For Jesslynne Harvey, a clinic assistant with Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s Department of Colon and Rectal Surgery, what started as a simple question seven years ago has ended in publication in a prestigious medical journal.
Jesslynne is the lead author of an abstract entitled “Do Appendicitis and Diverticulitis Share a Common Pathological Link?” which will be published in the July 2016 issue of the journal Diseases of the Colon and Rectum. Seven Lahey colon and rectal surgeons are listed as co-authors.
When she first started working for the department at age 19, Jesslynne was responsible for bringing patients in for exams or procedures, taking their vital signs and helping to set up instrumentation. “As patients were filling out the forms we give them, I noticed that a number of them who had diverticulitis also said they had a history of appendicitis,” she recalls.
That observation led her to ask Dr. Rocco Ricciardi if there was a common pathological link between the two conditions. Intrigued, they did a little research and found that nothing had been written on this possible connection. Dr. Ricciardi encouraged her to delve deeper.
Over the next six years, on her own personal time, Jesslynne reviewed nearly 3,000 patient records. Many records had to be excluded from consideration because of various factors that could influence the result, and the work was laborious. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” she said with a laugh.
In the end, with the support of others in the department, she came up with 928 records that were similar enough to be used in a retrospective cohort analysis, and she developed an abstract outlining the results of the research.
The conclusion of the abstract states, “Our data revealed significantly higher appendectomy rates in patients with a diagnosis of diverticulitis, medically or surgically managed, in comparison with patients with incidentally identified diverticulosis. Therefore, we propose that appendicitis and diverticulitis share similar risk factors and potentially a common pathological link.”
Jesslynne said she was surprised and thrilled to learn that the abstract was accepted for publication. She is grateful for the support of the co-authoring physicians who worked with her: Patricia Roberts, MD, David Schoetz, MD, Thomas Read, MD, Peter Marcello, MD, Todd Francone, MD, and Rocco Ricciardi, MD.
Jesslynne has been accepted into the Fall of 2016 Nursing program at Middlesex Community College, where she will attend night classes while continuing her work at Lahey. “Since I was little,” she said, “I’ve wanted to be a nurse and help people.”