Student Information

Student Name

Paula Giraldo




Internship Information

Company/Organization: Hackensack University Medical Hospital

Mentor(s):Dr. Gary Munk

Topic of Internship

Department of Clinical Virology

Background Information

Hackensack University Medical Center ( HUMC) is a nonprofit teaching and research hospital. Its missions is to provide an exceptional patient experience through quality patient-centered care, education, research, and community outreach. It accounts for the largest number of hospital admissions in New Jersey, has more than 750 beds, and is considered the fourth busiest hospital in the nation. It has upheld a top-ranking amongst hospitals in the New Jersey and has been named the #1 hospital in New Jersey by U.S. News & World Report for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, and was listed as one of the top four New York Metro Area hospitals. HUMC is the only hospital in New York, New Jersey and New England to receive the HealthGrade’s Distinguished Hospital Award for 13 consecutive years and has been placed in the top 5% of the United States’ hospitals for overall quality for more than a decade. The preeminent department of Clinical Virology was founded 35 years ago by Dr. Peter Gross, an individual who was considered a “trailblazer” in the field of Clinical Virology Sciences. Its services make HUMC one of only five hospitals in New Jersey that perform viral isolation studies, and one of two that have the ability to do strain typing (a process that is key in determining if a novel virus is circulating). The lab was one of the first to identify new strains of influenza that eventually led to the discovery of H1N1, or the swine flu virus. The Clinical Virology laboratory is now under the direction of Dr. Gary Munk, whose work focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of viruses, as well as, on clinical trials and education. He was one of the first trained clinical virologists at Columbia University and at Montefiore Medical Center. His collaborative efforts helped contribute to the discovery of HIV in the early 1980s.

Summary of Internship

As an intern under Dr. Munk in the Department of Clinical Virology, I am able to gain insight not only into the world of viruses, but also the daily routine in the life of a clinical virologist at HUMC. My internship days have a routine that will sometimes change, depending on whether or not I am attending a meeting with Dr. Munk. They usually begin with data collection and data analysis, in which my internship partner and I go through a binder of positive and abnormal test results for a variety viruses that were evaluated by distinctive assays and tally up the frequency of the test reports for each virus for weekly comparisons and synopses. Dr. Munk questions us on what we can infer from the data about the patient population that gets tested at HUMC. For example, during the first weeks of January, we saw an immense spike in influenza virus type A cases (around a few hundred), as opposed to same time of the prior year, indicating that reported influenza A results in January represented a relatively mere fraction of detection cases. From this, we could infer that flu season was definitely well underway and at high levels of activity in the community, and that influenza A was the predominant strain. We could also infer from the fact that positive flu results were still detected at moderate levels as late as April, that the “end of flu season” projected date in the hospital’s calendar had to be postponed, especially with respect to a newly instituted masking policy for individuals choosing not to be vaccinated in the annual immunization campaign. After this, my partner and I organize stacks of test result reports for their archiving into their respective binders, through which we were able to understand how the technical work performed by the virologists translates into documents. Our last routine task is to assist in the collection and transmission of public health reportable surveillance data. We do this by transferring information from computer files onto paper reports. From this, I was able to expand my understanding of the common picture of sequentially monitored patients; through archiving, I saw patients of all different ages, races, and residential locations. Outside of the routine, Dr. Munk meets with us throughout the day to talk to us about what is currently happening in the community and the world — like the mumps outbreak that is still circulating on college campuses or the avian flu outbreak in China. Among other topics, we have also discussed how vaccines work (molecularly and practically), the efforts of Dr. Munk and hundreds of other health professionals during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, the active seasons and threat factors of different viral diseases. Dr. Munk also has assigned us research tasks that we complete before meeting up with him again, and then discuss them. Amongst the meetings we have attended with Dr. Munk are the hospital’s Antibiotic Usage Subcommittee meetings, in which the consumption of certain antibiotics is reviewed through stewardship and bioethics grand rounds, a lecture-style meeting in which the bioethics of cases are discussed. One of the most important things I’ve learned from Dr. Munk, however, is to never take anything at face value (no matter how credible the source is) and to always be proactive about answering any of my own questions myself.

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