I entered college with no idea of what I wanted to study or how my studies would translate into a career. Through Hamilton’s open curriculum, I took courses in almost every discipline. I discovered neuroscience in a course called Brain and Behavior. I loved studying neuroscience because it serves as the interface of complex science and the experience of being human. I pursued clinical research during my summers away from Hamilton and spent my senior year building on these clinical experiences through biomedical research involving a rat model.
I am finishing my second year as a postgraduate research fellow in pharmaceutical research and clinical practice at the Yale Child Study Center. In my two years here, I have worked as a study coordinator on several industry-sponsored clinical trials testing investigational medicine to treat core autism symptoms. In addition, I have worked alongside an interdisciplinary team of psychologists, psychiatrists, speech-language pathologists, and nurse practitioners through the Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic to provide comprehensive evaluations for children with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families.
The Child Study Center has given me the perfect setting to test and explore my interest in medicine before making a big jump into a career-changing post-bac program. Clinical research is a great way to discern what interests you the most within the scientific process and clinical care. My interests lie less within specific methodologies and experimental design, but more on the practitioner side, working to understand patient experiences and deliver effective care. When my two-year position here is finished, I will be enrolling in the post-bac pre-med program at the University of Virginia (UVA), where I will spend twelve months in an intensive study environment completing all pre-med requirements, and then I will be in a position to apply to medical schools. It will be four years between college and medical school for me, but after my research position, I feel sure of what I want to do and why, so the years feel well worth it.
For anyone looking into postgraduate positions in clinical research, I would think about the following things: who you will report to, what degree of independence you will have, mentorship style and program, the opportunity for independent research design, and patient interaction, as these positions differ vastly across these categories. Aside from my job as a study coordinator at the Child Study Center, Yale offered me the ability to attend weekly grand rounds across all medical fields, from shadowing practitioners, to pursuing well-developed volunteer programs, to forming a close-knit cohort of other postgraduates pursuing similar career goals to mine. With the support of my program, I was also able to present my research along with several colleagues at a substantial academic conference in my field. These extras have been critical to my career exploration and I would urge anyone to consider these as well when seeking positions. As I came to appreciate the value of these broader supports, my decision to go to UVA for my post-bac was informed by my improved understanding of formal support and opportunities.
Working in autism research has taught me that physicians bring relevant knowledge base to their patients, but by remaining open and resisting preconception, they also continuously learn from each case. Because there is no single model of a patient with autism, it is a humbling disorder to study. My undergraduate and postgraduate experiences have led me to want the intellectual and scientific challenge, as well as the highly personal interaction between patient and physician. I love working with people during their most vulnerable moments and through their most meaningful challenges. I am excited to gain the technical skillset and medical knowledge to make the most positive impact on patients’ health and well-being.