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Data Dash: My Tech-Driven Orthopedic Internship Helping Injured Patients
Posted 01/10/2019 04:38PM

By Steven Doctorman, Class of 2020

I begin by applying a double-sided adhesive sticker to a motion-reflective marker—a small, silvery sphere. There are about 30 markers on the floor, each one in need of a sticker. These markers are then applied to certain parts of the patient's body, each one in a specific location in relation to a joint or muscle mass.

Patients crack the occasional joke: about the tight shorts they have to wear, about how tearing off the markers will feel like removing a Band-Aid, about how their midriff is on display when markers are used to track hip joints.

I sit on a stool, scoot behind the computer, and watch as one of the personal trainers gives the same instructions: the cameras in the ceiling track every movement, and we first have to calibrate those cameras by having the patient make certain movements, such as marching with one leg or kicking out to the side. The markers appear on the computer and we record movements, from walking and running to jumping and squatting. Patients are here because of certain injuries, and by monitoring movements the computer algorithm can calculate the data necessary to diagnose treatment options. I, both literally and figuratively, take a backseat to the computer work, but I'm captivated by the procedure and by doctors' discussions of the asymmetry of certain joints.

I intern at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in a lab that works with physical trainers to help individuals in post-surgical recovery. My responsibilities range from data tracking and analysis to marker prep and observation. On days when we don't have a patient, I use a computer program to identify flaws in previously recorded data and replace those flaws with accurate estimates. On days when we have a patient, I help apply adhesive stickers to markers and then observe data collection and doctors' analyses. This kind of lab work fascinates me, and witnessing the real-world implications of technical and biomedical innovation is inspirational.

I first learned about Rowland Hall's internship program from a flyer on a hallway bulletin board. It described how students worked in a blood-synthesis lab over the summer, and what they learned. As I became more interested in lab work my sophomore year, I reached out to Dr. Laura Johnson, an Upper School English teacher who also manages student internships. She's the archetypal Rowland Hall teacher, dedicated to helping her students succeed. Her efforts were heartwarming: she worked tirelessly to identify an opportunity that matched my schedule and interests. She contacted an array of labs and eventually found the TOSH internship in September, the beginning of my junior year.

My work at TOSH has directly intersected with my classes, and vice versa. In Advanced Topics Biology, learning about data collection with standard error bars allowed me to identify whether someone's hip flexion was within the healthy range. In physics, learning about motion and gravity have helped me understand the results from force plates. Even calculus has helped me with data synthesis, as I'm able to track a graph on the x-, y-, and z-axes and apply the correct computer algorithm to replace faulty data. My schoolwork applies to real-world concepts, which, in my opinion, is priceless.

As recording wraps up, I help one of the physical trainers remove the markers. I take off the adhesive stickers and throw them away. I then watch as the doctors write a report about what treatment and exercises are needed. They compare the patient's data with a database that shows the abilities of healthy individuals. When I'm not actively helping, I either watch the doctors write their report, or return to old data and correct errors. The latter improves their database. And each recording helps make a difference in people's lives, which is an added bonus to an already meaningful internship.

Current upper schoolers interested in internships should contact teacher Laura Johnson. Prospective families who want to learn more are invited to our January 30 Upper School Open Door—RSVP here.

Student Steven Doctorman at his TOSH internship.

A junior writes about his internship at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH), where he works with physical trainers to help individuals in post-surgical recovery. His duties range from data tracking and analysis to lab prep and observation.
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