Almost exactly one year to the day after I defended my Senior Thesis to the Princeton Psychology Department, I stood in front of a crowd at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting in San Francisco and presented the findings of my study entitled Pediatric Growth Curves in Secondary Prevention of Eating Disorders: Closing the Diagnostic Gap between Onset of BMI Suppression and Clinical Presentation. What had begun as a Princeton Internships in Civic Service project had grown into something much greater.
I was granted a place in PICS' 2015 Summer program at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), thanks to Dr. Evan Fieldston, the assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of Clinical Operations at CHOP. After discussing my interests in clinical research and Eating Disorders (EDs) in pediatric populations, Dr. Fieldston introduced me to Dr. Rebecka Peebles, an Adolescent Medicine Specialist and Co-director of the Eating Disorder Assessment and Treatment Program at CHOP, who became my mentor.
That summer, I was provided with innumerable opportunities from Dr. Fieldston, Dr. Peebles, and other Princeton alums. I shadowed in the Pediatrics, Adolescent Medicine, and Outpatient Clinics of CHOP, and spent a day with another Princeton alum, Dr. Erica Thaler, observing endoscopic sinus surgeries and tonsillectomies. I connected to a half dozen other Princeton grads through PICS, who provided me with suggestions of where to eat and what to do in Philadelphia, hosted me for dinner with other Philly area PICS interns, and offered advice for my Senior year at Princeton and applying to medical school.
While assisting Dr. Peebles and her team with data collection and analysis, I began working on the project that would become my Thesis. I used a retrospective chart review method and patients' historical growth curves to quantify and describe Body Mass Index (BMI), suppression, and stagnant growth in Eating Disorder patients prior to the reported onset of their disease. Earlier studies have described weight loss prior to ED onset, but this was the first study of its kind to describe BMI suppression prior to disease onset in pediatric and adolescent patients and in girls and boys.
The abstract from the study, co-authored by Dr. Peebles and a number of truly wonderful medical students, psychiatrists, and nutritionists from CHOP was accepted as part of a Poster Symposium on Obesity and Disordered Eating: Obesity, Weight Bias, and Eating Disorders at PAS 2017.
Together with Dr. Peebles, Erin Sieke of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, and Kathryn Pallegedara from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, I created a poster and presentation for the Poster Symposium.
On May 8th, I addressed a group of ED specialists, obesity specialists, general practitioners, and pediatricians, to advocate for the importance of early diagnosis of Eating Disorders and the potential for early intervention in patients who display abnormal growth patterns on their growth curves. This project and future studies may help improve outcomes for children and adolescents with Eating Disorders and develop tools for screening for EDs in males and females of any age.
None of this would have been possible without the support provided by Princeton Internships in Civic Service. The opportunities the PICS program affords are remarkable, and I look forward to becoming a PICS partner in the future.
Amelia Warshaw is a member of the Great Class of 2016 and is pursuing her MD at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.