Preparing For a Career As a Medical Doctor

Apr 10, 2018

by Dr. Nancy Morvillo
Professor of Biology

As a Biology major, Honors student, and goalkeeper for the FSC women’s soccer team, Paige Koetter has a lot on her plate. Her love of medicine, and her passion to become a physician, spurred her to extend her experiences beyond the FSC campus, with amazing success.

Last summer, Paige was accepted into a competitive program, the Nemours Summer Undergraduate Research Program. She worked in the pediatric intensive care unit at Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE.

“This experience allowed me to immerse myself into the life of a physician as well as conduct clinical research,” Paige said. “I loved being able to see all aspects of the hospital and make an impact on changing clinical outcomes.”

When she got back to FSC, Paige continued the research for her Honors Thesis, working with the Nemours hospital in Orlando. Her project involves gathering data and developing a screening tool that health care providers can use to assess patients for sepsis, a life threatening response to infections.

Paige’s work had been very successful, so much so that last week she presented her research at the Society of Critical Care Medicine 47th Critical Care Congress in San Antonio, TX. The title of her presentation was Comparison of a Pediatric Sepsis Electronic Screening Tool and the Pediatric Early Warning Score.

Paige Koetter presenting her research at SCCM 47th Critical Care Congress
Paige Koetter presenting her research at SCCM 47th Critical Care Congress

“The objective of the study was to determine whether or not two scoring tools correctly identified pediatric patients with severe sepsis,” Paige said. “The work was well received by leaders in the field of critical care medicine including an editor of Pediatric Critical Care Journal.”

Paige’s work is currently under review for publication in scientific journals. Published manuscripts are the hallmark of success in the natural sciences, and it is very unusual for an undergraduate student to be included as an author.

Those who attended her talk were very impressed with Paige, and her work. “There were about 40 people at my presentation, mostly medical doctors,” Paige said. “I was nervous, but the first question from an audience member was, ‘How old are you?’ Everyone was a practicing health care professional: I don’t think there were any other students who presented at the conference! They couldn’t believe I was an undergraduate student!”

The Society of Critical Care Medicine is the largest non-profit medical organization dedicated to promoting excellence and consistency in the practice of critical care. With members in more than 100 countries, the conference last week drew more than 4,000 healthcare providers to San Antonio. The Society offers a variety of activities that ensures excellence in patient care, education, research and advocacy.

“As for the meeting itself, it was an unforgettable experience that gave me a glimpse into my future,” Paige said. “I attended various talks that addressed topics such as physician burnout, advancements in pain management, unique case reviews, and many more.”

Another important aspect of professional conferences, Paige quickly learned, was the value of meeting others in the field.

“I went to various networking events where I met a multitude of physicians who each gave me advice and tips for medical school and beyond,” she noted.

Paige has other experiences that have prepared her for her future. Currently she is a volunteer at Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine, an organization that provides free medical and dental health care to those who are working and uninsured in Polk County.

“My job is to take vital signs and record the medical history of each patient,” Paige explained.

Paige is also the student liaison for the board of directors at Citizens CPR. “I am tasked with educating students, soliciting volunteers on campus, and planning CPR training events with the ultimate goal of making Lakeland a heart-healthy city.”

Paige will be graduating this semester, after only three years at FSC. She is currently interviewing with medical schools. With all of her experiences, Paige feels confident about her future.

“I am eager to apply what I have learned to my medical education and career,” she said. “As a life-long learner, I am confident these lessons will form a good foundation to build on as I become the best physician possible.”

Editors note: Paige is currently an M.D. Candidate at Penn State College of Medicine.