This summer I joined Dr. Abend and a team of neurologists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a research assistant to work on various clinical research projects that focused on seizure detection and management in neonates and critically ill children by creating prediction models. Neonates and critically ill children are some of the main populations to experience seizures, most of which can only be identified by EEG monitoring of brain waves. The seizures can lead to neurodevelopmental delays, chronic disorders such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy, and even mortality if left undetected and without treatment. Therefore, identifying and managing seizures is crucial to avoid those outcomes, and my summer work contributed to developing these clinical research projects that focus on seizure detection and management.
During the summer I got to learn about and experience the multiple steps of the clinical research process. One of the primary steps is to do a literature review in order to become familiar with the field and to assess the material that has been published in the area. By doing so, I was able to recognize where data was lacking and where more research is needed. In this case, I noticed the lack of seizure data and prediction models from neonates. Another step of clinical research was gathering the relevant project data by doing patient chart reviews, which required entering patients’ medical charts and reading through their medical histories. After collecting the data, my research partner and I developed a database of the EEG seizure data we gathered, during which I also learned about data entry on an electronic data application.
Aside from learning about clinical research, I also had the opportunity to attend neurology rounds and go to clinic with neurologists where I could interact with the patients and their families and also see the various disorders associated with seizures in order to understand the importance of conducting research in this field. I learned the basics of EEG monitoring and how one can identify a seizure occurrence and its location in the brain from the EEG reading. Furthermore, I attended weekly neurology conferences during which cases of patients with seizures and how to proceed with their treatments were discussed.
Participating in this research project contributed to my educational experience because it gave me a clearer insight about clinical research. I had previously done research in a wet lab and believed it was the only type of research in health and medicine, but my summer experience with clinical research showed me otherwise. This research project also introduced me to the field of neurology, a field I had never given much thought to before. Not only did this summer reinforce my interest in health and medicine, but it also made me more interested in neurology and seizures specifically. Because of these new interests, I plan to remain involved with Dr. Abend’s various projects regarding seizures in neonates by learning the data analysis upon which prediction models are created and by contributing to manuscript writing.