Raj Kumar - Houston, Texas

Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at YSPH 
Weinerman Fellowship

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.