Gillian Folk ’19 Publishes Scientific Paper

Gillian Folk ‘19 is entering her junior year with a major accomplishment: getting published in a scientific journal. Earlier this year, Gillian’s paper, “Oral Histoplasmosis,” was published in the Head and Neck Pathology Journal. Congratulations, Gillian!

Gillian has been interning at NMCSD with Dr. Brenda Nelson, a Navy Captain and current Director of the Head and Neck Pathology Department. Gillian would examine surgical specimens under a microscope and help prepare specimens for processing the following day. Dr. Nelson would also review challenging cases with Gillian – which is how Gillian’s paper came to fruition.

It all started when Dr. Nelson received an “interesting biopsy specimen” during a consultation. “(We) examined the tissue slides with a microscope together,” Gillian said. “She showed me the diagnostic characteristics of histoplasmosis and we discussed the many clinical presentations of the disease.”

It turns out that Gillian was looking at an unusual case of oral histoplasmosis – the most common fungal infection in the U.S. – which is caused by Histoplasma capsulatum. Gillian’s paper discusses the unusual clinical presentation, along with histologic/pathologic findings, different forms of histoplasmosis and types of treatment. “The overall goal of my paper is to provide research and act as a reference to other clinicians and pathologists,” Gillian explained.

Before writing, Gillian read through Dr. Nelson’s various publications to learn the style and format of scientific writing. It took her 3-4 months and many rough drafts, but Dr. Nelson was “kind and patient,” helping her with each revision.

“Probably the most challenging part was compiling all of the information I had collected from other references and reliable sources into one concise paper,” Gillian admits. “It was especially difficult to learn to write with specific scientific verbiage. My motivation to push through was the support of several strong, intelligent and science-minded women, including Dr. Nelson.”

Ever since she can remember, Gillian’s had a passion for science – particularly on the cellular level. Her science classes at OLP, and Ms. Ma’ake’s AP Biology class in particular, helped her understand the basic concepts she needed to write her paper. She’s hoping to find another internship in genetics or neuroscience next summer so she can have a “first-hand glimpse of other specialities in the medical field.”

She encourages other girls who are interested in science and medicine to pursue as many opportunities as possible. “The best way to discover what to study or strive towards is to seek out opportunities and broaden your horizons: try a new club, push yourself to take a challenging class, look for volunteer events in the field of interest, etc.,” Gillian said.