IAP Health: Pari Latawa (’26)

I’m Pari Latawa, a freshman at MIT pursuing Course 6-7 (Computer Science & Molecular Biology).
During IAP-2023, I worked with the Boston Medical Center (BMC) Autism Program in the Resources
team. The Autism Program aims to assist and empower autistic individuals and families through
personalized patient support, education, and outreach. Within the Autism Program and Developmental
and Behavioral Pediatrics subdivision, the resources group aims to provide guidance and support with
navigating and using resources and therapeutic support for children and families. During IAP, I worked
with my supervisor, Ms. Elizabeth Ferriero, and four other interns in the Resources Program.

One of the primary projects I worked on throughout the internship period was patient casework. It
involved identifying the needs of each child and family, researching the resources and services online,
calling agencies, and then reaching out to patients’ families to share the resources. Some of the cases I
worked on included finding companies that could offer or build twin beds for a child, finding
Haitian-Creole-speaking Cognitive Behavioral Therapists in the Boston area, and identifying Portuguese
learning support for a family. Gathering these resources for diverse cases exemplified the Autism
Program’s emphasis on personalized care and individualized support for each child and family. Through
this experience, I learned how the resources team at BMC strives to support families and put in extra care to ensure the resources found would best serve the child’s needs. If a service was needed in a different language, such as Haitian-Creole or Portuguese, then a special emphasis was placed on identifying resources that had capabilities in these languages. If a family was primarily Spanish-speaking, the BMC interpreter services were used to communicate better with the family. This project highlighted how much care and attention is paid to the detailed needs of patients at BMC and the efforts made to fulfill those needs.

Another project that I worked on throughout IAP was updating the team’s Caspio resources database with new and recently found services. Through this opportunity, I also collaborated with fellow resources
intern Katherine Xie ‘26. Through doing so, I learned about the services offered in Massachusetts to
support families holistically outside of a standard hospital visit. From grief support to ABA specialists to
language-specific services, I learned of the many diverse and unique resources that could support

The Autism Program-wide projects I worked on included creating entries for the Autism
Registry/Database and conducting Autism Support Checklist (ASC) calls. The Autism Registry/Database
project involved parsing through individual patient data and compiling a broad picture of the services (ex.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Individualized Education Plan (IEP), Early Intervention, and
diagnosis) that children engaged in. By compiling this information into a flowsheet, we streamlined the
process for providers to gain a summary of each child’s involvement with these services. While doing
this, I learned of the different supports that were present and often integral for the development of
children with Autism and the extent to which they were used. I learned that Applied Behavior Analysis
was a common tool, but often had a large time commitment, with the upper limit of hours equivalent to 40 hours (a full-time job)!

The other project included conducting Autism Support Checklist (ASC) calls. I would call a family to
discuss different needs and tools, with the goal of better supporting the child during patient visits. From
tools such as stress balls, headphones, and coloring supplies, to certain stressors for children, I gathered
personalized information for each child and compiled them into checklists. Through this experience, I
gained a glimpse into a child’s life–learning about their interests, stressors, supports, and personality.
These calls, in addition to patient coursework, humanized the projects I worked on and connected me
directly with the community the Autism Program serves.

I also engaged in clinical opportunities such as clinical observation and resource behavior clinic. During
the clinical observation, I shadowed Dr. Marilyn Augustyn. From follow-up appointments to diagnosis
conversations to evaluations and reevaluations, I had the opportunity to experience direct patient
interaction in the clinical setting. Through the behavior clinic, I learned how the Autism Resource
Specialists emphasize supporting patients through personalized care before and after patient visits so that the visits themselves are streamlined and comfortable.

Through enrichment opportunities such as literary seminars, grand rounds, and chief rounds, I further
immersed myself in the Boston Medical Center and pediatrics community. One session that stood out to
me was a literary seminar on the research paper titled, “Double Jeopardy: The Impact of Poverty on Early
Child Development.” During the discussion of this paper, I learned about the double detrimental and
compounding effect of poverty and developmental disabilities on the development of young children. I
learned how the social determinants of health combined with a disability diagnosis are a double jeopardy
that heightens the negative impacts on development. Another session I enjoyed was the Alzheimer’s
Disease Research Center talk in which I learned about the steps to create neuropsychological profiles
based on diagnostic information and how a biomarker profile could indicate Alzheimer’s disease.
Building on this, I learned about the research currently being conducted at BMC on how biomarkers, in
addition to clinical evaluation, could lead to more accurate diagnoses.

Through PKG reflection dinners, weekly resource team meetings, enrichment seminars, and consistent
collaboration, I strived to make the most of the BMC internship opportunity. Throughout this IAP, I
learned about the intricate interactions that cultivate a successful healthcare, provider, and resources
support network. I learned how BMC strived to enact change to positively impact each child and family’s
lives, despite healthcare inequities and socioeconomic disparities.

Moving forward, as a Course 6-7, I will continue to reflect on these intricate interactions in healthcare and
strive to have a positive, personalized impact on those I serve. This IAP Health Internship has catalyzed
my interest in health equity and medicine and has offered an opportunity to interact directly with the
community I hope to serve. I hope to apply these learnings as I strive to positively impact the healthcare
and medicine landscape!

To learn more about the PKG IAP:Health program, click here.

Tags: Health, Health & Medicine, IAP Health, IAP Health 2023

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