I remember finding out in elementary school that I had a fairly rare genetic disorder and being surprised and confused. As I began researching the disorder in high school, I only grew more intrigued. There seemed to be so much new and exciting research going on, but there were so many questions left unanswered, making me realize not only the importance of graduate education in order to advance my own training, but to better serve those in the communities in which I have lived, worked and studied. Throughout college, I wrote papers on genetic disorders for several undergraduate classes and since that time I have never failed to stay abreast of much of the literature on genetic disorders resulting in disabilities of one form or another, especially as they impact adolescent girls. Fully immersed in my studies, learning the basic science that I needed to understand what had happened to me from a scientific perspective, I did not set my sights on a career in nursing until I was mid-way through my graduate studies at Harvard in Psychology, as a result of my realization that I wanted very much to focus the balance of my professional life on nursing. I see my training in psychology as excellent preparation for a distinguished career in nursing.
It was until my junior year of undergrad in 2015, after I transferred universities in pursuit of a more rigorous academic program, that I found an avenue of nursing I felt deeply passionate about pursuing. My desire to be involved in research is what ultimately let me to the University of XXXX Medical Center (UXMC). I had to pleasure to work to complete a palliative care mentorship under Dr. XXXX in the Department of Pediatrics, treating children with a variety of needs in Mississippi’s only palliative care program. I began a mentorship that challenged me in more ways than I thought possible, yet, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I gained significant experience with research, learning how to accurately analyze and synthesize practical concepts for the creation of new ideas with the potential to enhance the whole child of those who are wheelchair bound. I learned firsthand how ambitious and confronting the nursing process can be, yet also how incredibly fascinating, beautiful, vital, and central to what it is that most makes us human.
My experience at UXMC left me wanting to explore other avenues by which I could garner experiences, while also staying within the realm of pediatrics. In December 2016, I joined Dr. Dustin Sarver in the Center for Advancement of Youth at UMMC as a volunteer research assistant. The student-driven research program allowed me to integrate my interests in pediatrics and treatment-related research with my long-held fascination with parent-child interactions, ultimately co-authoring a book chapter on a case-study study of a young child with autism who graduated from a parent-child interaction therapy program. The semester turned out to be one of the richest experiences I have ever had and I have helped the volunteer research assistant program grow exponentially. I spent innumerable hours pouring over articles, comparing various measures, rewriting the literature review, exploring new ways in which to score specific questionnaires, and analyzing data in SPSS and Microsoft Excel - loving every minute. But more than that, I came out of the program with a sure sense of purpose, pride, and a strong desire to do more clinical research.
After graduation from college, I sought out a position as a project coordinator with the Department of Psychology at the Children’s Cancer Clinic at the UXMC under Dr. XXXX. Our work on the cognitive perception of acute versus chronic pain has vastly increased my interest in pediatric pain, especially in disadvantaged populations. I was also given the unique opportunity to gain invaluable clinical experience that has continued in my time since graduation. In the spring of 2018 under Dr. XXXX, I co-authored a paper examining post-chemotherapy obesity in pediatric cancer patients in a state-wide representative sample of children. Additionally, in my current role as project coordinator for Dr. XXXX I developed a deep interest and empathy for individuals with ADHD, Autism, and other, often quite severe presentations of developmental disorders.
In the future, I hope to conduct clinical research that leads to a better understanding and treatment of pain psychopathologies, especially rare, genetic disorders. More specifically, I am interested in less viable symptoms (e.g., pain perception deficits and emotion dysregulation) and their presentation in under-researched populations including girls, young adults and high-IQ individuals. I look forward to a full immersion experience in the exploration of the efficacy and application of multimodal treatment methods, especially those incorporating mindfulness, exercise and behavioral psychology. Working simultaneously in research and clinical settings has helped me to appreciate the value of bench-to-bedside perspectives, and I hope to incorporate both research and clinical practice into my nursing.
Furthermore, I also look forward to many years of working with and studying those who experience chronic pain or transition from chronic to pain as a result of a disability or genetic disorder. Pain is known to be correlated with many mental health disorders, so teaching adolescents to best manage pain through positive coping strategies, in my option, is essential. I can bring critically important life experience to the program and to the patients that I will be treating. My central, long-term research area is focused on those who experience chronic pain as a result of a disability and/or genetic disorder, especially adolescent females. I want to be able to intervene before negative coping strategies result in mental health concerns, such as anxiety or depression. I would be especially honored to work with any of the faculty involved with the Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research. Ultimately, I hope to continue my studies as an FNP and eventually earn a doctoral degree.
I thank you for your time and consideration.