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>  News Releases >   2003 >   July

Jennings '03 led research and writing on medical journal article

Posted 07/28/03, by James Donnelly
Originally published in Vox of Dartmouth (Vol XXII • Issue 4)

David C. Goodman, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and of Community and Family Medicine, and Rebecca M. Jennings '03 at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
(photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
Size of hospital irrelevant in pediatric residency, study says

Small pediatric residency programs are just as good at providing a varied and intensive residency experience as their large, urban counterparts, according to a new study published in the July issue of The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Lead author Rebecca Jennings '03, who worked on the study as an undergraduate, along with colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Alliance, says this finding discredits the widely-accepted belief that large pediatric residency programs are better.

Jennings' paper looks at the relationship between the size of pediatric medical residence programs and the severity and diversity of hospitalized patients that residents treat in those programs. Traditionally it has been thought that smaller programs offer a less rich residency experience than those in urban centers. Jennings proved that this is not the case, at least for pediatric programs.

"We showed that though there was a great deal of variation across different programs, the size of the program was a poor indicator of the illness severity of patients cared for by the residents," Jennings said.

This finding has potential implications for small residency programs, like Dartmouth's, which might be overlooked by medical school graduates focused solely on big, urban programs.

"There is nothing more challenging than teaching research."

-David Goodman

David Goodman, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and of Community and Family Medicine, and Lindsay Thompson, post-doctoral fellow and instructor in pediatrics, who are also authors on paper, contributed to the study and helped to lead Jennings through the research and publication process.

"I was shadowing Dr. Goodman in order to learn about what it might be like to become a doctor, and he suggested this as a research project to me," she says.

Goodman says that he likes to involve undergraduates in research because it provides exceptional training in critical thinking and gives the student a sense of what the working life of researchers is like.

"With undergraduates, you're often looking for a constrained research project-and those can be few and far between-but something that is still important," said Goodman. "In this case we had the resources and the data available to pursue this project, but it took Rebecca coming along and being able to provide the focus and impetus to actually bring the project to fruition."

Goodman assigned Jennings to work with one of his post-doctoral researchers-Thompson-who served as a day-to-day resource for Jennings as she analyzed data and crafted the article.

"As someone who is myself at the beginning of publishing, I found working with Rebecca helped me to think more critically and to articulate concepts and ideas more clearly," said Thompson, who is now on the pediatric faculty at Columbia Medical School in New York.

According to Goodman, "There is nothing more challenging than teaching research. I learn something every time a student of mine goes through the process."

Jennings says that the publication process, while challenging, was also an extremely rewarding part of her undergraduate experience.

"Having leaders in research as teachers gave me the chance to learn something I could not have learned anywhere else," she said. "Lindsay and Dr. Goodman were constant resources for questions about the article, and about my future plans and other things as well."

-James Donnelly

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