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Summer Research Program alumni blog – Nicole Cousins

Written by Nicole Cousins, Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program alumna

I had the pleasure of participating in the 2016 Institute for Public Health Summer Research program and reflecting back as a third year medical student beginning the clinical training of my education, I value now more than ever my participation in the program.

For me, one of the biggest benefits of the program was the ability to see health on a larger scale then a single diagnosis or disease process in which I had spent the first year of medical school learning. I have become more aware of my understanding and appreciation now at the beginning of my clinical training, and can see first hand how a patient is more than their diagnosis.

Recently, during a conversation with a colleague following a clinical case presentation, I had made a comment about the patient’s access to affordable transport and food insecurity, concepts that had been explored during the workshops and conversations of the summer program. When I was asked to elaborate on the idea of food insecurity, a term my colleague had never heard of, I was reminded of how invaluable my WashU experience was, and more than happy to share the lessons learned. A true benefit of the program is the ability to go continue these conversations and work. I thought as a medical student I would have little impact, but capacity building can be as small as a conversation and exchange of knowledge.

My program experience has also helped to shape my career goals. My summer project, under the supervisor of Dr. Todd Druley, examined the relationship between pediatric cancer and congenital anomalies. When choosing a supervisor it was important for me to work with a physician-researcher, as that is the career I aspire to.  I saw first hand the passion and commit to patient care that can come from focusing on not only the individual, but also on progressing health research to better advocate for patient care and outcomes. The findings from the research will hopefully translate into better screening and follow up of populations at an increased risk of pediatric cancer – a hopefully progress for public health.

Moving forward into my final two years of medicine school, I continue to be inspired by the colleagues and faculty I met during my time at WashU, and I cannot wait to see the progress and contributions of all the summer research participants!