The Light at the End of a (Very) Long Tunnel

After a summer of research, I have an even greater appreciation for the dedication and motivation of researchers who investigate their fields as a full-time career. It takes a lot of persistence to take each failure or dead-end as an opportunity to learn about other avenues to achieve your objectives. When my project did not go as planned: when a kid refused to spit into a tube or parents left half of the questionnaires blank, I felt that my project was falling apart. However, Dr. Treble-Barna, my fellow labmates, and the rest of the Brackenridge scholars encouraged me to learn to take these challenges as learning opportunities to continue to gather enough data to help as many kids as I can. 

I had laid out a schedule for my project: recruit pediatric patients to fill out the Psychosocial Assessment Tool (PAT), score and enter the PAT in the database, and conduct analyses to deduce any patterns that may inform how a child may recover from a brain injury. Because I can not control when children have brain injuries nor can I control the effort parents put into filling out questionnaires, I found that I had to waver from my original schedule. I spent a lot more time recruiting patients into the study, as well as helping parents properly fill out the questionnaire. This insured the highest quality of data, but also delayed the scoring and analysis of the PATs, themselves. 

Although things did not go as planned, I ended up with a bigger sample size and a greater understanding of the clinical administration of the PAT. I learned to take each setback as an opportunity to enhance my project, even if it took more time. I am about to conduct the proper statistical analyses to characterize and compare psychosocial risk in patients with brain injuries and patients without brain injuries, as well as assess the internal consistency of the PAT. I will present this information at my panel discussion in early August! Once Brackenridge is over, I will be submitting an abstract to present my project at the International Neuropsychological Conference in the Spring. I will also be looking into utilizing other well-known measures of adversity to assess the convergent validity of the PAT. Ultimately, I am working towards crafting my first published paper on the clinical use of the PAT in children with traumatic brain injuries.

I am so grateful for the Brackenridge experience because it gave me a community of other motivated individuals to help me make my work as impactful as it can be. Working with other students that have interests, passions, and projects so different from mine gave me the opportunity to craft my own project in such a way that it was relevant and understandable to a variety of people. I want my research to touch as many people as it can; without the other Brackenridge scholars, I am not sure I would have been able to communicate my research in such a way that every person consuming it can understand it and its significance.

I learned that research may be a long tunnel, but the light at the end makes it all worth it. For me, that light is seeing children recover to take on the world after a brain injury. Keep pursuing your passion through research because the light at the end of your tunnel may just change someone else’s life.

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