For many students at the University, spending time with real patients in clinic settings is valuable preparation for a fulfilling career. But the experiences also put a personality and face on the patients whose lives our students will inevitably touch as health professionals.
For the students in adjunct professor Mary Ellen Graham’s fall 2009 semester Scientific Writing 302 course, shadowing at the spina bifida clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) proved to be transformative.
“I had been looking for a way to provide a unifying focus and experience beyond the classroom,” explained Graham. “Each and every discipline that my students represented is part of the teamwork that changes lives at the spina bifida clinic and the learning in a clinical environment is invaluable.”
The first-of-its-kind collaboration with CHOP opened the door for 12 students to
interact with and learn from spina bifida patients and their families at the world-renowned
clinic, and then write about the experience.
"My students’ essays showcase their increased passion for a future in healthcare and a newfound appreciation for the positive spirit of afflicted patients. I wanted them to realize that whether their career is in a lab or in a clinic, they’re ultimately impacting a human being. After reading their words, I believe this happened.”
Read on for excerpts from the student essays:
Karen Exantus HS’10
During their visit to CHOP, the patients saw several people that are all a
vital part of the healthcare system and their well-being. They included
physicians, nurses, medical assistants, physical therapists, occupational
therapists, and social workers. This was my first experience with children with
spina bifida and it was quite shocking because I expected the children to be
much more different in terms of their deformities. Many of them seemed just
like regular children. I was shocked and heart-broken to hear the physician say
that many of these children may not live past 30.
Nicole Lim PhSci’10
Seeing the patients’ smiling faces, even though they are unable to move freely about from their wheelchairs, certainly makes me have a more positive attitude toward life, for when I think about my trivial annoyances, I can now think about having the same positive outlook that these patients have.
Jazmine Cole PA’11
I had the honor of shadowing Dr. Pasquariello while I was at the clinic. On this particular morning, I saw all patients who were age 2 and under. Seeing younger patients had a very profound effect on me. It took everything I had not to cry during the time I was with the patients because I hate to see babies suffer. The whole experience was very overwhelming to me because this was a very unique opportunity and I learned so much from the practitioners and the patient’s families.
Gloria A. Williams PhSci’10
One thing I have learned as a science student is that its often one thing to read about a subject and another to have the hands on experience. The visit to the spina bifida clinic was no exception to this observation. It was a great learning and rewarding experience.
Nina Phengsisouk DPT’13
One child that left a lasting imprint in my mind was a little girl from China who her parents adopted, knowing that she had spina bifida. Luckily this little girl was fortunate to be able to walk pretty well without any aid. Overall, my visit to CHOP was a wonderful and valuable experience where I was granted the opportunity to see hands-on what a physical therapist does. I also saw how important it is for doctors from different disciplines to work together in a collaborative effort to better serve their patients.