Clostridium Difficile Infection Occurrence and Antibiotic Dosage in Pediatric Cancer Patients

Calista in front of lemonade stand


Engineering and Applied Sciences


Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

Project Summary

This summer I worked under Dr. Charlie Bailey and was funded by the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Dr. Bailey’s lab has the main focus of using electronic health data and technology to improve the efficiency of pediatric cancer research. We can improve efficiency of research on two fronts: timeframe and quality. Since we compile medical record data and technology from 8 major children's hospitals across the country, we open the door to performing quicker computational-based research projects that can provide valuable insight on pediatric cancer treatment. Also, we improve efficiency through data quality since typically there are not enough pediatric cancer cases at one institution for a comprehensive study, so by collaborating between 8 different children’s hospitals across the country, we combat that issue.

Those were the overarching goals of my lab, but my project specifically focuses on a gastrointestinal infection called c difficile. I studied how the occurrence of c difficile infections in pediatric cancer patients related to their antibiotic dosages. We were interested in this topic because it highlights the broader issue of infections that occur in cancer patients due to their weakened immune systems. Things that cause weaker immune systems in cancer patients include increased amounts of chemotherapy, higher strength of chemo, or longer time frames of chemo treatment. Through this project, I strengthened my SQL programming skills, learned R programming, and expanded my knowledge about how infections affect pediatric cancer patients. 

I really loved my experience at Dr. Bailey’s lab this summer for many reasons and am so thankful to the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for making it all possible. First, working there solidified my interest in the crossover between healthcare and technology. I also really enjoyed working in the oncology field because there is so much room for exploration and improvement. What I enjoyed about my lab specifically is that even though I worked on my own project, I was never isolated because I also got to work on team projects. I developed a solid cancer computable phenotype with an oncology fellow, Dr. Charles Phillips, and got to build a medical term database with a team of data scientists and programmers. All in all, I learned a lot more than I thought I would this summer and confirmed my interest in the healthcare field.