October 18, 1996

Researcher Responds to demands of fellowship

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Dr. Christina Hantsch examines three-year-old Shiloh Kase Majors at Vanderbilt University Hospital. Hantsch is a fellow in the VUMC Center for CLinical Toxicology, where she sees a wide variety of cases involving everything from brown recluse spider bites to accidental ingestion of harmful substances.

Researcher Responds to demands of fellowship

Compared to other subspecialties that have hundreds of fellowship positions, there are only 20 or so fellowships in Clinical Toxicology in the United States. These fellowships are demanding of the fellow's time and energy and they attract special individuals.

Nationally, there are more fellowships in toxicology than fellows to fill them, due partly to the challenging nature of the work and the fact that the subspecialty requires an additional two years of training after residency.

Dr. Christina Hantsch, a fellow in Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Center for Clinical Toxicology, takes on these challenges. She recently began her fellowship in Clinical Toxicology at VUMC. She did her residency training in Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Milwaukee.

This type of educational training is par for the course when it comes to Clinical Toxicology fellowships, said Dr. Donna L. Seger, Fellowship Director of the Center for Clinical Toxicology.

"Most fellows in this country have a background in Emergency Medicine or Pediatrics. This fellowship usually attracts people who are interested in acute critical care management."

People are suited to clinical toxicology because the first few hours of treatment frequently determines life or death, Seger said.

As part of the toxicology fellowship, Hantsch manages patients on the inpatient service, sees patients in the toxicology clinic, pursues academic toxicology research projects and responds to questions put to the Poison Center by doctors treating patients who have ingested, or were exposed to, something toxic.

"I came here because I wanted to combine academic emergency medicine and academic toxicology," Hantsch said. "This was a good place to do that as well as have a well rounded experience with patients in toxicology.

Hantsch is also involved in clinical research at VUMC. One study involves a new treatment for brown recluse spider bites, which are common in Tennessee.

"There is not a good treatment for brown recluse bites. Allowing the wound to heal without aggressive treatment appears to be the best approach at the moment," said Hantsch.

Hantsch is also beginning a study to investigate the way people are treated after swallowing antifreeze.

As issues arise with her intensive care unit patients Hantsch hopes to pursue other areas of clinical relevance in toxicology and help determine other ways to manage them.

"The range of toxicology patients spans intentional overdoses, suicide attempts, accidental poisoning, and occupational hazards," said Hantsch.

After completing her fellowship Hantsch will take the board certification exam in Clinical Toxicology.