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STUDENTS
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Martel Senior Publishes Research on Injuries from Lawn Mowers
When Vanessa Costilla ’06 was 6 years old, she jumped into the bed of her
father’s pickup truck, only to slip and fall onto the concrete driveway. “The
next day, I couldn’t eat, and the room was spinning, so my mom started
to worry,” she says. A trip to the hospital made the problem clear. “I had
a blood clot in my brain,” Costilla recalls, “and I had to have surgery.”
That hospital stay would change Costilla’s life forever. “I just remember that
something was always happening in the hospital,” she says. “I loved the hustle
and bustle, and I was amazed that the doctor actually could make me better.”
Costilla’s fascination with hospitals and medicine was reaffirmed in high school,
when she volunteered at a local hospital. After coming to Rice University, where she
majored in economics and managerial studies, Costilla decided to take the science
classes required for medical school. “I think knowledge in the areas of my majors
will carry over into the hospital when I get out of medical school,” she says.
That seems likely if the research Costilla conducted as an undergraduate is any
indication. She spent a summer as an intern at Johns Hopkins University, work-
ing with David Bishai from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health,
and received national attention for a study of lawn mower-related injuries. Bishai
suggested the subject after seeing such injuries firsthand as a doctor in the emer-
gency room. “I’m interested in rural healthcare,” Costilla says, “so this topic tied
in perfectly.”
Using survey data, Costilla and Bishai found that nearly 80,000 Americans a
year visit hospitals for mower-related injuries. The study was published in the April
edition of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, and Costilla is the first author on
the paper. Working closely with Bishai, Costilla conducted the research
during summer 2005, but she continued to work on the research paper
throughout her senior year at Rice. “We performed some additional
analysis during the fall semester, and I did most of the revising
for publication during winter break,” she says. “Needless to
say, this paper kept me busy well past the summer I spent
at Johns Hopkins.”
Research will be part of her career after medical school,
Costilla says. She even has taken on a new interest
in healthcare policy. “There are lots of important
issues in healthcare that need to be dealt with,”
she says. “I definitely want to have a practice
in West Texas because I feel the population
there needs it, but I want to make larger
contributions too.”
Costilla is excited to be attending
Texas Tech University’s School of
Medicine. “I can’t imagine doing
anything else.”
—Lindsey Fielder
16 rice sallyport
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