During my ten weeks as a PURM researcher I worked as part of a research team including two medical students and two research coordinators under the direction of Dr. Saifi. The research team investigated different aspects of spinal surgery ranging from big database studies about who is getting spinal surgery to more specific studies about the effects of spinal deformities on a patient’s motion.
One of the projects that I worked on was a large database study investigating demographic and economic trends in spinal surgery in the United States. This study utilized the National Inpatient Sample Database, a governmental database containing demograpic and economic data about all discharges in the United States. As part of this project, I learned a lot about data analysis and manuscript writing skills, as my involvement in this project did give me the chance to write two papers about the economics and demographics of two types of spinal surgery.
In addition to this study, we also investigated the effects of different spinal pathologies on motion. For this study we brought participants to the motion analysis lab at Penn Presbyterian Hospital and using infrared cameras and force plate sensors were we able to track force and range of motion for multiple joints involved in walking. We ultimately hope that analysis of this functional data could provide insights into how different types of spinal pathologies affect motion and allow for us to better assess the best possible treatment method for a patient. Given that this study utilized real patients, I developed participant recruitment skills, participant interaction skills, and IRB compliance skills which I think will be very useful as I pursue future research in medically related fields.
Overall, working with Dr. Saifi this summer was a truly transformative experience. I entered this summer unsure about whether I wanted to pursue a future in medicine. Now, at the end of the summer I am not only sure that I want to pursue a future in medicine, but I’m also sure that I want it to be one heavily involved in research too. I look forward to continuing work on both projects with Dr. Saifi throughout the school year.