Maddie Gonzalez and friend at the Center for Injury and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Oct 25, 2019
For most people, summer means taking it easy. But for Mocs, it means pursuing passions. Why choose sleeping in when you can contribute to improving the health of a young child's wellbeing? Why nap at the beach if you can work with the most talented and skilled professionals in the field of forensic chemistry? During their free time, Florida Southern students know that working hard and traveling to interesting places in order to learn something new is always the option of choice.
This summer I was accepted to a REU funded by the National Science Foundation and was given the opportunity to conduct research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. For 10 weeks I was part of an interdisciplinary pediatric concussion research team studying driving behaviors in teens after experiencing a concussion. My summer experience helped me make connections with top researchers, fine-tune my data analysis skills, begin submitting my work to conferences and for publication, and made me confident about pursuing a future career in social and behavioral research.
WHERE: Center for Injury and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
HOW: My advisor, Dr. Patrick Smith, encouraged me to apply to REU programs to gain more research experience. I filled out an application online, asked my professors for letters of recommendation, and wrote an essay about the project and researchers I hoped to work with over the summer. A few weeks later I was contacted and told I was a finalist. I then had a phone interview with the woman who ended up being my mentor, and a few days later I received an email saying I was accepted.
WHAT: My favorite aspect about my internship was getting to work with so many people in different types of research jobs. My office prided itself on being diverse and interdisciplinary. It was so awesome to see engineers, physicians, nurses, and researchers from all different backgrounds work together on injury science research projects. The two co-directors of the center were female engineers who I now definitely view as personal role models. I was never dismissed as just an intern; everyone in the office was so excited to have us for the summer and get us involved in everything possible. Also, I had never spent a lot of time in Philadelphia before, so it was fun to live in and explore a new city for the summer!
My main responsibility this summer was to analyze a set of data related to post-injury driving behaviors of teens with concussions. My mentors gave me the opportunity to work independently on the project and choose what other variables we should pull from patient records. For instance, I decided to pull data on each patient’s concussion symptoms to see if there was a relationship between any specific symptoms and whether or not the patient was driving after their concussion. This required me to think critically about what information would be important and interesting for the public to know. Also, I had some background doing data analysis in my classes, but this project was much larger than anything I had ever encountered previously. Although it was challenging, all my work paid off in the end. My research team and I have since submitted an abstract about the results to be presented at an upcoming poster conference, and we are planning to begin writing a manuscript to be submitted for publication in an academic journal.
WHY: As a Psychology major, last spring I took Research Design and Statistics, where I learned the basics of how to design and implement a research project and how to run data analysis. This summer internship put the skills I learned in that class to work! In research design, we are taught the basics of the statistical software SPSS, which I then used all summer at my internship. I would say I went from having a basic to advanced proficiency in the program. I also found it interesting to see the actual research process at work. In school, we often learn the textbook definitions of how things “should” work in a perfect world. However, in the real world there are always bumps in the road! I had a first-hand look at the trials and tribulations of the research process and how my team worked to overcome them. I will carry this experience with me while in graduate school and when pursuing a future career in research.
WHERE: Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; Prague, Czech Republic; Venice, Florence, Sienna, Pompeii, Sorrento, and Rome, Italy
HOW: As I said “arrivederci” to my best friend of five years, I prepared myself to not see her again for another year — she was leaving to study abroad in a small town in Italy. Her mom planned the extensive trip to pick her up and to do some exploring while already in Europe. Is it turned out, her family took me in as one of their own and invited me along the exhilarating adventure of traveling to four different countries in four weeks.
WHAT: From the Belgian chocolates to the wineries in Tuscany, Italy, the most enjoyable part of my summer adventure was experiencing the cultures of the different cities I traveled to. Each city had its own feel — its own connections among their people, and its own aspects that made each city unique compared to anywhere I have been before. The feeling of arriving in a new place, simply as an observer to the lives going on around is beyond words of description. My favorite moments were when I felt immersed in the culture around me. One moment that stands out the most to me was being able to take part in the feast day of Rome’s saints: St. Peter and St. Paul. During this holiday, beautiful, religious artworks were created using sand, pebbles, and flowers along the sidewalks of the Vatican City. Music streamed into the streets and people, including myself, gathered around to listen to the Pope address the people and pray the Angelus. It was a breathtaking day, to say the least. The little things like this is what made me truly adore traveling abroad.
WHY: Being abroad truly opened my eyes to the immense opportunities that lay before me. With nursing, I have always dreamed of providing medical care abroad. Being able to experience a small taste of the world solidified my dream and continues to inspire me to work towards it. One thing that I learned about communication was that patience and understanding is imperative. Living in small areas with a total of nine people for a month was not easy, but by remaining patient and attempting to understand others improved our communication and made the trip a lot smoother.
WHERE: Nokomis Youth Tennis Camp
HOW: I was offered this opportunity from my first-ever tennis coach (the one who helped me overcome my disabilities), Clifford Vines.
WHAT: My favorite part about my summer experience was the combination of doing something that I love (playing tennis) and being able to have a positive impact on the children that I worked with. One challenging part of my Summer experience was learning how to balance discipline with fun. More specifically, when working with kids, as important as it is for them to have a fun time, it is also crucial to balance this with good leadership. In my case, I was responsible for ensuring the well being of over 15 kids. As I'm sure you can imagine, there wasn't always harmony between them one hundred percent of the time; there were plenty of times where conflict arose, and I had to step up to the plate to ensure that everyone was cared for.
One situation that really stands out to me occurred during one of the hottest days of the summer. With the temperature in mind, I was constantly encouraging kids to drink plenty of water and to take a break if need. Even so, one of the campers on the court across from me collapsed from heat exhaustion. I immediately sprinted to her aid. Due to my training as an Eagle Scout, I was able to recall what to due in this situation. I quickly called 911, moved her into the shade, and kept her conscious until help came. She quickly got the help she needed and was okay. Though this situation was really scary, I'm so thankful that everyone ended up being okay.
WHY: As a triple major here at Florida Southern College (Accounting, Economics & Finance, and Business Administration), I had many important takeaways from my summer experience that apply to the classroom. The one that stands out to me the most is leadership. Even though I was coaching the kids in tennis, they taught me more than I ever could have expected. Being a good leader and setting a good example quickly became my priority. This summer also taught me a lot about effective communication. Working with kids between the ages of five and 14 meant that I had to be flexible and be comfortable with saying things multiple times, and in numerous ways. In that regard, one of my biggest takeaways was that it's not what you say, it's how you say it. Realizing this was key to effective communication because it helped me cater to each child's unique learning style.
Through this internship, I worked at Hollis Gardens, the Lakeland plant nursery learning general landscaping and planting trees around the city, It involved meeting and collaborating with a plethora of interesting people in different fields. I learned a lot about plant care, scientific names, and fun facts — all of which I will use in my future career in agricultural research. I also made connections with knowledgeable people and got a chance to design part of the City of Lakeland website for the Parks and Rec department. I even went to Miami to meet a famous orchid cultivator!
WHERE: City of Lakeland Parks and Recreation
HOW: My boss at the FSC greenhouse told me about the opportunity because she used to work for the city, and one of her former colleagues reached out to her to ask if she knew anyone who might be interested. There was an in-depth application and interview process, and I interviewed in front of a panel of four people, all of whom I ended up working with over the course of the summer.
WHAT: I most enjoyed nerding-out about plants with people who are even bigger plant nerds than me! I learned a lot of practical plant knowledge that only comes from hands-on experience, and became familiar with the scientific names of plants, diseases and pests that afflict them, and even how politics in the city government become involved with what kind of plants are placed around Lakeland.
One of my assignments throughout the summer was to research, design, and compose text for the Parks and Recreation website. This was one of the projects into which many people from the department weighed in, and while I received many suggestions, I had to narrow the plethora of information down into a manageable amount that someone visiting the website would be willing to read and able to navigate. This called for being selective and organized in what I put in, as well as making sure it was visually appealing and encouraged a website visitor to be interested and keep reading. When I completed it, I got an email from the Assistant Superintendent of Parks and Rec that it was exactly what they had needed!
WHY: I learned a lot that built upon the education that I've gotten at Florida Southern throughout the course of the summer. Plants that I heard mentioned in botany class were now tangible and I learned how to identify them by their leaves or bark. I saw for myself how useful scientific names are in clarifying which exact variety of tree you need to order, and I gained experience in leading groups of volunteers and educating them about the flora around them.
This summer I was a student nurse extern on the Oncology/Hematology floor at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, a large metropolitan hospital in downtown Washington, D.C. It was challenging, it was amazing, but most of all it was rewarding. Sharing the pain of a family who lost their daughter in her twenties to breast cancer made me a more empathetic nurse. Sharing the joy of a family who has been told their grandfather is cancer free made me feel a type of enlightenment that I didn’t know existed. Oncology didn’t steal my heart this summer, it completed it.
WHERE: MedStar Washington Hospital Center- 5E Oncology/Hematology
Washington, District of Columbia
HOW: When I was a freshman at FSC, I dreamed of having the opportunity of doing a summer nurse externship. The experiences gained at these internships is priceless. As soon as applications opened, I was applying to programs all over the country. During spring break of my junior year, I drove from Lakeland to Washington D.C. to interview for a position at one of my top five choices for programs. Four days after my interview, I received my offer to become a Student Nurse Extern on the Oncology/Hematology unit at the largest metropolitan hospital in Washington D.C.
WHAT: I enjoyed the patient interaction. I developed new skills due to the high level of acuity and the rigor of the unit. I thrived living in a big city and taking the metro (subway) to work everyday. However, above all I enjoyed developing a passion and love for oncology nursing.
The most challenging portion of my externship was the oncology portion of this field. Oncology nursing is a intense subject that we go over senior year of nursing school. Therefore, before beginning the externship I taught myself the oncology unit of our nursing program to better prepare for the type of unit I was on. Overtime I became increasingly familiar with the chemotherapeutic agents being used and began to recognize the adverse effects and the nursing interventions for each. This was a challenging unit to be on; however, it pushed me and I am forever grateful for that.
After a few weeks of being on the unit I became familiar with the effects of different chemotherapy agents. I noticed that one of my patients began to develop signs of sepsis after receiving a treatment. I notified my assigned nurse and we immediately paged the doctor. The patient ended up becoming septic, in which immediate intervention is necessary to decrease fatality. Due to the critical thinking skills I developed at FSC I was able to recognize this situation and act quickly to prevent a fatal complication.
WHY: This summer externship enhanced my understanding in several different areas of nursing. I was able to practice fundamental nursing skills all summer as well as advanced nursing skills that I wouldn’t have been regularly able to perform in clinicals. This externship was invaluable to my nursing career and I have been better equipped to be a nurse once I graduate from FSC because of this. These advanced skills include tracheostomy care, chemotherapy, blood products, traumatic/emergent care.
I interned at the Defense Forensic Science Center in Atlanta, GA as part of Florida Southern College's ROTC program. This experience was awesome because I went through Special agent Laboratory Training (SALT) and worked with the most talented and skilled professionals in the field of chemistry, genetics, and forensic science! This facility examines evidence from EVERY CRIME that involves U.S. military personnel or occurs on a U.S. military installation, even internationally!
WHERE: Defense Forensic Science Center
HOW: The U.S. Army Cadet Command releases a list of internships to ROTC programs across the country. There is an application process in which you select three that you are interested in. You also have to participate in an interview with the Profesor of Militaryscience, who is in charge of the ROTC program. Then a board selects which internship you will attend.
WHAT: My favorite part of this summer experience was learning about all of the techniques used to process evidence and the vast number of ways criminals can be caught. The most challenging part was understanding all of the detailed scientific concepts and procedures used to analyze evidence. For example, I was given a mock crime scene to investigate and I was able to use DNA analysis to conclude that although witnesses only reported seeing two people at the crime scene, there was, in fact, a third.
WHY: I learned an immense amount about teamwork and interdisciplinary communication because some analysis methods in one department can prevent other departments from being successful, so the evidence must be carefully triaged and the different departments must work together to gather as much information as possible without interfering with each other's work.
I volunteered at a home for domestic abuse victims and a female health clinic near my home every week. My role was to tutor these women so that they were able to finally pass the GED at the end of their sessions with me!
WHERE: Home of the Sparrow & Family Health Partnership Clinic
Mchenry/Crystal Lake, Illinois
HOW: I had to both apply and interview for two positions. I found the shelter and the clinic through searching in need shelters in my area and off of the recommendations from the hospital staff I had previously volunteered with.
WHAT: I enjoyed being able to actually make an impact through volunteering. Sometimes in a clinical setting, you don’t feel like you’re actually participating in the establishments mission, but in these settings I was able to lend the knowledge and experience I had for the betterment of my own community. Being underqualified to teach some of the subjects was a challenge I had to outsource to become better. Making activities for the one dyslexic women in my group was challenging and required patience and creativity to see something I find natural in a different light, and then create a learning system based off of something I cannot experience.
WHY: I am now more compassionate and patient and appreciate the opportunities I was set up with much more now than I did before this summer. Simple things like being able bodied and mentally sound are things I did not fully appreciate before my tutoring and clinical experience this summer. This relates to my career goals or being a health care provider, though not necessarily my major.
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