A Voice: "There's an App for that!"

As I sit here in our program's area at Children's, I've got white earbuds jammed in my ears bringing me wonderful music from my iPod. Some of us might have iPhones, Droids, or other smart devices which we use to text, checkour facebooks as if something majorly important needs our attention, tweet with twitter apps, or play games like Sudoku or Angry Birds. Yet, have we really thought of the potential of these devices?

Using google I found this picture of the one, the only, the iPad. Now, my thinking might be primitive, but I expected business people to use this for hands-on presentations, checking the stock market, sending emails. I expected my Grandma to use it to read a book through a Kindle App. In a little google search "uses of iPad," some of the top uses were for Mobile Gaming, eReading, Business, texting and tweeting, watching TV/videos, and using it as a GPS. However, I'm not sure the creators of this device ever expected it to give someone language.

Setting: I'm a first year student rotating in our clinic space. This clinic space is sometimes shared among services - so today there was a Cancer Genetics rotation and an Aerodigestive clinic. While I was only in one of them, everyone is very friendly and we share insights about patients (more like they share, and I, the student, listen). I had just stepped out of a room with a patient, and was called over to the other side of clinic by one of our Geneticists. She said "you've got to see this!" - and she was right.

In front of me was a six-year-old child in a wheelchair who had several health complications due to her condition. Up to a few months ago, her family and doctors thought she was basically non-communicative. She wouldn't respond in animated ways when her mother talked to her, she wouldn't ask for anything, she wouldn't move her arms. Then, she got her iPad.

I didn't pry into how exactly the idea of getting an iPad was brought up with the family, but the mother seemed very active in her child's care and after six years of low to no communication, I wouldn't doubt that she figured this out for her daughter in talking with other parents.

The six-year-old girl could now click on a drink application on the iPad homescreen, and tell her mom what she wanted to drink. She could play educational games and point to the correct shapes if you asked her. She knew who the Disney Princesses were now. Her mom said to me "last week, she read her first book all by herself." Her mom said they both had more freedom, and how special it was to be able to communicate with her daughter after all this time. To me, I was SO touched, I had to hold back the tears. Here I was (as well as most of the population) playing on iPads, thinking they're "cool," playing mindless games, checking my e-mail and then here was this child who was given language with an iPad. Just think of not being able to verbalize your needs, wants, desires. Not knowing popular culture. Not reading. Not Communicating. And then, with a new-age device - you can.  I can say confidently, it was an experience I will never forget. It most certainly put things into perspective, and showed me so many lessons on all I have to be thankful for, and just how sweet technology is becoming.

I don't think the inventors of the iPad ever intended for such a large impact on that child and family, and me in clinic that day. But I do think that everyone needs to take a step back and realize just what this technology can do for patients and families. Not only with genetic conditions, but with several lifelong conditions. There are tools for them, and sometimes it seems we just have to think outside of the box.

I wonder if there's an App for that.

Posted by Leslie Gress, First year


Happy New Year!

It's a busy start of 2011 for the GCP!

This quarter, first years are taking two different classes than last quarter and beginning to work hard on their Thesis Projects. So far, I think we're all enjoying Epidemiology and Embryology very much! Our professors are very fun to learn with, and make the long classes go fast :)

Other than that, I think first years are "Thesis-heavy" right now - we're figuring out our research questions, meeting with our advisors, and beginning to think about IRB submission. With all of us working on different topics and projects, I think it is very exciting to hear where everyone is at in the process and how they're liking their project so far. It's a longgg project so I won't be surprised if frustrations happen sooner than later!

We're ALL very busy in clinic. Right now, I'm rotating with the Hereditary Cancer Program. It's such an interesting rotation and I've seen a lot of cases that makes me excited about what's to come in research for genetics. For example, I saw a family and I thought for SURE they would have a genetic mutation that would pre-dispose them to cancer, raising their risk. Only to find out while taking the family history, they had tested negative for such a mutation. It made me want to figure out all I could for this family, and made me so excited about my field. With more research and understanding, we'll be able to provide answers for more famillies, and hopefully ensure better medical care. It may be dorky - but it surely is exciting!

This quarter is a busy one - but we've got more updates coming! Next on the list: a unique clinic experience :)

Until then!

Posted by Leslie Gress, First Year