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March 13, 2009
By Guia Del Prado
Haylee Finkel’s college career is an assortment of responsibilities and hobbies. The 22-year-old nutrition major is an active member of the campus community, an honors student, and an undergraduate researcher. Finkel also aspires to be a doctor as she ventures into medical school next fall. But before graduating in May, she’s going to leave one more mark as an undergraduate, with her research project on the attitudes of Clark County physicians on complementary and alternative medicine.
Undergraduate Research Project
Finkel’s senior thesis centers on a survey that will be distributed to Clark County physicians. The survey will question the physicians about their attitudes and experiences with complementary and alternative medicine, also known as CAM. CAM, Finkel said, is any medical practice that is not included in standard medical practice and not taught in medical schools.
“It’s like herbal supplements, vitamins, chiropractor therapy, bio feedback, ayurvedic medicine, or Chinese medicine,” Finkel said.
Finkel’s interest in CAM emerged from the lack of literature on it, despite the growing interest in it.
“Over the past decade or so, there’s been a large jump in the amount of people using complementary and alternative medicine,” Finkel said. “But from what I could see in the literature, there wasn’t a lot of information specifically on how physicians were using it, what they thought about.”
Though there are few articles similar to Finkel’s surveying physicians from other regions, she was not able to find any literature regarding Nevadan physicians. Finkel’s research focuses on Clark County physicians, which has the most equal ratio of MDs and DOs, the two types of licensed physicians that Finkel will survey. Because Finkel’s research is also focused on comparing the two different physician’s opinions and experiences with CAM, Clark County was the obvious choice to survey.
“Since I’m pre-med, I have the interest to see how physicians are practicing CAM and how they’re practicing it in Nevada since I plan on being here in the future,” Finkel said. “That’s kind of why I’m doing my studies because there’s not really any research that I could find specifically regarding Nevada.”
Finkel fashioned the survey with the help of her supervising mentor and former capstone professor, Jamie Benedict. Much of Benedict’s own research as associate professor in nutrition is survey-based, which is part of the reason Finkel approached Benedict to be her supervising professor on her thesis.
“She just came in asked me ‘would you be willing to supervise my research?’ and of course I was happy to do so,” Benedict said. “Any time you get a chance to work with a bright motivated student is great.”
As an aspiring doctor, Finkel is excited to learn more about CAM in order to better serve her future patients.
“I think it’ll be interesting to see what the results are and be able to compare it to national data,” Finkel said. “And in the future, if I have patients and they’re interested in certain kinds of therapies, I feel that I’d be more than willing to refer them to say, naturopathic physicians or traditional Chinese medicine practitioners as long as I can tell from my best judgment that it was safe.”
Getting involved on campus and elsewhere
As Finkel waits for the survey to be approved by the Institutional Review Board, she has plenty of things to keep her busy. On top of schoolwork and the senior thesis, Finkel is in Kappa Alpha Theta and a member of the Nevada Student Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She has held leadership positions in both groups, as a past executive board member for her sorority and as the current treasurer for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Obviously school is super important in college and it was the focal point of my time here but those just really helped me grow as a person socially and academically,” Finkel said. “I’ve really enjoyed turning into a person who can’t just help develop myself but help develop other people in leadership roles.”
Finkel’s was motivated to join the sorority in her sophomore year by several of her friends.
“I realized that they were all very driven, very accomplished, very involved women and that was something I wanted to be able to become in college,” Finkel said. “I figured that that was a good opportunity to surround myself with people who had interests similar to me.”
Her attraction to join the ACLU came from her own tenets.
“Even though it’s a very controversial organization historically, I feel that the purpose they serve is very important,” Finkel said. “I’m very happy to be a part of it.”
Apart from academic interests, Finkel often goes to local music shows put on by Man the Clap, a band that specializes in rock, funk and blues, Finkel said. And she’s a baseball fan.
“I am a huge Dodgers fan,” Finkel said with a laugh. “Growing up in Los Angeles, my family had season tickets and it was just something I grew up being passionate about. They just opened a new spring training facility in Arizona so that’s what I’ll be doing for spring break. While everyone else is partying, I’m going to be watching baseball.”
On the Road to Med School
Finkel’s senior thesis on CAM is part of her preparation for medical school and, ultimately, to become a physician. Though Finkel applied to several medical schools on the West Coast including the University of Nevada, Reno, she hopes to stay in Nevada. The native of Los Angeles has come to consider Nevada her home.
“My desire is to stay in Nevada long-term,” Finkel said. “I feel that the state has given a lot to me and I’ve really enjoyed just living here. I feel it’s my way to give back to a community that gave me a lot and developed me into who I am today.”
Benedict, Finkel’s mentor, has no doubt that Finkel will be successful as a medical practitioner.
“Medical school and after that being an excellent physician,” Benedict said when asked what she of Finkel’s future. “I think anyone would be lucky to have her as a physician.”
Guia Del Prado is a student writer in Digital Initiatives