Comparisons of medicine to veterinary medicine are often made cautiously. Nonetheless, I compared pediatrics to veterinary medicine and thus, ruled it out as a medical specialty. As an animal lover, I avoided veterinary medicine and the prospect of euthanizing someone’s beloved pet. And since I love kids, I never really considered pediatrics until this Princeternship! I spent part of reading period shadowing Dr. Debra Palazzi (attending) and Dr. Chase McNeil (fellow) who are part of the pediatric infectious disease team at Baylor College of Medicine.
The first day began early. The other Princetern Tola, and I, were out of the house before 8:00 am in order to beat Houston’s morning traffic and arrive at Texas Children’s Hospital early (we’re all about a good first impression!). Dr. Palazzi met us in the lobby and then we went to her office in order to discuss her plans for the week. In addition, Dr. Palazzi gave us the opportunity to ask her questions about her work in pediatric infectious diseases, her life at Princeton, our shared dislike of organic chemistry, and medical rotations in medical school.
Then, the fun really began: rounds! We had the opportunity to see really interesting yet sad cases:
- a teenage boy with chronic osteomyelitis—bone infectious—and pseudomonas
- a teenage girl with endocarditis, kidney failure, and a myriad of other related health problems
- a male sixth month child with congenital heart failure (a hypoplastic L-heart) and bacteremia
- a male teenager with leukemia and a fungal disease
- a female teenager with a Baclofen instrumentation infection
(Yet, not all the cases we saw were sad. We also had a new consult who was not sick.)
We got a chance to attend an Osteomyelitis Conference where radiologists, orthepedic surgeons, and members of the infectious disease team discussed three of the patients. The conference was extremely interesting because I got a chance to see how different medical specialists process the same information.
On the second day, we revisited a majority of the first-day patients during rounds. Our visits this day were focused on updating or confirming the drug regimen depending upon the results of previously ordered cultures and blood tests. The second day also differed from the first because we changed locations! We conducted our outpatient visitation in the Children’s Critical Center. The patient we visited had chronic osteomyelitis but appeared to be recovering well—this was certainly good news after a slew of melancholy cases before.
Afterwards, we made our way down to the labs for micro-rounds. During micro-rounds, we were able to see our patients’ fungal and bacterial cultures and discuss ways of treating the infections. During our discussion I was really glad to be taking EEB 211 (Chaos and Clockwork of Biological Design) this semester.
Tola and I attended a conference called Fashioning Parasitic Antigensinto Recombinant Protein Vaccines. The conference was focused upon global health (an interest of mine) and discovery and allocation of affordable vaccines for tropical diseases which are generally found in less developed nations. We also got a chance to sit in on a meeting to discuss the plan of action for a ten-year old boy who had quite progressive osteomyelitis. The meeting including his oncology team, the infectious disease team, and orthopedic surgeons. The discussion was obviously serious as the options for the boy were (1) immediate amputation or (2) an attempt to get rid of the infectious and subsequent amputation, only if necessary.
On the third day, we continued with rounds and I think the most striking case of the day was a two month old who may (or may not) have inherited syphilis from his mother. After seeing tons of cases in which infection was unpreventable, it was odd to see a case where infection was entirely preventable. Luckily, penicillin will help.
Overall, I got to shadow two amazing doctors who had extremely interesting cases, but what else did I learn?
- The world of medicine may not be as glamorous as it is portrayed in Grey’s Anatomy, but it is certainly just as exciting.
- I am extremely, extremely interested in pediatrics.
- I shouldn’t stress out about organic chemistry. It has little to nothing to do with actual medicine.
- Medicine is an extremely collaborative field. So, the competitive pre-med lifestyle definitely does more harm than good.
I definitely enjoyed my Princeternship and I strongly recommend Princeton students apply for a Princeternship yourself. Who knows, you may discover your career path.