May 22, 2024

PIDS Foundation Feature: Camila Aparicio (Recipient)

Camila Aparicio

Camila Aparicio is completing her research year at Yale School of Medicine and will be graduating this month. In the summer of 2023, she was selected for the PIDS Foundation’s SUMMERS Award under the mentorship of Carlos Oliveira. Her project was a systematic review and meta-analysis on the risk factors for critical COVID-19 in children. The research was selected for presentation at this year’s Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting in Toronto.

Ms. Aparicio learned of the SUMMERS program through her mentor, Dr. Oliveira, who has been a constant source of support and opportunities for growth. It was Dr. Oliveira who forwarded the information to her while she was still in Colombia and encouraged her to apply, believing she would be a strong candidate. Ms. Aparicio credits his support as a motivator to pursue the opportunity and to have confidence in her application. As her project mentor, Dr. Oliveira also helped Ms. Aparicio develop the project proposal and her role in conducting the research.

For her research, Ms. Aparicio conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis on the risk factors for critical COVID-19 in children. It was her first time doing a meta-analysis and reflecting on the experience she referred to it as “a fascinating project” and “incredibly rewarding.” Completing the project required her to overcome obstacles, but because of it she is now confident she can do a meta-analysis anytime a project may call for it. The impact of her SUMMERS project is not limited to only her career. The research was a PIDS Top Abstract at PAS.

“The most exciting part was this research influenced pediatric COVID-19. Knowing my work can directly impact children’s health is the most meaningful thing to me. Presenting at PAS was an amazing experience. I never would have imagined that at this point in my career I would have the chance to present at such an important and prestigious conference. It had always been a dream of mine.

“This experience proved that hard work truly pays off. I was nervous at first, but I had strong support from friends and was able to practice beforehand with Carlos, which made everything go smoothly. The most motivating aspect is the potential aspect our work can have on the field and that others are interested in learning more about our work.”

The SUMMERS project has been more than an opportunity for Ms. Aparicio to conduct a research project. It boosted her self-confidence and her belief that she can perform this type of research. It also allowed her to build connections with other trainees and mentors interested in peds ID, in the program and beyond.

Conducting the research project has enhanced her career. In countries like her native Colombia, there is more of a focus on clinically driven training. There is not as much on research. This is why she regards the SUMMERS program as a huge opportunity to understand what research is about, learn about it and start strengthening her research skills, which is not something that had been available prior to this point in her medical career.

When asked about advice she would give to anyone interested in the SUMMMERS program, as mentors or mentees, Ms. Aparicio recommended mentors to recognize the potential awaiting in their mentees. Sharing opportunities like SUMMERS is important as they often don’t know about their existence or may question their fit for a program or award. “This support or knowing about them can be the turning point in our success.”

For her fellow mentees, she suggested they do not hesitate to apply to anything. “SUMMERS, meetID, or any award or opportunity you hear about and are interested in, the first step is believing in yourself and the rest comes with your own motivation.”

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