Week 7:
On The Road Again

Dimensions Fellow in Orthopedic Research

Children's Hospital Colorado | Aurora, Colorado

July 26, 2019

Please listen to the song “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson as you read this blog: https://youtu.be/dBN86y30Ufc

Alicia is “adopting” me this weekend and she is taking me to a beautiful mountain town Breckenridge in Colorado. We will also be going on boating in a lake with her boyfriend Alex’s family. After spending several weekends in Denver, I am on the road again.

The traffic has been slow like a snail when we were driving on the highway to Breckenridge. Feeling bored and impatient, we started laughing and singing along when the song was on:

“On the road again

Goin’ places that I’ve never been”

I am very excited about the trip since Breckenridge is one of the millions of places in the world that I have never been to. 

Listening to the song, my mind was drawn back to the amazing things that happened this week.

“Seein’ things that I may never see again”

As for my week before hitting the road, I shadowed a co-case of Dr. Stoneback with a plastic surgeon Dr. Iorio on Monday. The patient had a bilateral above-knee amputation and lived in a wheelchair for a couple of years. She had an osseointegration surgery and got her prosthesis three years ago. She is having excessive soft tissue rubbing against the prosthesis which leads to painful irritation. Dr. Iorio performed liposuction and soft tissue removal to release the problem. 

I had never thought about watching a plastic surgery before and there were so many instruments and techniques that gave me great surprises. Also, it is interesting to see two surgeons scrubbed in having discussions on the surgical interventions.

My second time in scrubs shadowing Dr. Stoneback’s co-case with Dr. Iorio. Picture taken by Anastasiya who was shadowing with me.

On Friday, I shadowed the multidisciplinary neuromuscular clinic. I attended the meeting at 8:30 when the doctors reviewed all the patients together. Unlike regular clinics, the patients’ families stayed in a room and the doctors from different specialties rotate. Instead of traditionally following the doctors, I stayed with a family that has two boys with Duchenne Muscular dystrophy (DMD). DMD is a rare genetic disorder that causes muscle weakness and muscle loss, further leading to difficulty breathing, and heart problems when the heart and respiratory muscles are affected. Patients are given steroids to improve their muscle strength, which needs to be monitored by endocrinologists.

It is very rewarding that I just contacted one doctor and ended up shadowing pulmonary doctors, physical therapists, physiatrists, neurologists, endocrinologists, nutritionists, and social workers. It was a very unique experience not only allowing me to observe how different specialties work together but also be able to learn more about health care from the patients’ perspective. 

The inpatient pavilion where I shadowed surgeries in the university hospital


“The life I love is havin’ lunch with my friends”

Patrick emailed us last week that Mark Kendall, our pre-health advisor at Cornell, would be visiting Children’s Hospital on Monday. He invited Alicia and me to have lunch with them. We had been very excited and nervous about the lunch since we heard about it. Mark has been helping us a lot in exploring different health care career pathways as well as applying for internships and professional schools. 

During the lunch, we talked about what we have learned up to date and shared interesting shadowing experiences. It was a very nice, funny, and casual meal. It is different to see our advisor outside of Cornell and we were more like friends instead of serious advisors and advisees. However, Mark also mentioned he was going to have a full debrief with us when we get back to school.

Before coming to Cornell, I was back home in China anxious about making a decision on which school to go to. While most people are familiar with universities, liberal arts colleges (LAC) are not well known to most Chinese applicants and parents so I didn’t have any friends from LACs to ask. Also, Iowa is a very different place from where I grew up in a lot of aspects including the cold weather and rural settings. I was still deeply attracted by the Dimensions Pre-Health program and professors of the biology and chemistry departments. I wrote an email introducing myself and asking the questions I had. I proofread it ten times, and finally nervously pressed the “send” button. The reply I got from Mark and a chemistry professor Cindy Strong made up my mind to come to Cornell, which ended up being one of the best decisions in my life. 

In the first semester at Cornell, I could hardly understand anything Mark talked about related to health care. Without much medical vocabulary in my head, it felt like a fishbone in my throat every time I tried to say something in the Dimensions pre-health reading group. During the book talks over lunch, I was proud that I felt more comfortable saying medical terminology and was able to share with people what I saw in the OR. Thanks to the education at Cornell and the great amount of help from Mark, I can see the big progress I have been making for the past two years.

“Here we go, on the road again”

I pushed myself hard and finished the inclusion/exclusion as well as the data collection of the third patient list this week. It is basically going back to the same road again doing the same thing as I did for the first two patient lists.

I hadn’t been to the neurology ground round since the second week, so I went to a presentation on functional movement disorder (FMD) presented by a neurology doctor and a physical therapist. Like DMD, FMD also needs multidisciplinary treatments involving neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, and clinical psychologists, which can be a big challenge for disease diagnosis and treatment strategies. All the experiences I had this week, including shadowing the co-case, the muscle clinic and the presentation, strongly reinforced one of the most important things I have learned: health care is never individual work!

The second time my RA Anastasiya took pictures of me when I was napping on my desk and she is having so much fun from it.

“And our way is on the road again”

We had a lecture on manuscript writing and oral presentation which was very info-heavy and helpful. As we are finishing up the data collections next week, we will start to prepare for our final presentation in front of doctors affiliated with the Center for Gait and Movement Analysis and the Musculoskeletal Research Center. The lecture provided a systematic way for us to approach this heavy-duty presentation.

Next week, I will also be measuring nail to canal ratio and meet with Patrick to discuss how we want to analyze the data. I am very excited to see the results and learn how to interpret the data I collected.

“And I can’t wait to get on the road again~”

Penny (Yin) Peng '21

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