PCOM Student Research: Helping Treat PCP Pediatric Patients
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Student Research Spotlight 
Hilary Gray (DO '22)

October 12, 2020

Headshot photograph of PCOM medical student and PCP researcher Hilary Gray (DO '22)Hilary Gray (DO ’22) received her undergraduate degree in 2015 from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, where she majored in Biology and minored in Hispanic Studies. From there, she completed a one-year post-baccalaureate program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Currently, Ms. Gray is a third-year medical student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM).

Below, Ms. Gray shares her experience researching data in hopes of aiding physicians in their efforts to recognize and provide care for pediatric patients who’ve been exposed to phenylcyclohexyl piperidine (PCP).

What are you studying?

Currently I am working on a research project aimed at understanding patterns in how PCP intoxication occurs in young children and specific signs and symptoms these pediatric patients display. While not a common cause of toxicity in young children in the U.S., when it does occur, PCP intoxication puts young children at risk for serious injury. Current literature gives only a vague understanding of how children under the age of 5 become intoxicated with PCP and what clinicians should look for when evaluating a pediatric patient that indicate PCP toxicity.

What prompted you to pursue research?

During the didactic years of medical school, I yearned for more direct engagement with clinical medicine. While I appreciated the material I was learning, I most enjoyed any opportunities I had to experience clinical medicine first-hand. Along with activities through the Emergency Medicine Club at PCOM, clinical research was another means for me to engage with current medical practice. When it comes to research in toxicology specifically, I find pharmacology fascinating, but also challenging to cement, especially as a first- and second-year student when we are not yet spending our days on the wards. Interacting with pharmacology from a research perspective further helps me to build my knowledge base - knowledge that I will utilize regularly in my desired residency which is emergency medicine.

Please provide a synopsis of your research experience.

I began working with Dr. Osterhoudt at the Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the summer of 2019 after completing my first year at PCOM. After treating a young patient who spent multiple days in intensive care due to consequences of PCP intoxication earlier that year, Dr. Osterhoudt recognized pediatric PCP intoxication as an area ripe for research. We worked to obtain data from multiple Poison Control Centers across the country, constructed an original means of coding the information, and translated and analyzed the data via a combination of in-person meetings, telephone calls and email communication throughout my 2019-2020 school year. This past May, we virtually presented a poster of our research at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting. Most recently, we had the opportunity to present our research via virtual poster at the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology (NACCT) Conference this past September. During the conference, I was awarded the 2020 AACT Student and Trainee NACCT Travel Award by the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology for my work.

What are your responsibilities in this research project?

I was responsible for identifying which case records from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ (AAPCC) National Poison Data System fell within our inclusion criteria, and then translating the findings from the case records into numerical data that could be analyzed. I worked with Dr. Osterhoudt to then perform statistical analysis of our data and formulate our findings. Because our data came from multi-state case records, these records needed to be individually examined to determine if they were in fact a case of PCP intoxication, and if they fit within our research criteria, and then to examine what actually occurred in these cases. Different states code and format their records slightly differently, and sometimes not accurately, and thus each record needed to be read in its entirety to ensure its inclusion in our study was warranted. We then worked together to formulate our abstract. Currently, we are working on our full paper for publication.

What is the broader impact of your research?

Our findings contribute to a greater understanding of the etiologies responsible for pediatric PCP intoxication and an updated depiction of the clinical presentation of such toxicity in young children.

In addition to the project described here, Ms. Gray also previously conducted clinical research at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania and at Wills Eye Hospital (Philadelphia, PA) during her post-baccalaureate program. Additionally, Ms. Gray worked as a Patient Care Associate on a medical/surgical floor at Einstein Medical Center (Philadelphia, PA) prior to PCOM.

Learn more about research at PCOM and read about other student research highlights.

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For the past 125 years, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM, a private, not-for-profit accredited institution of higher education, operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, and school psychology. The college also offers graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, physician assistant studies, and school psychology. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.

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