Week 10:
Finishing Strong

Dimensions Fellow in Orthopedic Research

Children's Hospital Colorado | Aurora, Colorado

August 18, 2019

The biggest part of the final week is the presentation at the Musculoskeletal Research Center. I had a lot of time to practice the presentation with other interns and RAs. By the time of the presentation on Tuesday night, we were all well-prepared. The doctors had an interesting discussion about non-union and trauma research after my presentation. I felt so relieved and happy at the end of the day! I found myself really enjoy presenting my research to the audience and having a very interesting discussion afterward.

Me with my principal investigator Dr. Stoneback and research assistant Anastasiya after my presentation.

As I was scheduling a shadowing experience with a neurologist at UCHealth hospital, Jenny who works in the volunteer office, gave me a lot of help. As we were talking, I learned that she is a Cornell aluma! We were excited to talk about the block plan as well as the professors we met. We both love and feel grateful for the education we have gotten at Cornell. After she learned of my interest in rehabilitation, she recommended me to check out the Steadman Hawkins Clinic which is within the UCHealth system. She told me that it is one of the best rehab clinics and there are a lot of students volunteering/shadowing there every summer. I am very grateful for the helpful information she shared with me and the networking we have because of Cornell.

Throughout this summer, I have learned more about how the US hospital system works and how clinical research is conducted in this setting. I learned so many methodologies about clinical research through the frequent discussions with my RA and other interns. I also learned that there sometimes is no “right” or “wrong” in research. Having different opinions, knowing how to communicate with each other and be able to continue to work together is very important. 

I have learned a lot from the Gait Lab by having the intern’s lecture series and shadowing a full analysis with a PT. The technology and research in the gait lab have largely improved the treatment decisions and patient outcomes in cerebral palsy, which further enhances my interest in clinical research.

Me with Alicia and Patrick who is a Cornell Alum.

Since it is a medical campus, there are a lot of grand rounds and lectures that I was able to attend. Even though I was not able to fully understand all the content, I got a lot of exposure to the various research projects and felt engaged in academia. Now by the end of the summer, I have my own presentation showing my research to the health care providers as well as researchers in the musculoskeletal research center. I learned that I really enjoy talking to people about my research and having interesting discussions afterward. 

I learned a lot from the weekly lecture series having topics on how to conduct a thorough literature search, how to write a manuscript, how to observe people’s gait pattern, and what it is like to be a clinician physician, etc. The weekly journal club was also very helpful that each intern led a discussion on one of the articles they found that is related to their projects. This was a great experience not only improving our skills in analyzing and summarizing the literature but also as a practice for the final presentation at the end of the summer.

One of the challenges I had was scheduling shadows with doctors. Since I did not know most of the doctors, there was a lot of time I had to email someone I completely didn’t know. However, it is a very important skill to develop in terms of how to reach out to people and not being afraid to ask for opportunities.

I also met with the physical therapy program admission advisor and had a tour around the school. I have learned a lot about the program as well as some commonalities with other programs. I have a better understanding of how the professional schools are set up and have a general understanding of how competitive it is. 

After shadowing Dr. Bodkin in the Gait Lab, she recommended I talk to Dr. Stevens-Lapsley, a PhD professor in rehab science. I had watched her webinar and podcast talking about the PhD programs before. I was very excited that she was able to meet with me the last week I was there. She told me that rehabilitation is also a young field in which  to do research having a lot of potential to grow. She also suggests I check out the PhD program at the University of Iowa and potentially work or volunteering in one of the labs so I will have a better understanding of this field as well as having more research experience. I feel very grateful to have had a conversation with her and to have gotten a lot of useful guidance. 

Not being an extroverted person, I am so glad that I did reach out to people I did not know and have made a lot of connections during this internship. I think it is very important to be open-minded and not to be afraid to ask for help from people we don’t know. 

Me with Alicia after the final presentation

Having this internship, I recognized my abilities and saw the big progress I made since I started at Cornell. I also have a better sense of what I want to improve on back at school.

Next, I am going to contact other Ph.D. programs and gain a better understanding of their availability for international students. As suggested, I will also check out the program at University of Iowa and to see if there is any opportunity available such as an RA or volunteering position.

Since I joined the eating disorder research team last semester in the Psychology Department at Cornell, I did not attend the conference last year. This year I will be more engaged in going to conferences and helping present our research. 

I appreciate that we have a lot of opportunities to do presentations and group projects in school because of the small class size. The ability to identify the audience and concisely convey the idea is a very important skill. Also, communication is very essential in health care since there is no individual work. Throughout the internship, I could see the skills that I developed at Cornell being improved on through the hands-on research experience. 

I also learned how to be focused and make good use of my time. I developed a good sense of time management which played a very important role in finishing the project. Since there are also a lot of other activities that I wanted to do such as grand rounds and shadowing, I needed to be conscious about managing my schedule so that I could still finish the work while attending those events. 

At first, I was not confident in getting this internship. When I met with my professor Craig Tepper, he looked at me with a serious face: “Do you mean you don’t want to do to it or you are not able to?” I told him my concerns. He replied firmly that he believed I had the abilities and I should definitely apply if I wanted to. While writing the personal statement and preparing for the interview, I did a lot of research on this organization and read the blogs written by previous fellows in this internship. Craig was also very generous in his time helping me with my personal statement and reviewed it several times.

This is an amazing internship experience that not only got me exposure to clinical research but also a lot of exciting connections and resources. I owe so much gratitude to Dimensions, the Cornell Fellows program and Children’s Hospital Colorado for this memorable experiences. I am excited to share my experiences with my peers and professors when I get back to Cornell.

I hope my blogs will  be helpful for someone interested in this internship in the future. For someone like me who lacked the confidence, I would definitely say the same thing as Craig said to me, “Yes, you can do it.”

Me in front of the huge sign of Children’s Hospital Colorado!

Penny (Yin) Peng '21

Penny is a biochemistry and molecular biology major with minors in chemistry and psychology from Guangzhou, China.