Automating My Internship
My internship this summer is at NYU medical school, much to my amusement. My mandatory ID, bright purple and official-like, basically identifies me as a med student, which is just the most untrue thing it could say. I doodled and cell-phone-gamed my way to a B- in high school bio and never looked back.
The job itself is slightly more appropriate, as I'm with the psychology department. Psych is something I'm majoring in and enjoy and all that good stuff. But damn, is this job boring. Here is a summary of my weekly activities:
- Lit Reviews: compile a spreadsheet that's basically the abstracts of a bunch of articles (which I found myself on the Ovid databses) on various traumatic brain injury-related topics;
- Labelling: Go through testing archives, use sharpie to hide everyone's name, and then cover it with a cheapo printed label with their secret ID number;
- Filing: like the lit reviews, but instead of PDFs and computer searching, I have to comb through a backlog of physical journals dating back to before I was born;
- Observation: quietly sitting in the back of a room while patients individually, silently do worksheets designed to improve cognitive function;
- Photocopying: eponymous.
Now, let's go through how I could automate this with just a little programming skill and some moxie:
- Lit Reviews:
- First, have a bot of some sort do the ovid search.
- Then, have it download each PDF (this is a one-click downlaod situation.)
- Then, using something akin to Mac OSX summarize or MS Word autosummarize, get the data out of each PDF.
- Labelling: Use the super-secret code name from the beginning on all documents. If the patient mistakenly writes his/her/hir own name, cover it up that day. More ad hoc, but less time overall.
- Filing: this just shouldn't be a job, period. I understand my boss is busy, but it might behoove someone who collects a lot of physical media like scholarly journals to file upon completion.
- Alternately, journals should take to publishing ONLY by e-mailed PDFs, so that people would print out the articles relevant to them and ignore the rest. This would save the world paper and me a lot of time.
- Observation: I actually like this okay, but the ratio of learning-about-patients to sitting-around-bored is kind of all whacked out, and thus this is sort of not worthwhile. Some sort of multimedia case-study system might be more relevant (video interviews, test results, comparison charts, whatever.)
- By the way, people who write scholarly case studies should really make an effort to make them interesting. I'd love to get a New Yorker profilist in here with our tape recordings and a textbook.
- Photocopying: Okay, this one's a little too people-powered. Robot arms, maybe?
So, there you go. Clearly, I'm not necessary here and should be spending the summer frolicking through parks and writing epic novels about lesbians. It's okay; I'll show myself out.