Many connections allow Christine Nguyen ’17 to gain career experience

Christine Nguyen ’17 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is using family, Ripon College and McNair Scholar connections to advance her career.

“Coming from a low-income, underrepresented background, I entered Ripon College as a first-generation college student oblivious of my qualifications for becoming a McNair Scholar,” she says. But she soon was introduced to the College’s Student Support Services and was provided with academic coaching from the SSS and McNair staff. Both emphasized the importance of a post-bachelor’s degree.

“After displaying my devotion and dedication for the sciences — specifically medicine — I was introduced to the McNair program and encouraged to apply,” Nguyen says. “I believe that the McNair program now catalyzes the construction of the bridge from my ambitions to reality.”

As part of the McNair program, this summer Nguyen studied gastroenterology and hepatology at Hahnemann University Hospital, an affiliate of the Drexel University College of Medicine, in Philadelphia. She was mentored by Ripon College Professor of Chemistry Colleen Byron.

Nguyen had volunteered at this same hospital in the past, working under Dr. Vishal Patel. She met Dr. Patel when he was her father’s doctor. He had called Nguyen for a summer job-shadowing opportunity and “I was able to feed my curiosity for medicine,” Nguyen says.

This summer, through the McNair program, Nguyen again worked at Hahnemann. She managed two separate research projects. The first project studied fluid replacement in victims of hypovolemic shock, shock from blood loss, particularly from gastrointestinal bleeding.

“We assessed whether the documented patient received the appropriate type of fluid and recommended amount of blood given the patient’s history and current condition,” she explains.

The second project studied alternatives in reducing the risk of colon cancer. “My current research is a spectrum that consists of many aspects of a practicing physician,” she says. “Aside from reading, composing protocols and waiting for consent to conduct research, I am able to see both in- and out-patients, directly ask the patient questions pertaining to their symptoms, perform physical exams under physician supervision, chart notes, answer pagers, consult other physicians, and attend meetings and conferences. And last, but not least, wear a white lab coat,” Nguyen says.

Majoring in chemistry-biology was an advantageous choice for her, Nguyen says. “For example, when analyzing patient’s labs based on our study, I analyze the basic metabolic panel, which displays a patient’s electrolyte levels such as bicarbonate, chloride, potassium. It was essential to recall acid-base chemistry which involved assessing whether a patient had developed hyperchloremic acidosis (low pH level in body tissue). From a biological standpoint, I analyze hemoglobin levels which is a topic covered in Human Anatomy and Physiology.”

Nguyen found her experience at Hahnemann valuable. “Working with such a prestigious team, I had to work arduously and expeditiously to adjust myself within the working environment,” she says. “Aside from our research, the entire team had to see patients, attend meetings, etc. I was the only member available to keep the project moving forward.”

She had the opportunity to assemble an Institutional Review Board Protocol, a detailed set of instructions Review Boards follow while they work. “This may sound banal, but I acknowledged my capabilities and that I was able to fabricate something out of nothing,” she says.

Nguyen hopes to apply all her experiences and passion to medicine as her future career. “Because of my early exposure to my desired practice, I was able to learn more about advanced diseases, treatments and preventions,” she says. “Every student is capable of achieving the finest, but their methods may vary. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a strong motivation for satisfying curiosity and desire to participate in academia.”

Megan Sohr ’18
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

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