Medical Minds: HSHP students spend the summer researching in the Valley

HARLINGEN — The hot summer can drag by like a lost dinosaur, with no direction, no focus, the brain addled by the heat.

Or, it can mean opportunity, a chance for children and teenagers to expand their range of experiences and further their career goals.

Anissa Vitela, 16, did just that when she enrolled in an internship program to do medical research.

“I didn’t want to wake up at noon and do nothing,” said Anissa, a junior at the Harlingen School for Health Professions.

She and fellow HSHP junior Hope Corkill, also 16, participated in the Rio Grande Valley Summer Science Internship Program in which they performed research on obesity and diabetes. They found four women who agreed to participate in their research.

The two budding medical professionals performed blood work on the four women, checking for diabetes. Each student — only 10 were selected for the internship — had a specific project focusing on one aspect of diabetes and obesity.

“It was a good experience for me,” Anissa said.

Exposure to such medical studies helped further their goals to study medicine.

“I want to be an OBGYN,” said Hope, a member of the Legacy Class at HSHP. This is the name of the first class to enroll at HSHP.

Hope’s project, “Obesity and its Complications in Children and Young Adults in Cameron County,” focused on the effects of obesity on children and young adults.

What does that have to do with OBGYN?

It’s all about medicine, Hope said.

“It’s a good exercise for whatever you want to go into in the future,” she said.

And it doesn’t just stop with the internship. She’d like to shadow her pediatrician, which is connected to OBGYN in that it involves the care of children. The pediatrician gave her a big green light.

She at one time had planned to become a pediatrician, but she decided to focus more on babies and child birth.

“There’s the family and there’s a baby,” she said with a smile. “You get a relationship with the family; you try to sympathize.”

Interestingly, Anissa also wants to be an OBGYN. Her summer internship project, “Abdominal Obesity and its Complications in Hispanic Adults in Cameron County, Texas,” studied the rates of abdominal obesity in her participants. She also looked at how those rates compared to the national rates for the Hispanic population.

She, like Hope, is also looking to collect a broad range of experiences in various medical fields, such as dentistry.

“I like learning things in the classroom,” she said, adding she’s also using that knowledge to help with small mishaps, like treating cuts and bruises for her family.

“I just enjoy the whole experience of being involved in the medical field,” she said.

And so it is that Starsky and Hutch — no, wait a minute. Cagney and Lacey… No, that’s not right, either. Oh. Anissa and Hope. They seem to have developed a pretty good partnership to fight suffering and disease in the most fragile of humans — babies just entering the world.