Fall Student Spotlight

From among the students the Texas Heart Institute hosts during the summer, several continue their partnership with the institution to dive deeper into learning about medical research and medicine. Here are several of those exceptional students.

Jackie Ferrufino

Jackie Ferrufino is a rising senior at the St. John’s School. She is the co-chair of a Latino affinity group there. She also is a member of the ethics board which reviews campus incidents and decides disciplinary action for students. She is a member of the college preparatory program, Breakthrough Houston, where she teaches pre-algebra on the weekends and tutors freshmen in biology as needed.

Ferrufino first volunteered at THI in 2015. She became an intern in 2016,  and is now a student worker in the Center for Women’s Heart & Vascular Health. 

We do a lot of women-focus research like the Houston Heart Reach Registry,” she says. “But we also take on different small task such as developing the website and implementing the tea cart which we started last year. The work that we are doing in the Women’s Center is super important. The data we are collecting is really important to be able to do more research in the future.

Her first experience in the medical field was when she volunteered as a nurse’s teaching assistant for Homerun Hitters International at the T.H. Rogers School. She spent over 500 hours after school and during the summer for 2 years assisting mentally impaired adolescents.

When she isn’t in school or working at THI, she serves her community in other ways. In January, with a friend she started a non-profit to help Latin students apply to private schools to increase the percentage of Latinos in those schools. 

“We feel that our community specifically is at a disadvantage because of the lack of access to information. Geographically there are not many private schools in Latino neighborhoods so they are not exposed to it. And a lot of times, families do not know that financial aid exists for high schoolers so they are discouraged to apply. What we are trying to do is set up a high school fair with informational sessions about private schools to encourage those numbers to go up.”

Ferrufino aspires to work in the medical field and is particularly interested in pediatric cardiology. She will continue working throughout her senior year as a part-time employee in the Women’s Center.

“My favorite thing about working at THI is the Women’s Center department. I love having the opportunity to work with my mentor, Keri Sprung, and everyone else in the department along with the exposure to the medical field. Something that I’ve taken away is that there are so many different avenues to explore with medicine. There’s no distinct path. So, whatever life throws at me, l do it.”

Lailah Hoque

Lailah Hoque works in the research administration department where she assists database administrators by updating and creating applications to help doctors organize their data.

“What I’m doing provides researchers in the labs with applications to store data on their findings. In the classroom, you learn and have projects, but being here has allowed me to refine and apply what I’m learning in class, ” she says.

She is a senior computer information systems major at the University of Houston. She wishes to become a program analysts or database administrator. Hoque has been a member of the Kappa Phi Gamma sorority since 2014 where she has served as service director. Her sorority participates in many philanthropic events and helps raise money for cancer research.

She began shadowing within the department at THI in January and was then hired as a student worker.

I think data programming really helps the doctors by allowing them more time to focus on their research instead of updating excel sheets or entering data that could potentially get lost. So, I think it’s important so that they can do their job effectively.

One of her most memorable tasks was completing inventory in the basic research laboratories with Robert McNeil.

“I really enjoyed asset tag inventory in the laboratories because I was able to see doctors do their research in the labs. I’d never thought about becoming a doctor and I didn’t know research institutions would have a department like this so I never dreamt that I would be exposed to medicine in this way.”

Payton Campbell

Payton Campbell is a media intern in the Center for Women’s Heart and Vascular Health. She writes press releases for the THI website and social media accounts as well as works within the department on special projects.

There are so many ground-breaking discoveries and innovations happening around the Texas Heart Institute and I’m so honored to be able to work with the media department to highlight the work being done here, she says.

Campbell graduated from Carnegie Vanguard High School in 2017 where she served on her yearbook staff for three years before being promoted as  senior to editor-in-chief. She was the print and online editor for the Houston Chronicle Classroom Internship Program. While there, she attended and covered events and wrote and edited news stories.

She is now a rising sophomore at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Her relationship with THI began in 2015 while working on her Gold Award project for Girl Scouts. She partnered with the Women’s Center and Regenerative Medicine Research and Cardiovascular Surgery Research department to create an interactive touch box to educate adolescents about the importance of having a healthy heart. The project was donated to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences Eco labs for students and visiting schools to use. More information on the project can be found here.

Working in the Women’s Center this summer was certainly memorable. I’ve learned so much about women’s health and impactful ways to promote a healthy lifestyle. As a heart health community ambassador, it is my job to continue promoting the essential work being done here. This experience has definitely broadened my horizons and helped me to visualize myself working in a variety of areas.

Her most memorable experience was delivering tea with the wellness tea cart to employees working within THI.

“I really looked forward to delivering tea to the many departments throughout THI. It was really nice to see familiar faces every week. I’m a big advocate of health and wellness and this gave me the opportunity to promote those disciplines.”