The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

My Summer Internship: the Cardiovascular Lab at HUP

M&Ts are known to have a variety of internship experiences, ranging from finance to big tech and everywhere in-between. This summer M&T Kristen Ho (’19) is spending her days at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) doing research in their Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. We asked her a few questions about her experience thus far. 

What prompted you to apply to work at HUP this summer?

My interest in the human body began with my involvement in gymnastics. It can be brutal on your body. I had many x-rays and MRIs as a result of suffering from multiple injuries and appreciate how these technologies can make a real difference in people’s lives.

I discovered one of HUP’s cardiovascular lab focuses on the noninvasive assessment of cardiac and arterial structure/function. I knew it was the perfect learning opportunity. I wanted to work alongside accomplished researchers and doctors to understand the complex mechanisms and treatments of the human heart. Additionally, I wanted to explore whether I have a passion for research and if I would thrive in an intensive research environment.

What has your experience been like so far? What types of projects are you working on?

My experience has been extremely rewarding. I have familiarized myself with an array of heart failure studies and got the chance to learn how to quantify echocardiograms and cardiac MRIs. My primary responsibilities revolve around two studies involving the Aurora Device. These studies are in collaboration with Microsoft Research Medical Devices Group and involve a watch-like device, called the Aurora. The device records radial pressure waveforms and EKG readings to provide information about a patient’s heart.

The Aurora Readmission Study uses the data collected from the device to predict when patients are at an increased risk for a decompensation or re-hospitalization from heart failure. In the future, patients diagnosed with heart failure will wear the Aurora device to prevent readmission due to heart failure.

After working closely with research coordinators involved in the Aurora Readmission Study, I am starting to run my own study involving the Aurora Device. My study, The Aurora Echo Study, focuses on establishing a comprehensive phenobank related to ventricular-arterial interactions. It uses data collected from the Aurora Device paired with images from a patient’s echocardiogram. Ultimately, by analyzing data from a large sample of patient populations, we hope to generate novel algorithms in predicting heart failure and cardiovascular diseases.

Have any particular moments stood out? If so, what?

Many of my most memorable moments are the interactions with patients. In particular, I was checking in on a patient after we had enrolled her in the Aurora Readmission Study. She told us she had to take off her Aurora device because the doctors had performed a new treatment that caused swelling on her wrist. She was unable to wear the device for a few days. She was frustrated most that she wasn’t able to collect data for the study! She said she told her doctors, “You’re messing with my data!” It was uplifting to see her optimism about her hospitalization and investment in advancing healthcare in every way she could.

Another milestone was finally seeing my own study unfold. After spending more than a month of planning, I presented the study to the echocardiogram team at HUP. They approved the plan and I was lucky enough to enroll my first patient that same day!

What value have you gained from this experience?

This work experience introduced me to a new dimension of healthcare, one that’s difficult to gain in a classroom. I am working directly with patients. As an aspiring biomedical engineer, it’s important for me to understand patient needs so I can effectively translate an idea to practice.

Would you recommend others doing an internship at HUP? Who and why?

I would highly encourage other aspiring bioengineers or doctors to experience an internship with a Dry Lab at the Perelman Center and HUP. From the classrooms, I learned the “why”.  At HUP, I learned the “how”.  The education, together with the practical experience, allows me to draw connections other people don’t see.

Kristen is a bioengineering major in the Class of 2019. Her favorite thing about being an M&T is the unique community or passionate, driven individuals she encounters every day.

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