Raj Kumar - Houston, Texas
Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at YSPH
Career goal: To become a physician and work in an academic setting doing both public health epidemiology research and clinical work in the field of recovery following traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Internship outline: My primary project was a TBI Classification System Project. Currently, individuals with a TBI are often classified in the emergency room as a mild, moderate or severe case based on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). This is often used as a prognosis to guide rehabilitation treatment in the acute stages. However, after six months, the predictive power of GCS to outcome is poor. Thus, the purpose of this project was to create a new classification system for patients who have integrated back into the community. My job was to interview patients regarding their emotional, physical, cognitive and social support status following their injury. In addition to this project, I was also involved in a another project where I helped lead a focus group with TBI patients to gauge their involvement with organizations in the community (i.e., the YMCA and churches).
Value of experience: I was fortunate enough to interact with TBI patients each day. It was truly an eye opening to see the impact that the injury has on so many facets of the patients’ lives, and their immediate social support system that has to assist them on many daily activities. From my experience, I am aware of the importance of rehabilitation research for brain-injured patients. There is a great demand for more clinical epidemiological studies in this area to further improve treatment for this population, and I hope to use this internship as a foundation to delve into this field for my career.
Best moment: I had the chance to visit the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit at Ben-Taub Hospital, a Level-I County Hospital Trauma Center in Houston. It was a great experience to talk with neurosurgeons and see TBI patients who are in the acute stages after serious TBI injuries.
Raj Kumar - Houston, Texas
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- Outside of the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Ben Taub Hospital, a Level I Trauma Hospital in Houston. The patients for Raj’s thesis project were recruited from this wing.
- The waiting room outside of the clinic at Ben Taub Hospital, a county hospital serving much of Houston’s lower-income population.
- In the lobby of Hermann Memorial Hospital, the affiliation hospital of TIRR, and the main private hospital in Houston.
- Raj conducts a patient interview for his Classification Systems project. The interviews typically lasted several hours and consisted of questions about physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms following the brain injury.
- Raj and two other male research assistants in the main Brain Injury Research Center (BIRC) office. This part of the office is affectionately called the “Man Cave.”
- Raj assists a patient on a neuropsychological exam known as “Trail Making Test.” This test measures a patient’s visual attention and task-switching ability, and is one of the most commonly administered cognitive tests in the brain-injured population.
- A planning meeting for the focus group with the two lead coordinators for the Community Integration Project.
- Raj reviews the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury literature for potential ideas to use for his independent project.
- The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Memorial Hermann, where a majority of patients in all of the studies at BIRC received their rehabilitation treatment.
- A great view of downtown Houston is available from Raj’s office.
- Henry Winkler, better known as “the Fonz” from the television show Happy Days, shares his story of caring for his mother who suffered a stroke and battled spasticity of her limbs for over 10 years.