Ajibike Lapite ’14, Baylor College of Medicine

LapiteComparisons 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:

  1. a teenage boy with chronic osteomyelitis—bone infectious—and pseudomonas
  2. a teenage girl with endocarditis, kidney failure, and a myriad of other related health problems
  3. a male sixth month child with congenital heart failure (a hypoplastic L-heart) and bacteremia
  4. a male teenager with leukemia and a fungal disease
  5. 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.

Fellow Princetern Tola, Dr. Deb Palazzi, Ajibike, and Dr. Chase McNeil

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?

  1. The world of medicine may not be as glamorous as it is portrayed in Grey’s Anatomy, but it is certainly just as exciting.
  2. I am extremely, extremely interested in pediatrics.
  3. I shouldn’t stress out about organic chemistry. It has little to nothing to do with actual medicine.
  4. 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.

Tola Emiola ’14, Baylor College of Medicine

Every day at the Baylor School of Medicine internship with Dr. Debra Palazzi ’92 started bright and early at 9 am. Her positive and energetic manner more than made up for the early start. On the first day, she asked my fellow intern, Ajibike, and I why we wanted to be doctors. Then she told us her story and how she came to work at the esteemed Houston Texas Medical center. We spent the days rounding, which takes a lot more energy than one would think walking to the different corners of the gigantic hospital. We also managed to attend two conferences, one on the cross between infectious disease and orthopedics and another on Neglected Tropical diseases.

In addition to Dr. Palazzi, Infectious Disease fellow Dr. Chase also accompanied us and was a great resource. He explained every case to us, even with our limited knowledge, in a way that we understood. Sometimes, I felt that he was helping me study for my EEB 211 exam. They both really took time to make sure that we understood what we were seeing and what were the decisions being made.

One of the most interesting parts of the internship was actually witnessing a “meeting of the minds.” I never knew how collaborative medicine was. For one case, there was a boy, about eleven years old, who had had cancer. He was now showing signs that it had returned and was present in his leg. Four doctors, his oncologist, another oncologist, an orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Palazzi, the Infectious Disease specialist, all met to discuss this little boy’s case and how to progress. I learned from this experience, what I am not sure a lot of pre-med students know, that it is extremely important to be able to work on a team and also to be a good communicator as a physician. Discussing whether or not to amputate a leg requires respect for one’s colleagues, good listening skills, and the ability to express oneself clearly.

Tola, Dr. Deb Palazzi, fellow Princetern Ajibike, and Dr. Chase

Overall I found my three days very pleasant and informative. I discovered how creative one must be to be a pediatrician, how collaborative the medical field is, and how creative people who work with children have to be. Dr. Palazzi and Dr. Chase were a pleasure, and I hope to share their passion for their job one day when I become a physician.