Blog Post 1 – Working as an Undergraduate Research Intern

This summer, I am grateful to be working as an Undergraduate Research Intern for the Mind and Heart Lab at The Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital located in Providence, Rhode Island.  I am working with the research team under the supervision of the Principal Investigator Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, MD, Ph.D., FAHA.  The team consists of the Principal Investigator, Project Manager, Research Assistant, Data Systems Analyst, Study Psychologist, and one other Undergraduate Research Intern in addition to myself.  The research team is focused on studying the processes by which the mind can affect cardiovascular physiology and health.  In the past, they have focused on exploring the role of mindfulness training for medicine adherence for heart failure outpatients.

Currently, the team is working on the Broken Heart Study II which is focused on exploring the triggers responsible for Takotsubo syndrome.  Takotsubo syndrome (TS), also known as Broken Heart Syndrome, is characterized by acute, reversible systolic heart failure which affects primarily older, postmenopausal women.  Takotsubo is not particularly fatal, however, there can be long-term effects on the left ventricle function.  There are gaps in the information that is known about the causes and triggers of Takotsubo for many of the patients affected by this disease.  It is thought that emotional and physical triggers are likely causes of Takotsubo, but there is still much to be understood.  In addition to this study, I have been able to contribute to an abstract submission investigating if the incidence of Takotsubo cases has increased during the pandemic period (March 2020 – February 2021) compared to the year prior (March 2019 – February 2020).  We hypothesized that due to the increased stressors of the pandemic, the incidence of Takotsubo would be higher during the pandemic year compared to the non-pandemic year.  We discovered that there were increased cases of TS during the pandemic year even with a large decrease in all-cause admissions to the Rhode Island Hospital System. This trend is something that we wish to continue to explore across a larger area to see if these trends are similar along the East Coast.

” This ongoing NHLBI-funded project is designed to study the triggers of Takotsubo syndrome (aka Broken Heart Syndrome), determine whether people with this condition are unusually responsive to stress, and whether a greater response to stress puts patients at risk of another episode.” https://mindandheartlab.org

My goals for this summer include gaining an understanding of the fundamentals of clinical research and experience working with a research team by taking part in meeting weekly with the entire research team as well as meeting biweekly for mentorship meetings (lab meetings) with Dr. Salmoirago-Blotcher.  I wish to gain invaluable research experience which I believe will prepare me for graduation, future work, and applying to medical school.  I hope to gain the basic principles of data abstraction and analysis which are crucial in epidemiology research.  In addition, I hope to become more confident in my statistics and epidemiology skills and become an impactful part of the research team.   I would like to form lasting connections with the members of the research team through our meetings and project partnerships. Finally, I will try to stay connected with the research team members even after my summer internship ends.

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