As a clinical research assistant at the National Institutes of Health's Endocrine Oncology Branch, Ryan Murphy '20 is learning skills he will take with him to pursue a career in medicine.
Internship title and location:
Clinical research assistant, National Institutes of Health's Endocrine Oncology Branch.
How I got this internship:
I discovered this internship through the Center for Advising, Internships & Lifelong Career Development. It was on an extensive list of internships the pre-health professions advisor, Debi Swarner, sent to pre-health students.
What I do, day to day:
My role is to assist with a clinical research project regarding a disease called primary hyperaldosteronism. It's often caused by a benign tumor on the adrenal gland that releases excess aldosterone, which leads to persistent hypertension. If it occurs in one adrenal gland, surgery is the standard treatment. The goal of the research project is to determine which factors predict a successful surgery (meaning the patient's hypertension is improved). To do this, I must analyze patient medical records quite extensively to extract relevant information from their medical history, blood samples, CT/MRI scans and more. We hypothesize data from a certain blood test called "adrenal venous sampling" will play a role in predicting surgery outcome, and we want to compare its predictive ability to an existing predictor called the aldosterone resolution score. After compiling this database, I will help run statistical tests to quantify our results and assist in the writing of a manuscript.
I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a rotational internship at UPMC Pinnacle in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last summer. This internship solidified my interest in medicine because it allowed me to shadow physicians in eight different specialties throughout the summer. It was a great way to meet medical students, residents, attending physicians and a plethora of other healthcare professionals.
Most valuable part of this experience:
The most useful part of this internship is that it is allowing me to enhance my scientific literacy/statistical skills and apply the information I learn to relevant research projects, which will hopefully benefit patients in the future. These tasks are not different from those of physicians, who must constantly update their knowledge on their field if they want to offer patients the best treatment plans. I would also say the resources available to me at this internship are immensely valuable as well. The NIH is a large institution with professionals from many backgrounds, so it provides ample opportunity to network with those working in fields of interest to me. It also has been great to meet other student interns because we are willing to collaborate and help each other out if necessary.
Advice for students considering internships:
Be bold, apply to as many internships as you can and network! Don't be afraid to reach out to people who can help you, even if you haven't met them in person yet. For example, researching labs you want to work in and reaching out to the principal investigator may lead to a job offer as long as you are professional. It's a pleasure for many scientists to share their work with others.
How this internship has helped me:
The internship is preparing me for life after Dickinson because it is letting me see firsthand how medical knowledge is produced. It's given me an appreciation for medicine that will carry with me throughout medical school and beyond. Moreover, I am learning to make my thoughts heard in a professional atmosphere. In weekly lab meetings, I must present my progress to surgeons, staff scientists, Ph.D. students, medical students and other undergraduates. It is not the easiest task, but it is making me a better student because I have the chance to adapt based on their constructive criticism.
I would like to become a physician, although I'm not sure in which field. No matter the specialty, I think it is important to advocate for vulnerable populations and be an activist. After studying abroad, international medicine is something I would like to explore further as well. My three favorite specialties right now are emergency medicine, endocrinology and dermatology, but any doctor will tell you interests can change drastically in medical school!
Learn more about internships at Dickinson.
Published July 17, 2019