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Intern Spotlight: Nicole Adams

Intern Spotlight: Nicole Adams

University of Dallas junior Nicole Adams hasn’t always wanted to be a physician. In fact, her childhood phobia of doctors was so severe that she had to be chased down the hall to get a routine vaccination. “I tried so many different things,” she said. “But I finally realized that being a doctor was the best way I could make an impact and try to keep other kids from having the fears I had.”

Nicole Adams
Nicole Adams

To that end, Adams applied and was accepted to the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) at Duke University. The privately funded program has locations nationwide, allowing prospective students to apply to individual universities. Those universities are then free to choose program participants from their pool of applicants. “Duke’s program is among the top 5 in the U.S.,” Adams said. “And they have only a 10% acceptance rate, so I was very honored to be selected.”

According to Adams, the goal of SMDEP is to let undergraduates considering going on to medical school get a realistic view of what is in store for them. And to do that the SMDEP organizers kept Adams and the other participants busy–very busy. “I took Physics and Organic Chemistry in the mornings,” she said. “In the afternoons, we learned about different aspects of patient care. Actors would come in as patients so we could learn how doctors connect on a personal level with real people.” In the evenings Adams shadowed surgeons and medical students in the ER, the Neonatal ICU and other areas of the hospital. Even the interns lunch hours were filled hearing prominent physicians and guest lecturers from around the country.

To help students adjust to the sometimes overwhelming work load and high expectations of the program, Adams said that participants met in small groups with psychologists whose goal was to help them reach the best of their abilities. “It was a tough program, and you could see that some of the group was getting competitive toward the end,” she said. But as long as Adams keeps up her grades, her successful participation in the SMDEP program guarantees her an interview with Duke Medical School upon graduation from UD. And while at Duke, she was able to meet members of the admissions committee and hear tips on navigating the application process from current medical school students.

Adams said that her experience with the program validated her choice to become a doctor–specifically a surgeon. “I feel like the SMDEP program taught me the importance of fostering an emotional connection with patients. I learned that as a med student, you have to ask yourself, ‘What kind of doctor am I going to be?’ And I’ve decided that I’m going to be a surgeon who recognizes my own mortality. And because of that, I’m going to be the best surgeon I can be.”

For more information on internships or to make an appointment with in OPCD adviser, click here.


Fighting Ebola in Africa

Fighting Ebola in Africa

Although most of us are familiar with Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, some would be surprised to learn that there are actually seven uniformed services that are part of the federal government. Dr. Chris Poulson spoke on April 4, 2016, at UD about one of these—the U.S. Public Health Service—and his deployment experience during the Ebola outbreak of 2014.

The U.S. Public Health Service was established in 1798 to screen immigrants coming into the United States for possible contagion. “Now our 7,000 commissioned officers respond to emergencies all over the world,” Poulson said. “Some of our deployments have included natural disasters, school shootings, and, of course, 9/11.” As a psychologist, Poulson has been with the Public Health Service since 2012. “My permanent duty station is at a federal prison,” he said. “But I am on call for deployment one month out of every five.”

In October 2014, Poulson received his first deployment—to Liberia in West Africa to combat the largest Ebola outbreak in history. “There is no running water, no sewers, no electricity, and hardly any means of communicating with people” he said. “So when disease hits, it’s devastating.” Ebola ravaged Liberia’s healthcare workers, many of whom contracted the Ebola virus and died. So the U.S. Public Health Service was deployed to set up a hospital to treat healthcare workers. This would hopefully make other countries feel confident enough to send their own healthcare workers to assist in the fight against Ebola.

As a psychologist, Poulson’s assignment within the medical unit was to take care of the caretakers. “I was constantly checking in with the doctors and nurses, asking things like—Are you ok? How are you sleeping? How’s your stress level? What’s your stress plan?” he said. His goal was to be imbedded with the medical team and not to be stuck in an office away from the action. In order to do that, he assisted with donning and doffing—the putting- on and taking-off of the protective suits worn by medical personnel when treating contagious patients. This was the perfect time to connect with his team. “Assessing someone’s mental status in a clinical setting is a little more formal,” he said. “But in this situation, an informal approach worked better.”
Poulson’s four-week deployment was extended another three weeks because of a forced quarantine in Washington, D.C., which included twice-daily temperature checks over a three week period to ensure that he had not contracted Ebola while in Liberia. “The main thing that I was left with from my deployment…the one thing that sticks out to me is to be grateful for what we have and where we live,” he said.

Poulson then described for the group his career path and how he chose to enlist in the Public Health Service. “After graduation, I started work at a managed care company and then worked for a pain management clinic,” he said. “And then I decided to go into private practice.” But private practice has its own set of challenges. “I was working long hours, fighting with insurance companies, and only 85% of my patients would show up,” he said. A friend recommended he consider working for the Bureau of Prisons because of the steady hours, good pay, and good benefits. “Although I wasn’t so sure about working with that type of clientele, I thought I would give it a try,” he said.
After working at a prison for some time, he learned about the U.S. Public Health Service from a coworker. “I kept seeing these guys in blue uniforms, and I found out that they work for the Surgeon General, they serve underserved populations, and they have great opportunities for advancement and promotion,” he said.

And the decision to enlist was a good one. “Working for the prison was better than working in private practice,” he said. “And being a commissioned officer in the Public Health Service is even better than that.” For more information on events sponsored by the University of Dallas Office of Personal Career Development, visit our website.

UD Alumni on the Future of Healthcare

UD Alumni on the Future of Healthcare

University of Dallas alumni distinguished for their work in the healthcare industry addressed questions on September 9, 2015, about the future of healthcare as part of UD’s “Transformation, Innovation and Ethics” series. The panel, led by CHRISTUS Health CEO Ernie Sadau, was composed of physicians and business leaders with unique insights into the challenges facing large hospital systems and individual practitioners alike. “The role of the physician is changing in the U.S.,” said Dr. Brannon Marlowe (BS ’89), an anesthesiologist. “As physicians, we need to learn how to adapt to change in this new system.”

Karin Grantham (MBA ’93), retired Vice President of Global Medical Solutions with Johnson & Johnson agreed: “There are big problems out there that need to be solved and we have to develop partnerships among the constituents involved in healthcare.”

Chief among the topics that panelists said could “keep them up at night” were the implications of the Affordable Care Act. “There are three components to a healthcare system: Cost, quality and access. Pick any two, but you can’t have all three,” said Marlowe. Dr. Irving Prengler (MBA ’00), Chief Medical Officer of Baylor Scott & White, added that, as a physician, he wants everyone to have access to care. “But can we afford to pay for that?” he said. “I don’t know.”

Dr. Donna Sue Dolle (BA ’89), a general internist practicing under a concierge medicine model, said that many of the problems people blame on the Affordable Care Act have been around for a long time. “Ninety percent of our woes were around way before the ACA,” she said.

One area in which panelists had different insights was on the use of technology. Grantham highlighted various innovations in telemedicine and wearable diagnostic technology as advancements that could improve both costs and patient care in the future. The physicians on the panel acknowledged the importance of innovation but stressed the need for face-to-face care as the gold-standard of medicine. “Nothing can replace my ability to look at my patient and to hear my patient directly,” Dolle said.

Prengler agreed that while innovations are exciting, they must be backed by solid outcomes before they can be incorporated in the standard of care. “Telemedicine can’t just be another avenue for a doctor to prescribe antibiotics for a virus,” he said, acknowledging the pressure physicians often feel from patients to prescribe medication when none is actually needed.

Sadau asked the panel in closing, “If you could go back and chose another career, would you?” Despite the challenges each faces in the healthcare industry, all acknowledged that, given the opportunity, they would again choose the same path that led them to healthcare as a career.

The University of Dallas’ Transformation, Innovation and Ethics series is an expert panel series in which alumni leaders host discussions on the future of business. The purpose of TIE is to bring together alumni, administration, students and faculty to discuss a rapidly transitioning world and ways in which to innovate and manage that change in an ethical manner. For more information, click here.