Summary of my experience on the Gerry Kelly Summer Studentship

Matthew and I spent 6 weeks last summer on elective under Dr Ken Anderson, in Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston. The studentship was set up by Dr O’ Gorman who had been working with Dr Anderson on clinical research over a number of years. The idea behind the studentship was to develop a personal research project in the area of Multiple Myeloma, and to gain clinical experience by shadowing doctors in out-patient clinics.

As it was the first year of the studentship, it was difficult to know what to expect. We arrived in Boston a few days before our elective to settle in, and to try to fix our pasty Irish complexions! We met Dr Andersons PA, and she organised our timetable and gave us a warm welcome. Our apartment was only a five minute walk from the Longwood Hospital area in Boston, where some of the leading hospitals in the US are located. Initially we were overwhelmed but soon settled into a routine.

We spent the first week shadowing the Myeloma teams in clinic where we saw interesting and extremely varied cases, and met some wonderful patients, some of whom had travelled from as far as Egypt and France for their appointment. It was the first time we were really exposed to the concept of clinical trials and bench to bedside medicine, and the vital impact laboratory research has directly on patient lives. We spent some time the following week shadowing laboratory researchers working on developments in Myeloma treatment and resistance. We then spent the final three weeks composing and working on our own clinical research projects, which we then presented at conferences at home. During this time we got to know many doctors within the Haematology department at Dana Farber, and we were also given an insight into management of lymphoma and leukemias. My personal highlight was attending oncology ward rounds in Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where we met patients undergoing variou s acute oncology treatment.
And of course another highlight was the social life.. We regularly met with Irish doctors working in Boston for nights out; and weekends were filled with trips to Harvard, outdoor concerts and shopping. We also visited Cape Cod, and despite rumoured shark attacks got plenty of beach and boat trips, returning home fully intact!!

Overall, the six weeks we spent at Dana Farber was one of the most challenging times I have had. Trying to navigate such a specialised environment in a world-class setting was a very steep learning curve! Though initially a little overwhelming, Dana Farber was ultimately an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone!

Deirdre Foley & Matthew Murphy

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