss all my adventures this summer and being in the mountains, but I am excited for fall in Iowa! I still have one weekend left with my family before heading back to school.

The waterfall we hiked to on the last perfect day in the mountains.

This week, I think that a big theme was teamwork. I really feel like part of a community within the Musculoskeletal Research Center and the Orthopedics department in general in such a short amount of time. All the interns are so talented and I have learned a lot from each of them. We had a lot of fun the past few days taking pictures together and it was nice to have such a great support system since we are all starting to get tired and are anxious for the final week.

On Monday, I worked on cleaning up the data and making sure that all the variables were collected and addressing any discrepancies in the date ranges. I went back through a few charts that were showing up with missing data or negative date ranges from the time of injury and then sent my corrections off to Patrick. He completed my analysis on Monday afternoon and I got my results on Tuesday! I know from previous years that sometimes interns finished their data and got their results closer to the final presentation, so I am thankful that I was able to have my results early enough to really develop my presentation.

Penny and I in our blue scrubs! Cornell dream team!

On Monday, we had a lecture series with Dr. Miller, my PI. She is the medical director of the MRC here at Children’s. She gave a presentation about what it means to be a physician scientist including the benefits and limitations of being both a clinician and a researcher. I was absolutely fascinated by the projects that she is working on. Her primary research is in idiopathic scoliosis, which is a condition in which the spine obtains a sideways curvature. She also has a few research grants going for study of physeal injuries, such as my own project where we are doing a comprehensive study on the incidence of these fractures and resulting growth disturbances. Outside of this study, Dr. Miller has a lab where they are working on developing a 3D printed growth plate that would grow with the child! This would be really revolutionary as current surgical techniques cannot replace the damaged tissue.

This week I had a lot of lasts. I had my last day of volleyball with the MRC team and my last night of Zumba with Penny. It is amazing how fast this summer has gone by, but I have really enjoyed all the activities I have participated in and all the people I have met. I spent most of my time at the hospital this week working on the final presentation since we had a practice day on Friday in front of all the RA’s and the other interns. Even though it was practice, I wanted to have as much done as possible to feel prepared and get a lot of feedback.

One of the other interns, Jack, (the one on the far right) is a photographer in his spare time and brought in his nice camera so that we could all take some photos together.

Friday morning, I shadowed Dr. Miller in clinic.  Since she works with genetic conditions, she sees a lot of  different and interesting cases. I asked her how she ended up in pediatric orthopedics and she said that she liked working with kids, but general pediatrics was too boring. Now she gets to see a different case everyday which makes surgery and clinic exciting and fresh.  One patient visit that really stuck out to me was a little girl who had a nonunion of her femur. The grandmother of the patient spent a significant amount of time talking about losing her brother, and all of the troubles that the family had been experiencing in the last few months. Although it was not related to the patient’s injury, Dr. Miller sympathized, talked with her, took her hand and said she was sorry. For that woman, Dr. Miller was a source of comfort and trust. Even outside of the injury, Dr. Miller was there for the family and demonstrated a depth of compassion that really stuck out to me.

All the interns took a Greys Anatomy picture in the blue hospital scrubs. We are the real dream team.
The original cast photo.

In the afternoon, we practiced our presentation in the big auditorium. After each intern presented, everyone gave comments and feedback- from content, to formatting, to making sure that the spacing and punctuation on each slide was perfect. At first, it was intimidating having so many people commenting on the presentation I had been working so hard on. At the same time, I realized how lucky I was to have all of these corrections and suggestions. It was encouraging to see that I had a whole team of people that cared and wanted my presentation to be the best it could be. I received a lot of really great ideas and suggestions.

It is definitely a challenge to convey the most important aspects of your work in a clear and concise way; in our case, we will have 7 minutes. Communicating background, findings, and the value of your project in a short time frame is very important in the medical community and science in general. Although it may seem daunting, it is nice to realize you are not alone. I had a team of people there to support me, edit and practice with, and help to craft a polished final product.

This weekend I am spending back home in Colorado Springs before my last two days of work next week. I am excited for the final presentation! Then I will be off to Iowa to move in and start pre-season for volleyball back at Cornell!

Alicia Phillips '20

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