I have been fortunate to have had many great learning experiences this summer while working with Dr. Lamia Barakat in the behavioral oncology department at CHOP.
One study I worked on is looking at whether there is a difference in healthcare costs and health outcomes for childhood cancer survivors who were treated on a phase three clinical trial versus childhood cancer survivors who received standard therapy. For this study, my role was to call parents of cancer survivors and young adult cancer survivors to consent them to participate in the study. The independent project that I worked on over the summer branched off of this study. For my project, I looked at whether a pediatric cancer patient’s age at diagnosis, sex, and cancer risk level had an influence on the financial burden that the patient and their family experienced in the future. The project is still in active recruitment, and as a result my sample size was small. However, I did see that parents responding to the survey indicated having greater financial hardships as a result of their child’s cancer treatment as opposed to young adult respondents who may not have remembered or had to deal with the finances of their cancer treatment.
I also helped with building a website intervention to help caregivers of childhood brain tumor survivors problem-solve challenges that have arisen from their survivor’s previous cancer treatment. For this project, we had focus groups with caregivers of brain tumor survivors and I assisted with compiling feedback the caregivers gave about changes our team could make to the website. This project showed me first-hand how cancer can deeply cancer can impact families even after treatment ends.
Throughout the summer, I also gained experience reviewing patients’ medical records. For one of the projects I had reviewed records for, I had to tally the number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions the child had, as well as the number of psychosocial activities (i.e. art therapy, social work) the child and their family participated in. Reviewing these charts taught me how important psychosocial team members, such as art therapists, psychologists, and social workers, are in caring for children throughout their time in treatment. I also worked on another project where I had to review the patient’s oncology history to determine the intensity rating of their treatment. This activity helped me differentiate when certain cancer treatments should be used.
Partaking in a number of research studies as well as having the opportunity to shadow a number of oncology nurses and advanced practice nurses in CHOP’s cancer center has greatly contributed to my educational goals.