A Second Family Among Business Partners

Jakala K. is a student at Cane Ridge High School in the Academy of Health Management. Through an internship with the Vanderbilt University Biomedical Informatics Department, Jakala had the opportunity to grow as a professional and as an individual. Read more of her story below.  I never would have thought that I would go to Washington D.C, or do research that actually mattered to others’ lives. Never in a million years would I have thought about having a paper co-published, and presented at AMIA (American Medical Informatics Association), which is a big deal in the informatics world. Vanderbilt University Biomedical Informatics Department helped me make all that possible, and much more come to life.

For the past two summers, I was a summer intern in the department. Since I was the very first high school student to ever intern there, I was able to test everything that I had to offer. I was intimidated the first summer because everyone seemed to be on a higher level than I was, but that only made me want to work harder. Being able to go to clinics and follow the MDs, NPs, and RNs, and seeing a part of their patients’ lives was something I will never forget. Some days I don’t know how I made it, but seeing the brave young kids fighting their battle made me realize that my complaint was nothing.

I also learned a lot from the people in the department. Ms Habiba Jaffa put up with my constant question asking, and she also mentored me through the completion of my project of Bi-Dialectical Flyers Experiment for the first summer. The second summer I interned, I was more comfortable with everything and everyone, so I needed little guidance, which made me so much more responsible. I loved every bit of that responsibility. Dr. Kim Unertl, my mentor, and some amazing programmers that are behind the Vanderbilt Oncology Information System (VOIS), gave me the opportunity to work on my skills too. I went out to the breast cancer center area of Vanderbilt to see how the current paper-based chemotherapy ordering process worked, and how a new HIT system replacing it would improve the safety in the setting. With others, I gathered data, transcribed it, and even co-published a paper.

The amazing thing was that I had everyone’s full support. Dr. Cindy Gadd and the entire department helped me get to Washington D.C..  People In the department also helped me prepare for my presentation at AMIA. With all of their time spent on me, I was able to become the first high school student to ever present at AMIA. That was the best thing that has happened in my life so far. They helped me grow so much in just two summers, I don’t think I could ask for a better second family than the one I have at the Vanderbilt Biomedical Informatics Department.

With the support from my family, friends, and Cane Ridge, I accomplished so much. I can say that I am truly blessed for having that opportunity. I would not have given it up for anything in the world. I’d like to thank everyone who was there for me. I’d like to give a special thanks to Dr. Kevin B. Johnson, Dr. Cindy Gadd, Dr. Kim Unertl, Habiba Jaffa, Josh Peterson, the physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, the National Library Of Medicine (R25 Grant), the VOIS Development and Implementation Team, DBMI grad students, and last but not least Ms. Rischelle Jenkins. Thank you all for every awesome moment.