This summer, I worked with Dr. Nuala Meyer and her colleague Dr. Brian Anderson of the Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care division of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (“HUP”). One very common symptom observed in patients in the Intensive Care Unit (“ICU”) of hospitals is that of “delirium”, which is defined as acute cognitive impairment. Delirium is often a symptom of patients who are diagnosed with sepsis, a type of infection. For my project, I assessed the severity of delirium in sepsis patients in the HUP ICU, with the goal of determining the effect of delirium severity on (1) duration of ICU stay and (2) ICU survival. I assessed patients using the Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU, commonly called the CAM-ICU, which is a validated and commonly used test in hospitals across America. In addition to my work with the delirium study, I also helped with Dr. Meyer’s study on the clinical and molecular risk factors of sepsis, with the goal of trying to understand and treat this disease more effectively. My work for the sepsis study focused on extracting data from patients’ charts and medical histories, and inputting this data into our research database. Moreover, I was additionally able to go on rounds in the ICU, observe medical procedures, attend critical care lectures, and participate in weekly lab meetings.
Through my PURM research this summer, I had an invaluable experience and learned a great deal about medicine. Some of the skills and knowledge that I learned include reading chest x-rays, reviewing patient charts, navigating electronic medical records systems, the names and uses of numerous pharmaceuticals, and the meaning of a host of medical abbreviations. However, the most significant skill and experience for me was interacting with patients, referred to as “bedside manner” by medical personnel. As a pre-medical student in college like myself, one learns almost exclusively through textbooks and lectures. Being able to actually work with and assess patients in the hospital is something that very few undergraduate pre-medical students get to do, and I am very fortunate to have had this experience. PURM provided me with an educational experience that I otherwise would have totally missed in college, and one that I will not soon forget.