A Summer in Pediatric Neurosurgery

Jimmy Bianchi, COL ’24, Scranton, PA

Prior to attending Penn, I had always aspired to attend medical school. However, I was both intimidated and excited by the vast array of professions one could pursue. During my second year at Penn, I set out to find research opportunities that would give me a holistic clinical experience to better understand one of the fields of medicine. As a student majoring in neuroscience, I hoped to find research that would broaden my knowledge in the field and develop skills that apply to a niche in the medical field. I am ecstatic at the internship I found through Career Services, working under Dr. Shih-Shan Lang Chen in the Division of Neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with a team of two undergraduates and an MS4.

Before committing to my internship, I reviewed the breadth of Dr. Chen’s previous publications and work at CHOP. Growing up with my mother who was passionate about the advocacy of women in finance, Dr. Chen’s work as a female neurosurgeon was something I highly admired. Lying at the intersection between neuroscience and the medical field, I knew I had found my ideal summer experience. During my first summer conducting research, I developed critical skills for use across interdisciplinary fields in medicine and academia.

Since this was my first time participating in research full-time, I started my summer working on a single project: VPS Caregiver Education. This project primarily focused on the in-person enrollment of patients’ parents into a study used to assess family literacy about a ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VPS) used to treat hydrocephalus. For this project, another undergraduate and I would each check the surgery schedule on Epic weekly to find patients eligible for enrollment. Then, I would compile some general information about the patient (age, demographics, previous hydrocephalus tx, etc.). I would visit the parents and patients in the hospital, go through the protocol and consent affirmation documents, and give them a brief presentation on VPS. They would complete a pre-test and post-test on general information, as well as a survey on their experience at CHOP.

While VPS consumed a chunk of my time early in the summer, I branched out my research to include more data entry into Redcap. This included time-sensitive callbacks for a survey about a smartphone application for pediatric hydrocephalus to ensure parents can enter and keep medical information related to their child’s hydrocephalus disorder. Additionally, I took on a role in collecting data for treatment outcomes with arteriovenous malformations. Because of this, I was able to gain important clinical research skills from the spectrum of patient interaction to medical chart data collection which will serve as a basis for my future scientific career.

In addition to my research, I was fortunate enough to be presented with opportunities to shadow a multitude of cases. Some of these cases included a tumor resection, laminectomy, and temporal lobectomy. Shadowing these surgeries was both daunting and exhilarating and being able to pick the minds of accomplished and brilliant surgeons was incredible. This additional experience allowed me to build connections with physicians, residents, and medical students to potentially connect with for future research projects.

This summer was an eye-opening experience in clinical research and the clinical schedule of a neurosurgeon. I am incredibly thankful to Penn Career Services for providing the funding opportunity to make this internship possible. I cannot wait to continue my work at CHOP throughout the upcoming school year, continuing to expand my skill set and explore new research opportunities.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services