Midway Update from The Benson-Henry Institute!

Hello WOW Blog readers!

Gianna here, with a report of my second month’s adventures at the Benson-Henry Institute. This month has been a busy one, with an increase in responsibilities and a greater variety of tasks that I have been exploring.

As an update from my last blog post, I mentioned the RR sessions we hold here at MGH. I led my very own RR session earlier this month! To think I only began working here at the beginning of the summer and that I have already been trained  to lead RR has been a real, tangible indicator of all the information I have gathered so far. I’ve even included a picture of me from my first RR session I led.

Two current highlights I will be reporting on in this post are my creation of hair collection packages, another aspect of our clinical trial upkeep, and my work on an abstract—my first piece of research writing here at BHI! For the hair packages, when we perform clinical trials an important part is hair collection. The hair is very carefully and securely packaged when it is sent to us, and we record the hair samples we receive before sending them to the lab for data analysis. I have learned the entire process of hair collection, including package preparation and sending, package receiving and data entry, and transport to the lab. The data that hair samples can provide us with is one’s cortisol level: a biological marker of stress in an individual. Because our clinical trials aim to reduce stress, the hair samples combined with our questionnaires that rely on self-reporting measures give us an indicator of the changing stress levels over the duration of a relaxation intervention. When I discovered all of this data is contained in your hair I was amazed! And one more interesting fact: every centimeter of hair from your scalp down accurately represents one month. So in collecting 3cm of hair, we are able to collect stress data for the past 3 months! Click here to learn more about the cortisol levels your hair contains.

Below I’ve included a picture of the hair sample kit I created—I discovered the most uniform and methodical way to create hair packages for collection was to create several in the same fashion. It begins with a large envelope which holds everything, and inside we included a blank envelope for easy return and a plastic bag with foil in which participants put their hair sample.

My other project that I am currently working on is an abstract. This is giving me a chance to utilize my understanding of BHI’s methods and objectives—to elicit the relaxation response and monitor how it works in practice—in order to contextualize and analyze data from one of our clinical trials. For a reminder about mind body therapies, which are the focus of our institute, see this site which outlines some facts about Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). This abstract will be submitted for MGH Clinical Research Day and as a future task for this internship I will create a poster analyzing and explaining the data our center has gathered. In reflecting on my initial thoughts when beginning my internship, I would say I underestimated the degree to which I would do hands-on work and create tangible products.

As I reflect on my time at my internship so far and look forward to the time I have left here, I have appreciated the atmosphere that the BHI research team has created and welcomed me into. There have been numerous times I gave updates over conference calls or offered my opinion during group meetings and I have always felt like my contributions were valued. This has given me a positive outlook on the healthcare field which I plan to enter one day as a profession, and this experience has given me a great jumping-off point. Another feature my internship has given me that differs from other work I have done is that, particularly in the context of clinical trials, there are always many tasks that go into organizing and managing the day-to-day operation, so it has been challenging to prioritize which work is most pertinent at the moment. In academic life there are more regular deadlines and there is more direct supervision over individual tasks, such as assignments and assessments. Here, though, all members of the team have so many things they are simultaneously managing that it becomes very important for each individual to learn how to juggle many small tasks in any given day. Thus, some of the skills I have improved upon most are time-management and organization, which I thought I was an expert at before. If anything, until I had to handle upwards of ten tasks in a given day for a variety of up to three or four different projects I did not realize how much more I had to learn. But the learning curve was steep and quick, and now I feel that my efficiency and organizational skills have improved exponentially. These are absolutely skills I will use in the coming academic year, both for schoolwork and in the leadership roles I hold outside of the classroom.

Tune in a few weeks from now when I will be posting my final blog post! It’s hard to believe that my time at BHI this summer is almost over!

GP ’19

 

 

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