This summer I have been working for a doctor in the Providence St. Mary Medical Center emergency department in Walla Walla. Due to the situation with COVID-19 the internship has been entirely virtual, and I have been doing all the work from my computer at home. While this is a new and unusual experience for me, I have still enjoyed the work I have done so far. One upside is I can make my own schedule and wear comfy clothes in my house! The two main things I have been working on are a case report and data analysis for the emergency department. The doctor I am working for has been writing reports of atypical cases that are presented to the ED. While case reports are usually shorter than more in-depth studies, they allow for discussions on interesting and rare patient conditions. The report I edited and contributed to was on an atypical presentation of aseptic viral meningitis secondary to an HSV-2 infection in an immunocompromised patient.
The first thing I did was learn all the information regarding the case. I read the general (de-identified) information of the hospitalization which included the chief complaints, past medical history, medications, notes from the doctor and test results. There were a lot of medical terms and abbreviations I had to look up and learn. It was satisfying to gain an entire understanding of the case and understand the medical jargon. After learning about this specific incident, I researched viral meningitis, specifically looking for any ties to immunocompromised patients. I found that immunocompromised patients tend to have worse lasting impacts from meningitis, but that it is possible treating them with antivirals can help decrease these effects. This was interesting because while antivirals are recommended for viral encephalitis (which is inflammation of the brain), treatment of viral meningitis (which is inflammation of the meninges) with antivirals is controversial and inconsistent. In this case, antivirals were used for the meningitis. This information provided an interesting discussion of the case. After editing and adding to the report, I sent it to my supervisor for him to look at. Hopefully, by the end of the summer we can have it ready to submit for peer review and publication.
Along with the case report I have been learning how to use R software so that we can analyze data such as arrival times and patient satisfaction scores. At the beginning of the internship I was able to take a class to get certified in R Basics. The course allowed me to learn how to use R software so that I can run R modules with our data. One of the main things we are interested in investigating is the use of Hurst exponents to see if there are any long-term trends in patient arrival times throughout the past couple years.
I have really enjoyed the diversity in topics of the work so far. I get to work on a patient case that is very specific and learn all the complexities of that one condition. It has provided insight into that area of disease as well as the general medical field. I also found that I really loved learning all the medical terminology! On the other hand, I am learning skills that are very relevant to the public health field of which I am interested. R is a common software for data analysis that will be useful in future work I hope to do and is a great skill to have in the sciences in general.
Experiences like Camille’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez