New Le Bonheur Summer Plus Program Provides Eye-Opening Experiences in Pediatric Care for Rhodes Students

A large, multi-story hospital building protruding from the rest of the medical campus
photo courtesy of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital

Rhodes College is pleased to announce a new undergraduate research partnership with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital—a comprehensive pediatric medical center in Memphis—called the Le Bonheur Summer Plus Program. The program is structured similarly to Rhodes’ St. Jude Summer Plus, an intensive laboratory research experience that pairs students with St. Jude scientists, but has an additional clinical focus. “Interns will be spending time with treatment teams interacting directly with patients and their families,” explains Dr. Charles Snyder, co-coordinator of the program and director of health professions advising at Rhodes. “They also will be conducting research as well as quality improvement projects.”

Six Rhodes students already have begun the 12-week summer program, which then continues throughout the 2017-2018 academic year and then the following summer for another 12 weeks. They are Chloe Burkhead ’18 (psychology), Elizabeth Gaudio ’19 (neuroscience), Jocelyn LaBombarde ’18 (neuroscience), Nathila Ramesh ’20 (undeclared), Evan Roark ’19 (neuroscience), and Kaylin Ryan ’18 (neuroscience).

To participate in the program, applicants undergo a process that includes an application, essay, internal interview, and consideration by Le Bonheur leadership and researchers. The selected interns are paid for the summer months and receive academic credit for the fall and spring semesters. Currently, the Rhodes interns are all working in pediatric neurology or neurosurgery, but each has a specific project and a clinical preceptor, who is an experienced medical professional providing mentorship and supervision. Gaudio says, “A few of us are working with epileptologists and observing neurosurgery, while others are doing research with migraines, strokes, and traumatic brain injury.”

“I am currently doing research with a sleep medicine physician,” adds Burkhead, a Memphian who aspires to be a nurse practitioner. “We are working on identifying predictive factors of child sleep disorders, especially those that are related to sleep breathing disorders. Additionally, we are working on an education initiative for parents with children who have sleeping problems.” 

Not only do the interns shadow their preceptors and work on projects with them, but also they can learn competencies required for safe, efficient, and quality practice and develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills needed to interact with patients and their families. 

Gaudio is from Elmhurst, IL, and plans to attend medical school after graduating from Rhodes. “My experience so far has given me a really well-rounded perspective on neurology,” she says. “Shadowing Dr. James Wheless in clinic teaches me about the wide range of epilepsy disorders, while his background in pharmacology encourages me to delve into the literature on the mechanisms of antiepileptic drugs at the cellular level. When I am not shadowing Dr. Wheless, I am in the outpatient Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, where I am able to follow patients’ statuses throughout the week and learn about the relationship between seizures and the patients’ EEG in real time.”

“The Neuroscience Institute at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is a national leader in both clinical care and research,” says Dr. Davonna Ledet, the program’s co-coordinator and senior director of the Neuroscience Institute at Le Bonheur. “It is an honor to work with this highly ranked group of Rhodes neuroscience students, who not only share their passion and energy for their chosen career path, but who have the potential to be future leaders in the field. Providing Rhodes students access to hands-on, real world, learning experiences, while modeling innovative, high quality care for patients is a privilege. This naturally synergistic relationship between our institutions will serve to benefit not only our local community but potentially impact the lives of children around the globe.”    

“This program is going to benefit students in many ways,” says Snyder. “The final products that students produce may be a peer-reviewed publication, a conference presentation, or a quality improvement proposal for the organization. In the end, the experience that these students gain in a world-class pediatric hospital will be the greatest benefit of the program.”