“I volunteered because I was interested in science,” says Vishal Patel, who came to Hospital for Special Surgery the summer before his senior year of high school.
His first assignment was in the Patients’ Library and included taking the book cart around to in-patients. Eventually, he wound up organizing the library’s collection of books and music, as well as creating a computer catalogue for the libary's materials.
“I was first assigned to places where the volunteer department needed me, and then, after a while, they asked me to pick an area I was interested in,” says Vishal, who three summers later chose to volunteer in the Cardio-Pulmonary Department. “I was a jack of all trades - I did office work, filed documents, took information from patients, and escorted them wherever they needed to go.”
By the time he left Cardio-Pulmonary, Vishal was pretty sure he wanted to be a physician, but he wasn’t at all sure about which specialty he wanted to go into.
During his senior year in college a volunteer position opened in The Leon Root, M.D. Motion Analysis Laboratory, supervised by Director, Howard Hillstrom. Vishal logged 350 hours in the lab, volunteering to such an outstanding degree that he was hired by the department as a research assistant.
Among his first tasks was to learn about the equipment in the lab, including how to use a 3D camera and other videography gear. “I work collecting and reducing data,” he explains. “I shift between clinical appointments and research trials.”
One research trial the lab is currently working on is a doctoral study analyzing the motion of the wrist in action (throwing a ball or pouring a glass of water, for example). He is also working for Howard Hillstrom on a National Institutes of Health study modeling the foot.
“We bring in a lot of people with ‘normal’ feet and measure the height of their arches, the flexibility of their feet, ankles, and toes, and so on,” says Vishal. “We’re mapping the commonalities to get an idea of what ‘common’ movement from a ‘normal’ foot is so we can recommend how to get closer to ‘ideal movement.’”
Although the project is still in the data-gathering stage, Vishal is hoping to see how it turns out before he has to leave for graduate school this autumn.
“I’m just excited to keep working on all these projects,” he says. “When I go back to school in the fall, I won’t be anywhere near HSS, so I want to squeeze out as much time as I can to keep working in the motion lab now.”