Never missed a day. Crystal worked well past the usual working hour of 4:30 on numerous occasions and always arrived promptly at 8:00AM. She worked whatever hours it took to complete an ambitious, time-consuming project in a limited time frame. Once we had to tell her to go home at 7:00 PM.
Crystal well exceeded our expectations of what could be accomplished by a summer volunteer with limited medical knowledge or experience in healthcare. Her level of performance was equal to that of a pathology resident two years post medical school, due to her skill and tenacity in examining hundreds of medical records for numerous pieces of information. In twelve years of supervising pathology residents, who attempt similar projects, none has accomplished as much as Crystal.
Everyone on our staff who worked with Crystal loved her. She has a sweet personality and demeanor. She is modest and unassuming, perhaps even shy, but is thoughtful and extraordinarily conscientious. Her volunteer project did not require contact with patients, only with staff of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Service. It is unusual in a very busy service such as ours for a short-term volunteer to capture the hearts of the people she worked with as Crystal did.
Crystal showed an amazing and precocious ability to pick up complex medical concepts even though she had only one year of college. There’s no doubt that she has a sharp intellect, but one that is pleasantly softened by her modesty. She also has a well-developed sense of ‘deferred gratification’; i.e. she knows how to put her nose to the grindstone day after day knowing that the hard work will pay off in the end. Reviewing hundreds of patient’s electronic medical records is a grueling task, but she was focused, tenacious, and determined to finish – which she did. With her combination of fine intellect, character, and willingness to work hard, she is already a leader by example for her peers. She can envision her becoming a successful academic physician. We have no doubt that she will be highly successful in any field she chooses.
Crystal didn’t work directly with patients during her time with us. Since she sowed an interest in the workings of the clinical laboratory when she first visited with us, we gave her a large-scale project. This project involved analyzing physician practices with regard to how and why they order Lyme disease tests, and how the test results are used in directing patient care. She reviewed approximately 300 patient records, collecting approximately 20 pieces of data on the care of each patient. This was a daunting task. Her results have shown which clinical findings best predict which patients have Lyme disease and her work has indicated when Lyme testing is most appropriate and useful. Crystal will be first author on a manuscript we will prepare, hopefully for peer-reviewed publication. That’s quite an accomplishment for a first-year college student volunteer. Her work aimed at a wider impact than the usual one-on-one volunteer work.