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TGH Intern Takes Research to Heart

Published: June 30, 2011
Summer intern Aimee Polgar ’13 helped a research team at Tampa General Hospital sift through data on heart transplants.
Summer intern Aimee Polgar ’13 helped a research team at Tampa General Hospital sift through data on heart transplants.
Aimee Polgar ’13 wants to go to medical school. The exercise science major thought she wanted a career in sports medicine, but after an internship she landed this summer at Tampa General Hospital researching heart transplants, she is starting to have second thoughts.

“My heart has always been set on sports medicine but now I’m thinking I might have to be a heart girl,” said Polgar. “It amazes me. The human body just fascinates me.”

Polgar, one of the University’s President’s Leadership Fellows, contacted the private, nonprofit hospital on her own initiative to see if there were any opportunities. The location nearly across the street from campus was convenient, plus she wanted to add to her previous experience at other hospitals shadowing orthopedic surgeons.

Dr. Christiano Caldiera, a cardiothoracic surgeon who performed the hospital’s 1,000th heart transplant in February, asked her to be a part of his research on heart transplants. Polgar sifts through patient charts, blood results and EKGs, documenting the data of 276 patients to see if there is a correlation between the time a patient receives a heart transplant and their success rate after surgery. Polgar explained the focus is the ischemic time, or the time between the heart leaving the donor and it being given to the recipient.

“I’m such a nerd. I love it,” said Polgar. “I love reading through the charts and analyzing the patient histories. There are so many factors involved. I want to know how people are able to cope with the whole heart transplant process.”

She looks for pre-health and post-health data to compare, as well as the medicines the patients were given after, the amount of blood used in the transplant and rejection rates.

“All these little things are hints as to what is going to happen with the outcome,” said Polgar. “I’ve learned so much just going through all the charts.”

Polgar is becoming familiar with specific medicines, doses and how to read EKGs. She is also watching transplant surgeries in person and sitting in on the hospital’s medical review board as doctors present their cases to get their patients on the surgery list.

“I don’t think a lot of students have experience in the hospital, and it is so different from the classroom,” said Polgar, who has benefitted from networking with hospital staff. “I’m grateful that I was able to be bold and get a good internship. This experience confirms that I have a passion for medicine.” 

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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