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Reflections of an OIC Research Coordinator

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

From South Korea to Dartmouth Medical School

Reflections of an OIC Research Coordinator

Written by: Nu Ree Na

This year at Orthopaedic Institute for Children has been a great time for me, in my first professional job after graduating from UCLA with a B.S. in Physiological Science. But even after interviewing and receiving the job offer, I was uneasy as I went through the job orientation process. Although I came to the United States at age three, I am an undocumented immigrant from South Korea.

After college, I received approval for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This provided me with a work permit and social security card, the tools I needed to finally apply for a job. But, given the politics of my circumstances, I did not know how I would be received.

I was pleasantly surprised by the way OIC’s Human Resources department assisted me without judgment and with open arms. I was immensely glad that this small part of my application – where I was born – did not affect my entrance into this job and grateful that OIC wanted me for my qualifications.

My time here has been short, but amazing. I managed research for Dr. Scaduto and Dr. Bowen. Many of my research projects focused on pediatric operative sports knee injuries and spinal deformities such as scoliosis. One project, currently in progress, will determine patient satisfaction with pain management after a posterior spinal fusion for severe idiopathic scoliosis (spine curvature) or a common anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction in the knee. We want to quantify the amount of pain medication that is taken daily, along with side effects and the duration that the medication is taken. Overall, we want to gauge patients’ satisfaction with their pain management in order to better serve and inform patients and their family before surgery.

Another project I was assigned by Dr. Scaduto examines patient outcomes following redirection by insurance after surgery is requested. When a surgeon at OIC requests surgery authorization from the insurance company and the company redirects that surgery to another physician, the surgeon who originally requested the surgery does not perform it. However, it is always a physician’s responsibility to ensure that their patients receive appropriate care. Therefore, we will investigate whether our redirected patients receive appropriate care with a qualified surgeon in a timely manner at a qualified hospital. This information will allow the surgeon to better prepare the patient for redirection by informing them of what they can expect.

I also worked on a research project that examines patient outcomes between those who receive either minimal physical therapy or the recommended amount of physical therapy after ACL reconstruction. Many times in clinic, we see that patients with government-funded insurance like Medi-Cal tend to receive less or none of the recommended physical therapy required for recovery after surgery, in contrast to the full amount that their privately insured counterparts receive. We are determining the difference in the knee outcomes between these two groups two years after surgery.

In addition to the research projects I worked on, I amassed a plethora of experience in the clinic, interacting with the patients and their families, and observing, firsthand, patient and physician relationships. Prior to working at OIC, I had limited clinic experience. Shadowing and working with Dr. Bowen and Scaduto reaffirmed my desire to pursue a career in medicine. I was amazed by the patience and genuine care that was provided to each patient seen, despite the high volume of patients in each clinic. It was truly rewarding to observe the significant changes made through their thorough medical treatment.

During my time at OIC, I had the opportunity to go to the Calexico clinics through the International Children’s Program (ICP), where the surgeons provide free orthopaedic clinics and, if necessary, follow up with free surgical intervention. My experiences in Calexico further instilled a passion to care for the medically underserved internationally.

I was affected so much by the great care provided to these children who would not have care otherwise that I signed up for the Los Angeles Marathon with two of my coworkers, Michael Jew and Shannon Cooper, in order to raise money for this program. We all finished the marathon, raising over $600 for the ICP. I hope that future employees will carry on this fundraising effort.

I had a wonderful year at OIC. In a bittersweet farewell, I am leaving OIC to attend medical school at Dartmouth. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities, experiences, and friendships I have made. They undoubtedly allowed me to achieve acceptance into my first choice medical school. As I leave OIC to pursue my dreams of becoming a physician, I know I will be able to reflect back upon this time to provide me with strength during the trying times on my road into medicine. Thank you again to my OIC family and to our wonderful patients.