My story starts five years ago when, as an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester majoring in Health and Society (now called Public Health), I began pursuing the course work for my Masters of Public Health. As I heard senior colleagues discuss their thesis proposals I found myself directionless: I had a lot of interests but hadn’t found my true passion. I decided to defer completing this degree for a few years and instead started medical school. During my third year of medical school I discovered that my true interest is children with neurological and developmental disabilities. I was connected with supportive faculty in the Developmental Pediatrics and Pediatric Neurology departments here at URMC, particularly my mentor Steve Sulkes, MD. Dr. Sulkes and I identified a lack of knowledge surrounding the difference in length of stay of patients with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) at Strong Memorial Hospital and the degree to which inpatient interventions impact their length of stay. The CTSI here at URMC shared our vision and provided funding through the year-out Academic Research Track (ART).
The first half of the academic year has been spent obtaining and cleaning data. CTSI’s Clinical Research Informaticist Adam Tatro has been invaluable! Not only has he helped facilitate conversations with the eRecord programmer Garth Arnold who pulled the information I needed, Adam’s clinical experience helped me to effectively utilize all the features of eRecord and get the most data possible. Dr. Camille Martina works with a few of the CTSI trainees to ensure that we constantly keep our career and educational goals in our prevue and gives great advice about leveraging our educational experience to maximize our potential- she is currently overseeing my preparations of an abstract of my research to be submitted for the CTSI conference in Washington, DC. In October my project was discussed on WXXI when the founder of the Special Olympics, Steve Perlman, visited Rochester!
In addition to my research, I have also been completing my MPH during this academic year. I am so grateful that the CTSI has provided funding for the coursework and the supplies I need. My thesis will be the research I am using for the ART fellowship; I successfully proposed my thesis in December with the help of my amazing committee of Dr. Sulkes, Dr. Veazie, and Dr. Li. The CTSI also provides funding for ten hours of biostatistics consultation to provide assistance in the data analysis component of this project.
During the process of applying for CTSI funding I was encouraged to apply for the public health administration position of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Related Disorders (LEND) Program. Every week a seminar brings together students and professionals from over 12 disciplines that provide services to the pediatric IDD population and we learn about community supports for this group and how we can advocate for our patients. A component of this program involves being paired with a family who has a child with IDD and learning how they navigate the healthcare and community services systems. I am very excited for our trip to Washington in April for the Disability Policy Seminar during which we will learn more about the relevant legislative, financial, and advocacy issues. I am certain that the information and perspectives I have learned from my colleagues and the family I am working with will be a strong foundation for my role as a healthcare provider and advocate for my patients in the future!