Last Days at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic

My internship at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital ended with a four-hour program named Fun Day on Friday, August 10th 2012. As a Biology and HSSP major, my main academic goal was to apply my knowledge from the classroom to a clinical setting by interacting with patients and various health care professionals. Every morning I walked into the clinic with an open mind and a positive attitude. The first thing I did was check the schedule of appointments for the day. When patients arrived, sometimes I helped the nurses with triaging the patients, such as taking their height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure. Most of time I looked over patients’ family and medical history, calculated their body mass index, and plotted the data on the growth chart to monitor their development. I also examined patients’ dietary and physical activity level with the dietitian in order to conduct nutritional counseling. From observing the clinic staff’s interaction with the patient and participating in medical case discussion following each patient’s visit, I learned that obesity is a complicated illness with many factors. By collecting and analyzing surveys, data, and organizing the program Fun Day 2012, I realized that while it is important to educate the child about the importance of balanced nutrition and portion size, it is more essential to encourage his family members to provide physical and mentor support, and to foster a positive environment at home for healthy eating and weight loss. Additionally I learned that childhood obesity does not only result in medical comorbidities, overweight or obese children are often victims of bullying at school, which may further cause these children to develop emotional eating, low self-confidence, and even depression. This creates a vicious cycle that sustains the childhood obesity epidemic.

Fun Day 2012 – Bike riding with the Bluegrass Cycling Club
Fun Day 2012 – How to pack a budget-friendly, well-balanced lunch for school

My summer at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic has fulfilled my learning goals and exceeded my expectations. I will return to Brandeis with a new perspective on health and illnesses. I will further reflect upon my experience in the HSSP89 Internship Analysis course. In the future, I would like to continue learning about obesity and related illnesses and possibly take courses on nutrition and dietetics. After seeing how I, as merely an undergraduate student, can contribute in making a difference in people’s lifestyles, I became even more enthusiastic and motivated  to pursue a career in healthcare and medical practice. During the entire course of my internship, I felt like I was a piece of a puzzle that fit right in. I can picture myself working in a clinical or hospital setting, shuffling in and out of examination rooms, or sitting at a desk making the ideal treatment plans for my patients.

Group picture with the clinic staff and a volunteer

I would recommend this internship at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital at the University of Kentucky (UK). UK is a large yet structured organization that houses many different departments. There are countless opportunities available. The student would just need to do his research to target the department of interest and actively contact the appropriate offices. For students who are interested in an internship in the healthcare industry, I would advise them to keep an open mind. Every patient is different, and every case is unique. As long as your interest lies there, you will never be bored working in the field of healthcare. – Yan Chu, ’13

Week 1 at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic

It has been almost two weeks since I started into my internship at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Kentucky Children’s Hospital is an integral part of the University of Kentucky (UK) HealthCare, located in the Horse Capital of the World, Lexington, KY. For those of you who may not know, BMI stands for Body Mass Index. The Pediatric High BMI Clinic at UK serves children between the ages of 2 and 18 years who are overweight or obese with a BMI of above the 85th percentile for their age and sex.

University of Kentucky

I spent almost the entire winter break searching for an internship over the summer. I did research on my own and made phone calls and wrote emails to various health-related organizations. Luckily I was informed about the Pediatric High BMI Clinic by a family friend who knows of my interests.. At the end of the winter break, I had the opportunity to meet with the director of the clinic. After discussing my previous related experience and my enthusiastic interests in healthcare, she kindly offered me a summer internship.

Kentucky Children's Hospital logo

My main responsibilities are divided into two parts. I will spend most of my time in the clinic working directly with patients by calculating and recording the anthropometric measurements and by taking surveys from patients and families regarding dietary and physical activity history, past medical history and family history. Under the supervision of the director, I will also assist the work of the clinical staff member and learn the ethics of working in a clinical setting. In addition to working in the clinic, I will also participate in projects, such as creating and maintaining a database for the patients seen at the clinic, and conducting surveys with patients to follow up on their progress after their visits.

The truth is that I was very excited and also a little intimated walking into the clinic on my first day. To my relief, the clinical staff was very friendly and helpful. The physician, nurse coordinator, and registered dietitian each gave me an introduction and a training session. On the first day, I primarily worked with the nurse coordinator. I learned to take accurate height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure measurements on patients. After sending the patients and their families to their examination room, I calculated their BMI values and plotted their weight, stature, and BMI on growth charts, and prepared all of the documents for the physican’s evaluation. From the growth chart the physician can easily compare the patient’s growth to national percentiles and to observe the patient’s growth by age.

Growth chart for girls 2 to 18 years of age

On the following days, I took turns working with the dietitian and the physician. The dietitian shared and discussed with me the patients’ diets and physical activity. Depending on the patient’s condition, the dietitian varied her methods in interacting with the patients. I assisted her in counseling the patients and their families about importance of healthy nutrition and exercise. In several instances, we demonstrated a healthy balanced meal with visual props that resembled real food. While I was working alongside the physician, I observed that she focused more on the patients’ medical problems that accompany their overweight or obese status. I learned more about the comorbidities of obesity such as hypertension, sleep apnea, joint and feet problems.

I feel like I have already learned a lot at the clinic from directly working with patients and healthcare professionals. I am excited to do more hands-on work as I become more familiar with the routine at the clinic. I also look forward to starting on the data analysis and survey projects outside of the clinic. I hope that I can put my knowledge from statistical and science courses at Brandeis to good use. With more understanding of childhood obesity, I hope that I can contribute to fighting this epidemic, one small step at a time.

– Yan Chu ’13