As my internship with the Irving Medical Center at Columbia University comes to a close, I have many positive reflections to look back on. In a very tangible way, I can see how much I learned. In a short time, I was able to begin to understand the details of Kidney transplant rejection research, when prior to this summer, I had extremely limited knowledge in the field. My goals for the summer were to take advantage of the opportunity and to learn as much as possible. I understood and did the procedure of staining tissue biopsies with antibodies to analyze the tissue. I learned the intricate anatomy of the kidney, the glomeruli, tubules, interstitium, nephrons, cytokeratin, and was able to recognize them under a microscope. I went to different conferences and seminars to learn about cutting edge biotechnology machines. I went to a seminar about the history and current regulations within medical research morality and standards (which was fascinating). I also heard the department head of the Harvard nephrology department give a talk on kidney function.
One thing that I am most proud of is that I developed the skill of being quite fearless about asking questions. In my work environment, I could have easily been embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t know a lot of things. I could have been bashful in asking questions, knowing that the doctors I was surrounded by have delved into their specialized sections of pathological study for years, and felt way out of my league. I certainly did recognize my newness to the field of study. It was very humbling, and I actually saw it as a perfect opportunity to be completely unembarrassed, ask any question I wanted, even knowing if they were more introductory questions in an expert’s eyes. There was always more I could ask and more I could learn, so I tried to take advantage of that in the best way possible. One day in the last few weeks, I actually sat in my supervisor’s office for a few hours, just me and her, and we got into a long detailed discussion about her research, writing all over her whiteboard, discussing it (as you can see in the picture here). It was totally wonderful.
I learned something about my medical aspirations and desires this summer as well. I had a very positive experience in the pathology department and learned so much, but I did discover that I am drawn to patient interaction. I kept finding myself going from the science (cross sections of tissue) and asking ‘how exactly does this translate to the patient’? ‘How can we best treat the patient?’ and ‘How did the patient respond?’. I am a ‘people’ person and I think that my career in medicine will somehow be intricately connected to seeing patients throughout the day, rather than only doing research or only looking at the tissues of patients.
Along with my internship work experience, I also had a nice time on evenings and weekends, seeing friends and family and exploring NYC. This summer internship has been a wonderful experience of learning and fun, and I am so grateful to the World of Work (WOW) Brandeis internship fellowship for making the experience possible.