From the Society

Student Hospitalist Scholars: Strengthening research skills

Diverse input makes a student research project more broadly accessible


Editor’s Note: The Society of Hospital Medicine’s (SHM’s) Physician in Training Committee launched a scholarship program in 2015 for medical students to help transform health care and revolutionize patient care. The program has been expanded for the 2017-18 year, offering two options for students to receive funding and engage in scholarly work during their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years of medical school. As a part of the program, recipients are required to write about their experience on a biweekly basis.

I’m always surprised by how much I can learn in a few short weeks. I am now up to full speed with my project studying the utility of bone biopsies in the management of osteomyelitis.

This is a retrospective study, which means I’ll be collecting historical data from patient charts to be used for our analysis. My mentor – Ernie Esquivel, MD – has played an invaluable role in helping me get this project off the ground. He has worked with me on everything from project planning to successfully navigating the ever-confusing institutional review board (IRB) process. He has also provided advice in areas I thought I might actually have more experience, such as data collection and analysis methods.

Cole Hirschfeld, Weill Cornell Medical School

Cole Hirschfeld

I worked in the finance industry prior to medical school and I became an expert at analyzing large data sets using Excel spreadsheets. However, I learned that Excel is not always the best tool to use for data collection, nor for handling sensitive patient information. Dr. Esquivel introduced me to a secure data collection program licensed by our institution called RedCAP. I was able to create a unique data input form that is specific to our project’s needs.

This form has streamlined the data collection process and will save me a significant amount of time down the road when we have to code the data for statistical analysis programs. After putting in the hard work gathering all of this information, I look forward to beginning the process of analyzing and interpreting our results.

Dr. Esquivel has also helped me improve the value and credibility of this research by encouraging me to present our ideas in front of several groups of people from different departments and specialties. The feedback from these meetings has helped refine our study design and methods while also providing me with the opportunity to improve my communication and presentation skills.

I think such diverse input has helped shape this project into something that will be accessible to a broader audience, and has strengthened my understanding of why our work is important to both clinicians and patients.

Cole Hirschfeld is originally from Phoenix. He received undergraduate degrees in finance and entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona and went on to work in the finance industry for 2 years before deciding to change careers and attend medical school. He is now a 4th year medical student at Cornell University, New York, and plans to apply for residency in internal medicine.

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