Finishing up the Summer at the Benson-Henry Institute

This summer, US News ranked Mass General Hospital #1 Hospital in the world. The Psychiatry Department on its own was also ranked #1.

It is hard to believe that my time at the Benson-Henry Institute is coming to a close. It is has been an absolutely incredible summer and I have learned so much in my time at the BHI that it’s hard to put it all into words. I’ll start with the easier part. Working at the Benson-Henry Institute at Mass General Hospital this summer has taught me a lot about research. From IRB requirements to spreadsheets to “Note to Files” to the proper way you have to sign any mistakes you make on official documents (one strike through, sign, date!), it has been so exciting to learn about the process of accumulating data, keeping track of it, and learning from it. Similarly, I gained a lot of experience in the clinical world this summer which was an initial and now superseded goal of my internship at the BHI. Though we are a research institution, we also serve as a clinical research institution which means that I interacted with a lot of patients and participants this summer. I met study participants at the Clinical Research Center on the main hospital campus for their appointments and gave them surveys to fill out for our studies related to their stress levels. One of my favorite patient-interaction opportunities was making phone calls for our multiple myeloma study, where I interacted with doctors (who told me if a patient was eligible based on our particular biological criteria), patients, and even some patient family members as I recruited for our study on how the relaxation response can affect those who have a precursor for multiple myeloma (MGUS or SMM).

The two examples listed above are the easy ways to tangibly express how much I took away from my summer at the hospital. However, one other factor that is slightly harder to put into words is the mentorship I received this summer. I am so thankful for all three of the clinical research coordinators (one of them a Brandeis alum!) who trained me this summer not only on the work and studies we were focusing on, but also on a personal level. They gave me incredible advice and wisdom regarding how to join the field of clinical psychology. At the beginning of the summer, I was convinced that after I graduated this May I would immediately start a clinical psychology PhD program. I still want to do that, but I think now that I am much more open to other opportunities as well. Maybe I’ll look for a psychology fellowship to really hone my research interests and skills. Perhaps I’ll take what I learned about stress management here and go abroad for a while to see how mind-body medicine fits into different cultures. Maybe I’ll look for a clinical research coordinator position right here in Boston where I can continue learning before I take the leap and dive in graduate school. Regardless of where I choose to go, I feel much more confident (and less stressed!) about my future as I delve into this field and I could not have done that without the incredible mentorship of the clinical research coordinators at the BHI.

Luckily for me, I’ll be continuing at the Benson-Henry Institute for the school year and I can’t wait to see what more I can learn.

Happy August!

Ellie Rosenthal ’16

This is me and my roommate (an intern at Fenway Health) on our last day of work.
This is me and my roommate (an intern at Fenway Health) on our last day of work.

One month into research

I can’t believe it’s already been one month working at the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital! One of the best parts about this internship is how comprehensive it is in terms of the tasks I get to work on at the Institute and the hospital. At Benson-Henry, we work on tons of different projects and studies all at the same time. Most of our studies center around the body’s reception of the relaxation response, which is essentially the opposite of the fight-or-flight response. Right now, we’re working on a study that examines various manifestations of the relaxation response (i.e. meditation or yoga) in healthy individuals who are chronically stressed, a study that tracks the same response in individuals who have a certain susceptibility gene for multiple myeloma, and a study that explores how the relaxation response can affect resident students in medical school. And those are just a few of the projects I am working on! In comparison to some of the research I do at Brandeis and in the classroom, at the BHI I really get to follow experiments all the way through and see all of their different parts come together. Because we’re working on so many projects at once, each project is usually in a different place than the one next to it. That is to say, some studies are in their beginning phases in terms of recruitment, some are in full swing in terms of data collection, others are pushing through data entry, and still others are being analyzed.

One of the best parts about this internship is that I get to combine and manipulate much of what I have learned in my psychology classes at Brandeis in science. For instance, for the chronic stress study, one of the biomedical measures we are collecting is cortisol, a steroid hormone involved in stress in the body, a hormone I have learned about in multiple classes. It’s really interesting to combine what I learned about cortisol in my Biological Basis of Motivation neuroscience class with what I learned about cortisol in my Adolescent psychology class to really see cortisol in action. Similarly, I just started a literature review for the Institute on a new research topic we are starting that will focus on stress and eating disorders. After taking Research Methods and reading multiple research articles, I am thrilled that I can incorporate those classroom lessons in practical psychology in the real world. I am especially enjoying working with the research coordinators at the BHI because they all have such different and unique research interests and have already proven to be great resources for me as I delve into the world of research and clinical psychology.

Below is a video of Dr. Herbert Benson explaining the benefits of the Mind Body Medicine.

The BHI also holds many classes for multiple populations with various focuses. Below is a video compiled by Mass General about stress, teenagers, and the relaxation response.



Back to the books!

Ellie Rosenthal ’16

Getting started at Benson-Henry

Hello blogsophere!

This week marks my second week as a research assistant intern at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. The Benson-Henry Institute  is a clinical psychology institute running out of the psychiatry department at MGH where we focus on health care and research relating to mind body medicine. Specifically, the Benson-Henry Institute studies the relaxation response, which is essentially the opposite of the fight-or-flight response in the body. The BH not only studies what types of exercises and techniques can elicit the relaxation response (i.e. yoga, meditation, etc), but also how the relaxation response affects our health. Studies published out of the BH have found that the relaxation response can help cancer patients, patients suffering from various mental disorders, and just about everybody else. Some of the published work by the Benson-Henry Institute can be found here.


If you Google on Google images, “relaxation response,” this is what comes up. At Benson-Henry, we emphasize the interaction of the mind and the body in health and health care.

There is always a lot going on at BH! We have multiple studies in constant motion, as well as patients interacting with doctors, and lab work through the hospital.

As a research intern, I am lucky enough to get to work with lots of different studies. This week, we are finishing up and organizing data for a 5-year longitudinal study on stress reduction. Next week, I’ll be starting data collection and entry on a study on myeloma and its interaction with the relaxation response.

One of the other great parts about this internship, aside from really getting my hands dirty in the research realm of clinical psychology, is getting to learn about everything else and everyone else who works at MGH. Benson-Henry has wonderful ties with various parts of the hospital, from the psychiatry department to the biomedical labs. For instance, every Thursday, the psychiatry department hosts grand rounds. Though most of the interns assumed this meant walking around the hospital following a doctor, grand rounds is actually one day a week to showcase some of the work and research that simultaneously occurs sometimes behind-the-scenes in the department. Today, we heard from an intern who is about to get his PhD and wrote his dissertation on adolescent depression. He talked about how gender, race, and therapy affect depression trends. As I was walking out of the lecture with another intern from Brandeis, we reflected on how incredible it was that we were able to understand so much of the talk because of the psychology courses we had taken. We knew how his study was formatted, and we were familiar with the tests he used to understand and measure depression, and we felt comfortable asking questions.

Finally, one of the coolest parts about grand rounds is that they all take place in the Ether Dome, the site of the first surgery at Mass General. Below is a picture of the Dome.

Eliana Rosenthal ’16’